Why Introverts Need Community

One of my favorite Philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard once said this “Its in the presence of people, that I find my love of solitude. And, its in my time of solitude, I find my love of people.” I find this statement, as an introvert, remarkably true. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together makes wonderful notes about what it means to be in community. He points out that perfect silence brings perfect speech. As well, that a person who cannot handle being alone, ought not be in community. Yet, sometimes they need community to figure that out.

As an introvert, I know that I can spend all day alone, reading, listening to music and living in silence (which often brings me to wholeness). However, I know that as I grow more comfortable with silence, a voice within me, a message within me, a desire for intimacy moves me towards others. This balance between silence and community, between action and contemplation, reveals my deep longing for connection with myself (which is easiest for me), with God and with others.

As introverts, it would be easy to get caught up in our own thoughts. Yet, as I heard Richard Rohr once say “The head seeks the truth but the head also believes the lies.” This is one of the reasons we are called to community. To be loved, to be known and to belong. And, in community we can use our gifts of inner expression and teach others the gifts of silence.

As people, we need to learn how to move closer to one another. As well, to learn how to properly withdraw. This was the life of Jesus.



20 thoughts on “Why Introverts Need Community

  1. Adam says:

    True words, my friend. As an introvert myself, it’s taken me a long time to realize that our tendencies (introversion/extroversion) cannot trump our created makeup. All people of all time were created for both solitude and community. We dichotomies the two way too much, assuming that if we thrive on solitude (as I do), that more of it is the answer and that the opposite (community) must be unnecessary or even detrimental.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Such great thoughts Adam. I think for me the fear is apprehensive anxiety, on top of an excited celebration when I am with others. I am excited to see them, yet, I know its going to drain me. This is why being present has been so important to me. It sustains both my solitude and communal time. As a pastor, how has this been a challenge for you? Or how does Church dynamics work with you being an introvert?

  2. Us INFJ’s understand this, intuitively. Very well articulated Mike, thank you.

  3. David says:

    You were reading my thoughts! lol

  4. Sarah Lake says:

    I agree with you. When I’m alone to recharge, it’s almost as if I’m propelled towards people after that. I love to engage with others, but it takes a lot out of me. The trouble I have is in carving out that time to recharge. I know it’s good for me and even better for those around me (my community), but feel bad about it. Maybe you could address that sometime – introvert guilt.

    Thanks for sharing your insights, Mike. I enjoy your writing.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      I know the introverted guilt. I know the introverted fear too. Some of it is head dialogue like this “I really want to spend time with this person but I know I’m going to be even more exhausted then I was before.” I’m not sure if you’re married or not but one of the common fears of introverted single people I know is that you have to go to public places to meet people. So the environment doesn’t favor our success. (which is of course partly true and partly false).

  5. Phil Wood says:

    INTP is me. The trouble with being an INTP is Myerrs-Briggs is just too intriguing. I could navel gaze all day doing these tests.. I need community to keep me grounded and remind me there’s a life out there. I find the forest helps. When I’m working from home I tend to use the change of pace to recharge.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Yes, time alone makes me tolerate being around people. No sure if that’s what you said – but it’s true for me.

  7. I think this the lesson learned by the Into The Wild book and later movie. Ultimately after living in the wild in solitude living off the land he finds the meaning of life is found in people. Great post!

  8. I think I see something like this in Augustine’s Confessions as well. He withdraws into himself, engages with God, more interior than his innermost self, and then goes back out to others (the world), carrying the love and grace that he discovered there.

    That’s a very reduced thesis of a way of reading the Confessions, but I think its there, and generally I find it to be a true account of “the way it works” for me.

    • I think there is something similar to that, as well, in Kierkegaard. Particularly, the opening passage of The Sickness Unto Death- the self as relation to itself and to God. Only, I think he stays too self-enclosed, and doesn’t “get out” to other people. The price of being an individual, perhaps. But, perhaps in other places, like Works of Love, this is somewhat overcome. Other possibilities may highlight the problem as some sort of paradox/impossibility (in a Derridean reading, say- and Kierkegaard was a lover of paradox).

