Solitude Is Not Just for Introverts

Introverts, by definition, gain energy from time alone; in contrast to extroverts, who gain energy from being with people. Thus I have found that introverts are more naturally attracted to disciplines of solitude and retreat, and those who land more on the extroverted end of the spectrum are much less interested. But spiritual disciplines are means of grace for all temperaments–we are not meant to just pick and choose whatever feels most comfortable to our personality type.

If I, as an introvert, am entering solitude merely as a way to recharge or get away, I probably am not truly engaging in solitude as a spiritual discipline–I’m just being an introvert. Not that solitude has to be hard and uncomfortable in order to truly be a discipline, but disciplines are purposeful activities intended to create space for God. So even as an introvert who is comfortable in solitude, I need to go into it with a clear intention to meet with God and open my heart to Him, not just to unwind. But as I meet with God in solitude, He may indeed make that a time of unwinding and recharging and restfulness (though sometimes it may also be a time of wrestling or dryness or unrest).

Solitude may feel more like a discipline to an extrovert, but that does not take away from the value of it. Any athlete knows that the saying “No pain–no gain” is simply the reality of training–in order to perform at their peak and enjoy the game to the fullest, they must do the hard, painful, tiring work of training their body in practice. In the same way, we as Christians train our hearts in order to enjoy relationship with God to the fullest, and some of the heart-training (i.e. spiritual discipline) we engage in is difficult and uncomfortable, but still valuable and necessary. So an extroverted person can learn to enjoy the discipline of solitude as well, even if that is not something he would be naturally drawn toward. And the ways in which an extroverted personality engages with God in solitude might look different than an introverted experience of solitude, but that is OK because the aim is still the same, to create space for God to minister to her heart.

So if you–like me–have a more introverted temperament, learn to distinguish between your natural bent toward time alone and an intentional engagement with God in solitude, for the purpose of growth toward maturity in Christ. And if, on the other hand, you find your extroverted personality resisting even the thought of solitude, give it a try, perhaps in small doses, and experiment with ways of utilizing your strong relational skills to engage more deeply with God in that time.

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