There's hope! At least that's the message of a couple of posts I read through lately (here and here) presenting an interview with Adam McHugh, the author of Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. By "Church" he means Evangelicals, not the LDS Church, but the discussion is still relevant to us.
Asked why Evangelical culture might be a problem for introverts, McHugh notes that the average Evangelical service "feels like walking into a non-alcoholic cocktail party. There is a mingling, chatty informality to evangelicalism that can be daunting for people uncomfortable with small talk and who may prefer a quieter, more contemplative sort of environment." He adds that "Evangelicalism is a highly talkative, social, upfront, active tradition, and those of us who tend to listen before we speak and like to observe before we engage may feel marginalized, or even spiritually inadequate in such an atmosphere."
In comparison, the three-hour block of meetings that LDS encounter every Sunday is certainly chatty and informal. The terms "quiet" and "contemplative" don't generally leap to mind when describing LDS meetings. On the other hand, the LDS socialization process — by which I mean teaching Primary kids and youth to give talks and participate verbally in class, not making them into little socialists — makes almost every Mormon fairly comfortable with delivering talks before an audience and voicing their opinion in groups and classrooms. So I'm just not sure that LDS introverts feel marginalized. I'm not sure they even feel like introverts.
So what exactly is an introvert and how does he or she operate in a church setting? Pay careful attention to this response, bloggers.
Introversion is not synonymous with shyness, passivity, arrogance, timidity, or insecurity. An introvert is someone who first, finds energy in solitude. We lose energy through social interaction, no matter how much we may enjoy it, and we recharge in private, or with a close friend. Second, introverts process internally. For us, thinking precedes speaking, and when we are presented with new information, we reflect internally on it before we discuss it. And third, we tend to prefer depth over breadth. We would rather have a few close friends than a large circle of acquaintances, and we may enjoy exploring certain topics in great depth rather than spreading ourselves thin over many interests.
So, do Mormon introverts feel out of place at church? If so, I'm guessing they feel just wonderful attending LDS temples, a compensating attraction that Evangelicals don't offer. But an introvert's proselyting mission must be a particularly daunting two years. I'm tempted to mention blogging as another safe haven for introverts (imagine, stimulating conversation with no actual human contact required!) but if bloggers are introverts, what are lurkers?
Originally posted with comments at Times and Seasons.