Do you know who you are according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? I know that lots of people took assessments in the last few years in the presbytery for various reasons. Even before that time, you might have taken this assessment in a class or for your own enlightenment. It has been around for quite some time. I have even seen license plates with the four letters of an MBTI on them.

The first letter of this type indicator is either an “I” or and “E” which stands for “introvert” or “extrovert.” The way these terms are used in this designation is not exactly the way they are used in the culture at large. And introvert can still be the life of the party—they will just need to take a nap when they go home. An extrovert can still have a well-considered suggestion in a meeting—it just means that the group will need to listen to them process the thought out loud in front of the group instead of having it presented fully formed after long consideration. Introverts recharge their batteries by doing activities by themselves. Extroverts want the stimulation of other people to help them to be energized.

I read a book called “Quiet” that addresses the dilemma for many introverts in a culture that values gregariousness and group work. Pity the fifth grader who is a natural introvert who is always placed in a team with other students to complete assignments. Too bad for the thirty-year-old introvert who finds a job in an office that has no walls. Our hearts go out to pastors who are introverts (as most pastors are) who are expected to “work the room” at coffee hour between two worship services. Being an introvert myself (although near the extrovert line on the MBTI) I find coffee hour to be one of the most exhausting events at church.

The most interesting thing to me in the book was the fact that it used to be fine to be an introvert. Think about your Midwestern relatives if you had any. My great-grandparents who were farmers in Peoria County were not expected to be gregarious, life of the party type people. Their social circle was small and they had mostly known them all of their lives. But when industrialization took over and most people moved to towns and cities and, especially a corporate culture in which being able to sell the products produced was highly valued, then extroversion became the norm. Introverts came to be considered “odd” or “standoffish” and not really the right material for the job at hand.

There are not fewer introverts now than there ever were. They just need to hide their introversion and pretend that they get great joy and energy from constantly being around people. As we think about what churches have to offer to this culture, what about a place to be quiet? What about opening the building up at lunchtime for people in this bustling place to come in and eat their lunch and look at their computers in peace—no music, no clatter or dishes, no conversations overheard from other people? What about making sure there are a few spaces of quiet in our worship services so that people can pray in silence and process what they are hearing and feeling? How else might we provide the commodity of quiet—so hard to find in a busy city and an overcrowded world?
Susan D. Krummel (Sue)
Executive Presbyter
Presbytery of Chicago