I used to find my identity in my introversion.
I was naturally shy in high school, and I needed something unique to set me apart in high school when my personality had not fully developed and I was insecure.
I thought that introversion would be what set me apart, that it made me creative and unique.
Introversion also gave me an excuse to ignore that my natural shyness was becoming crippling and keeping me from connecting with my peers and establishing strong social connections while in high school.
By the time I started college here at Bob Jones University, I took pride in the fact that I had very few friends.
I thought it was artistic how disconnected I was from community. I thought that it was just me embracing who I was as an introvert and that this was healthy.
I could not have been more wrong.
As I built up more walls and let my shyness turn into social anxiety, I began to feel a deep loneliness and become even more insecure about who I was.
Equating my fear of socializing with introversion made my freshman year of college a very difficult time where I deeply struggled with loneliness.
I then realized that social alienation does nothing but starve our God-given need for community and our God-given responsibility to serve others.
Numerous psychologists warn against the trend of introverts quietly slipping into social isolation.
Introverts gain energy by spending time alone. Since introverts need solitude to gain energy and to function properly, people often blame this need for introverts falling prey to social isolation.
In addition to naturally craving solitude, introverts tend to be quieter, more introspective people who often struggle with shyness.
This combination of craving solitude and shyness is a dangerous one.
Especially if a person’s natural shyness morphs into social anxiety.
When my natural shyness morphed into crippling shyness during my high school years, I found it so much easier to retreat into solitude.
Solitude had never been my enemy, always a friend, so becoming reclusive was so much easier than facing my fears and speaking to others.
As I began to grow lonelier and lonelier, I was able to ignore that I had a serious problem that needed to be addressed by equating my social isolation with my introversion.
Despite getting to the point where I was unable to look people in the eyes or talk to anyone close to my age, I found it to be so much easier to write this character defect off as a personality quirk than to face my fear of others.
Eventually, through the wise council of older Christian mentors, I saw that the deep loneliness I felt was self-inflicted.
I realized I was not lonely because I was introverted, but instead I was lonely because I let my fear of man control my life.
Instead of blaming a reclusive nature on a personality trait that won’t change, we should view our shyness and social awkwardness as something that God calls on us to work on.
Ecclesiastes 4:7-12 talks about the importance of not being alone. Verses 7 and 8 in particular states that a person all alone is meaningless. God places great importance on community and in loving and investing in both other believers and the unsaved.
For those who suffer with social anxiety and struggle to see how to overcome it, they can hold onto the promise found in Philippians 4:6-7.
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
This peace is available to all who love and call on Christ.
I am certainly often overcome by shyness, but I have relied on this peace from God to help me successfully interact with others and invest in people’s lives.
Instead of accepting crippling shyness or social anxiety as a part of their introverted personality, they should view that community is a gift of God and rely on God’s promise of peace to become more comfortable in social situations.