You can find me on Sundays at Forefront’s 11:30 service, in the upper balcony of Gramercy theatre’s stadium seating. I usually try to find a seat in an empty row, before gathering my thoughts and participating in worship. I don’t dance to the praise songs but sometimes I’ll sway to the beat, maybe out of self-consciousness, in case others might think I’m not enjoying the awesomeness that is Forefront’s worship team. During the opening announcements, I brace myself for what I know is coming – the unavoidable moment when we’re asked to greet each other and answer the ice-breaker-question of the day.
I dislike small talk as it entails polite conversation and the exchange of (usually) purely surface-level information. As you tell me your name and how long you’ve been attending Forefront, my mind races to ensure I’m acting as naturally as possible during this painful interaction and that I’m providing the appropriate responses in order to hold up my end of the conversation. On a parallel track, I’m wondering when this eternity will end; in the meantime, I’ve accidentally forgotten your name and how to act like a normal human being.
By the end of five minutes I’m eager to disengage and settle back into the theatre seats, wrapped in the cocoon of darkness, relieved that the service has resumed.
My name is Joyce, and I am introverted.
Exactly how introverted, you ask? I’m so introverted that one day in middle school, my social studies teacher asked me to stay behind after class so she could have a word with me alone. Apparently, I kept to myself so much (in class, anyway) that she had legitimate concerns I might be in some sort of abusive situation at home. I was horrified that I might be giving her such a negative impression, but reassured her that I had a healthy, loving relationship with my family, and she sent me on my merry way.
The concept of introversion was formally introduced to me in college, when I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) in a class on the psychology of personality. My professor handed back my scored evaluation and I saw that I almost fell off the introversion-extroversion continuum (on the introverted side, of course). I remember feeling overwhelmingly relieved to finally encounter the idea of introversion; to be able to give a name to the trait I identified with so strongly, that so accurately described a large part of who I was.
I met with Forefront Manhattan's Lead Pastor Ryan Phipps a few months ago to ask for his advice on how to better build community at Forefront as an introvert. In my past experience, my tendency to think more than speak has been misinterpreted on more than one occasion, and in more than one setting. (God has a great sense of humor and has dealt me the trifecta of introversion, shyness and RBF.) While externally I might appear reserved or solemn, internally I’m overwhelmed with joy and gratitude when I have the opportunity to connect with others, especially about faith.
With publications like Susan Cain's “Quiet”, the world is gradually coming to understand the definition, nuances, and value of introversion. With Forefront’s first gathering of introverts, I hope we can create a space for conversation built on mutual understanding that will serve the introverted community – even if it means enduring a little bit of small talk to pave the way for deep and meaningful connections.
If you'd like to Join us for Forefront's very first gathering of introverts, click on the banner above to get more info. or go here.