Updated: Oct 7, 2021
a few tips for her non-introvert friends by Varina Denman
We’re four months (or so) past the COVID-19 quarantine, and we’re all supposed to be so-over it by now, but truth be told, I’m still reeling. For me, the quarantine was easy, but re-entry knocked me off my feet. Did you feel that way? And then feel guilty because you felt that way? If you’re nodding your head in agreement, you’re likely a fellow introvert who possibly has mixed feelings about the past year.
When Texas re-opened in March with the promise of life returning to normal, I thought I would slip back into my pre-quarantine routine, but I discovered my former routine was no longer acceptable to me. I had grown to appreciate the slow pace of small gatherings, and my learning curve had spiraled into a different direction than the general, outgoing & verbal, population. As God worked in me and through me, I learned to give myself permission to take care of my introvert needs. Over the past four months, I’ve recognized many differences between myself and my non-introvert friends, and I’ve acknowledged that I’m not the same person I was pre-quarantine. I’m new and improved, and I’m approaching relationships with a new and improved philosophy.
In my pre-quarantine world, I got out of the house regularly, I accepted most invitations to gatherings, and I pushed myself to be involved in multiple ministries at my home congregation. Looking back with new eyes, I see that things weren’t working very well. Often, I was uncomfortable. I would sit at the back or avoid eye contact. I would hesitate to speak, and when I did muster the courage to join the conversation, I would put my foot in my mouth, often making others uncomfortable as well. I’m sure that most people didn’t think anything about it, but this was how it felt to me. Unpleasant. Yet I carried on because that’s what a “good Christian” would do. Hmm.
After the quarantine, when I finally had the opportunity to meet with friends again, I discovered I was no longer uncomfortable, I wasn’t awkward, I didn’t put my foot in my mouth. I made eye contact and formed complete sentences and sat on the front row. I felt like a normal person. After a year of isolation, my introvert-self longed for socialization. Compare this to my non-introvert friends who felt this longing a mere twenty-four hours into isolation. The fact that it took me twelve months to recharge my social batteries was a revelation to me. It had been years—maybe decades—since I had felt so relaxed and natural in a group. So what was I to do with this new information?
Let me tell you, at first, I gave in to the temptation to continue self-quarantining. After all, I enjoyed being at home, and it was obviously good for me, right? Well … yes. And … no. It’s good for me to recharge my social batteries through solitude, but it’s not good for me to selfishly withdraw from God’s world—the world where he works through Christians to uplift each other and to reach the lost. Since March, I’ve found my happy spot, an equilibrium of solitude and socialization that balance each other and form a new and improved—and healthy—social lifestyle for the introvert inside me. I allow myself much more at-home time than I did pre-quarantine which allows me to re-charge my batteries, and I join in fewer activities than I did before COVID, which allows me to be more comfortable. But not only am I more comfortable, I’m also more effective: as a friend, as a mentor, as a teacher, as a prayer warrior, and as any other role through which God chooses to use me. My relationship with God is stronger because I’ve learned to lean into him, both in the quiet times and in the social times. Because my relationship with God is stronger, I’m more comfortable in my own skin which leads to stronger relationships with others. Stronger relationships mean God can more effectively work through me to accomplish his purposes. It’s a perfect circle that begins and ends with God.
So, if you’re a fellow introvert, I urge you to find your own happy spot. Pace yourself. Trust your instincts. Disregard advice from well-meaning friends if it doesn’t align with the needs God has placed on your heart. Allow yourself to recharge more and to step-out less, knowing that equilibrium is healthy…even when you and those around you expect more. If you’re an introvert, it’s okay to do less, because less is more. We introverts were created by God to need our downtime, and we are called to take care of ourselves so that we can be more effective in the kingdom. Hopefully if I continue to pace myself and pick and choose the most impactful activities, I will never again be in a spot where I need a one-year quarantine in order to feel at peace with my God-given personality. I praise God for showing me this about myself and for using a really, really bad situation to grow me into a stronger Christian.
And if you’re a non-introvert, I urge you to be patient with your introvert friends. Consider their unique qualities, many of which are best performed in solitude or small groups. Ask your introvert friends to pray for you because most of them pray often and well. Ask them for advice. Many of them won’t offer it if you don’t ask, even though they’ll spend more time contemplating the situation than their talkative counterparts. And most of all, keep inviting them to all the things. Just because they don’t have the energy to join every time, doesn’t mean they don’t care. They still long to know they’re wanted and valued.
Whether we’re introverts who are energized by solitude, extroverts who are energized by a crowd, or ambiverts who fall somewhere in between, we all stretched ourselves in 2020. As we move forward from the quarantine, we’ll have many opportunities to reconnect with old friends and to build new relationships. Our world often seems upside down (to say the least) and unpredictable and violent (to say the most). As Christians, we fill a powerful and influential role in society, and when we stand together, we’re that much stronger. Recognizing our differences and learning to utilize those differences will make us more effective in the Lord’s work.
The news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:15-16 NIV
Varina Denman graduated from her small Texas high school with much promise. She then went on to attend three universities over a span of five years, majoring in four subjects and earning zero degrees. At the age of twenty-four, she dropped out of college to pursue her lifelong goal of marrying Prince Charming and having a passel of children. She spent the next twenty-five years living the dream, and along the way, she became a home educator, a marriage mentor, and a grandmother. In her spare time, she attended two hundred thousand youth basketball games, listened to three million songs being picked-out on the piano, and wrote four novels, all while wearing ear plugs.
Varina writes stories about the unique struggles women face. Her award-winning Mended Hearts series, which revolves around church hurt, is a compelling blend of women’s fiction and inspirational romance. Her latest novel, Looking Glass Lies, focuses on the war women wage against themselves due to low self-esteem. During the COVID-19 quarantine, Varina took a break from writing to finish her bachelor’s degree after a thirty-year hiatus. Having recently graduated, she intends to finish her next novel while pursuing a career in freelance grant writing. Connect with Varina on her website or one of the social media hangouts.