Introverts and Extroverts

June 14, 2018 Length: 15:19

Dr. Albert Rossi discusses the difference between introverts and extroverts.

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What I’d like to reflect upon with you today is the notion of introverts and extroverts. I’ll begin by putting it in a larger context. As Fr. Hopko said, “We need to meet the real God with the real me.” It certainly is possible not to meet the real God—have our own variation, our own imagine to create God in our imagined image and likeness. On that topic, I would simply say the real God is found in so many of these lovely podcasts, other podcasts in Orthodoxy. If I were to recommend a book, it would be Fr. Thomas Hopko’s book, The Names of Jesus, published by Ancient Faith Publications, which talks about the triune God as known through Jesus Christ, through his names.

On the topic of the real me, I need to continue to reflect upon me, my own unique construction by God of my energy, my personality, my character; and my insight will grow. I read a great quote that said: If I don’t go within, I go without. If I don’t go within (my heart), I go without (wisdom and insight and light). So I’ll pose the question for us this way: Am I an introvert or an extrovert? Of course, how do I say? I don’t know anyone who is 100% either/or, so we’re a mixture of both. So the question is what proportion: Am I more of an introvert or of an extrovert?

Without giving a technical definition, I’ll simply say that introverts are those human beings who replenish their energy by being alone. I’ll just say clearly I’m an introvert and I live alone and I love it, but you know my days are filled with people time at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, counseling and having meals with the students and talking to people. But when I come home in the evenings, I love, I cherish that alone time, because it fills up my gas tank.

Extroverts, by contrast, renew their energy by talking to other people. My daughter, Beth, sweetheart that she is, at least when she was a teenager seemed to be an extrovert, and that has mellowed greatly, but when she was 16 years old, I used to kid her and say, “Sweetheart, you walk around with a telephone duct-taped to your ear.” So any time there was a problem or confusion in her head, she would talk to somebody: she would talk to me, she would talk to her mother when her mother was alive, she would talk to friends. But in the conversation she would come up with answers and insight and energy.

So that’s the basic difference I will put out there for us. I will also say that just by way of implications of that construct: introverts will find it more difficult to engage in social outreach and social interactions and in hospitality. Now, they do it, of course, and can do it and can do it well. I’m an introvert and I’m with people all day long. My daughter says to me that I talk a lot. I don’t know about that, but it takes an extra oomph to do it; that’s my only point. Extroverts, by implication, will find more difficulty, in general, with meditating and with time for personal prayer, time to be alone with the Lord. Obviously, extroverts can do it very well, but it takes that extra oomph to do it; that’s my only point.

I’m going to play you the first few bars of a song of my wife singing, “Oh, that I had a golden thread.” I played it four years ago, May in 2013, so four years later I’ll play the first few bars because it talks about knowing who I am—I am the golden thread—but there are different ways of living out that golden thread, as we’ll hear, as I’ll play a few bars now, then the entire song toward the end of the podcast.

Oh, had I a golden thread
And needle so fine,
I would weave a magic strand
Of rainbow design, of rainbow design.

That song, sweetly sung by my wife (in heaven), gives us musical perspective on this topic that I’m addressing a little bit. Carl Jung, the famous psychoanalyst, probably was the one who, if he didn’t coin the phrase is certainly the first to elaborate those ideas as we have them today. His idea was that every human being is born with some slight disbalance one way or the other, and the task in life is to become balanced, to become both introvert and extrovert in one’s behavior and in one’s character. That is, we are to find balance, equanimity, in our personality.

Another implication for introvert and extrovert—and this is important knowledge for us to have—in marriage, for example, or in close friendships, there’s a tendency to project onto other people our own interior landscape. So if I’m an introvert, I tend to think that other people would have a little better life if they became more like me. Granted, that’s a fatal notion, but we are children of Adam and Eve, and we behave that way. I can look back on my own marriage, and I can understand my wife and I working this out.

If I happen to be an introvert and if my wife happens to be an extrovert and every time we have some conflict between us, first thing she does is go to the telephone and talk out her issue. I might think to myself and even say to her, “You know, why don’t you just spend a little time alone getting some energy and reflecting on what’s happening.” That, of course, is contraindicated. By converse, if my wife is an extrovert and we have conflict and I tend to go in my study alone, she might come in and say, “Talk to me. Let’s work this out.” That, again, would be contraindicated. What I really need is time to be able to work things out in my cave, so to speak.

There’s a book—I don’t recall the exact title, and that doesn’t matter, but it was something like: Was Jesus an Introvert?—it’s a whole book written on that theme. As I recall, the bottom line was the conclusion that Jesus was an introvert. I don’t particularly agree with that conclusion. I don’t think that Jesus was either introvert or extrovert in these terms. I would almost say he was so fully human, he was so balanced that it wouldn’t be fair to say that he was either one. That said, Jesus is the model for us of having—choosing—private time: often went off alone to pray and be with his Father. He was certainly often in the midst of multitudes and meeting with his disciples. He is our model.

I will now play the entire song, “Oh, Had I a Golden Thread,” and we can listen to these ideas being expressed, that is to say, that I need to find who I am and continue to work out a balanced personality so that I can be more effective for the Lord. It’s all about Jesus Christ living in me. I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me. But he lives in me as he lives in you, with a very unique and singular way, and that’s what we must discover. So here is my wife.

Oh, had I a golden thread
And needle so fine,
I would weave a magic strand
Of rainbow design, of rainbow design.

In it I’d weave the bravery
Of a woman giving birth;
In it I’d weave the innocence
Of children of the earth, of children of the earth.

In it I’d weave the restlessness
Of men going ever forth
Through heat of blistering desert sands,
Through blizzards of the north, through blizzards of the north.

By the waters, by the waters,
I’d reach my magic hand
To every foreign city
Through every single land, through every single land.

Tell my brothers, tell my sisters
Of my rainbow design,
Tying up this sorry world
With hand and heart and mind, with hand and heart and mind.

Far across the waters
I’d reach my magic hand
To every human being
So he would understand, so he would understand.

Oh, had I a golden thread
And needle so fine,
I would weave a magic strand
Of rainbow design, of rainbow, rainbow design.

That song, then, in its entirety, gives us a beautiful heavenly flavor of this topic. I’ll end with that and say that I and you need to support Ancient Faith Radio for its fine work across the globe, with our prayers and with our finances.