      While that sounds so very theoretical and abstract, it underlies the struggle I have within community, of being known and knowing others. How do I “get to them” and how do they “get to me”? It seems to happen, at least in part, but what is happening?

      My questions may be evidence of my “Mastermind” personality (INTJ). Who can judge for themselves though?

      • Mike Friesen says:

        Jordan, I love your points and how well read you are. Have you taken an enneagram test? If you have, Kierkegaard is a complete 4 (the individualist). 4’s suffer from melancholy and are overwhelmingly invested in their emotional subjective world. I am a 4. Kierkegaard was a fairly tortured human being (as you probably know). A great example of a mature 4 is Thomas Merton, who learned how to balance his subjective world after he was forced into objective environments by the leader of his monk community.

        I think that is part of the answer right there of how do we get to others. Sometimes, we have to be thrown in. Sometimes we have to “fall” in love. Even though we are infatuated, we are still falling. I appreciate the way Richard Rohr places this form of change and maybe it applies to your question of what is happening. He believes that true change is done unto you. We don’t see the change from day-to-day, but over time we see the change. Over weeks, months, years, we can see we are different people. But, not in the case of our normal day-to-day life. That knowing, that finding of others is exchanged subtly. Which is why love takes a long time to develop.

        P.S- I love how well rehearsed you are in Philosophy. I haven’t read much of Derrida but I love Existentialism and some of the more modern Deconstructionists like Caputo.

  9. I haven’t taken the Enneagram test, but I’ve heard a lot about it the last year or so. Its one of those things I keep saying “I need to look into that” about, but defer actually doing that by a) forgetting b) doing other stuff. Haha, I’ll get to it…soon.

    I think that that is a great way of putting it. Of being thrown into it. Not that there is no element of choice, but it happens outside of our control.

    There is another element, that I didn’t think of last night, but do often think about that is even more a reason why introverts (re: I) need community. And that is in times of a “dark night of the soul” or similar type experiences. Where, in say a feeling of abandonment by God, of not finding him deeper than my innermost self, I see a reflection in others. I see the Other in the Other. Sometimes that is enough, and that is pretty amazing in itself, and other times it calls me to a remembering of the light that is still there in me.

    This happens most often at my work, L’Arche, which, obviously, is organized as a community…and is a community. It is wonderful to discover a need like that. Which is a funny thing to say “Wonderful to discover a need”, but it is.

    I am a big fan of Caputo as well. His project is one I was convinced of before I discovered him. I did my undergrad in philosophy (and economics, but that was mostly so that I had an important sounding, job assuring credit for concerned family members as well) and kept getting asked questions by people from church “How do you handle being a Christian in such an atheistic discipline?” And it took me by surprise the first few times I was asked because I had never encountered it like that (save the few militant Nietzscheans, but even they still read Augustine and Aquinas and Kierkegaard with us, and they noted the “negative theology” taking place in many thinkers, along with the larger theological turn within philosophy itself (well, continental philosophy)). So, I think what Caputo does, essentially bringing the philosophers to church (primarily Derrida for him, of course) is very much needed. When I read What Would Jesus Deconstruct I kept saying, “This is exactly the book I would have written.” So, yeah, awesome.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      L’Arche is how communities should be built. Vanier says in Living Gently In A Violent World that it takes three things to be a community: Prayer, Food and Celebration. I think this is how we could accommodate people into communities. Celebrate who they are, eat with them and pray with them.

  10. […] One of my favorite Philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard once said this "Its in the presence of people, that I find my love of solitude. And, its in my time of solitude, I find my love of people." I find this statement, as an introvert, remarkably true. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together makes wonderful notes about what it means to be in community. He points out that perfect silence brings perfect speech. As well, that a person who cannot han … Read More […]

  11. rachbot says:

    You just said all the things i have felt but always had the negativity over power it…
    thank you 🙂

  12. […] passage above comes from Mike Friesen’s blog, via a post about why introverts need […]

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