A Quiet Faith: Introverts and Spirituality

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This photo, “The silent prayer,” is (c) 2009 Luca Moglia and made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.

Being an introvert does not have to limit your spirituality, yet many introverts do feel some discomfort with spiritual activities. This post will look at why this is, from my own experiences and observations. I hope it will be of some use to you wherever you are with your faith journey, however it looks.

I’m a Christian and my faith is important to me, but I struggle all of the time with what this actually means for my life in a practical way. At least part of this has to do with the social aspects of Christianity, when it comes to connecting with others at church and church activities.

Here’s the thing. I often don’t feel comfortable praying on command out loud in front of a group of people. And if I’m at a bible study and don’t have anything to say on a topic or haven’t formulated an opinion yet, I’m just going to sit there awkwardly.

Everyone can have a unique way of connecting with God, and it can at times be easy to get caught up with how the more outgoing people express that. Me, I connect with God best while I’m out in the community, living out Jesus’ teaching to serve the least, the poor and hungry and sick.  I’m not much of a talker; I’m a listener and a doer.

I know that it’s important to connect with others who have the same core beliefs, to learn from them so you can grow in understanding and faith… but that doesn’t change the fact that I feel awkward and like I’m not “spiritual” enough. I have definitely felt a pressure to be more outwardly spiritual, whether the pressure was intended or not. Maybe I just have a unique perspective because I grew up somewhat in the Catholic church, where everything is ordered and quiet, and now I’m aligned with the Protestant side of things, where everything is more “anything goes.”

Of course, I also know that many people in any church would understand that introverts who prefer to stay quiet can have very strong faith lives still. The pressure to conform outwardly is a feeling I get in only some situations, and I’m sure other quieter folks have experienced it too.

It’s so important to figure out what you believe in, why you believe it, and what this means for how you live your life. Don’t just look at what others do and accept that that’s the only way to do it–you can make it work in a way that makes sense for you with your unique personality and talents. There’s space for everyone.

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4 thoughts on “A Quiet Faith: Introverts and Spirituality

  1. Interesting thoughts. I have thought about this a little, and a I do think this pressure on introverts might be particularly acute in more ‘evangelical’ circles.

    When outward manifestation or perhaps exuberance, or ‘fellowship’ is prized as spirtual, then perhaps introverts feel a little bit uneasy. I have gone catholic myself, and I feel my spirtuality is stronger because I can stay behind after Mass and pray and be generally more in tune with the sacramental nature of worship.

    That protestant pressure to chime in when group prayers are being said really stress me out! I have been in prayer less worried about God, and more concerned with what I am going to say when it is my turn. Also, perhaps the ‘hands in the air’ Pentecostal experience might be more aligned with extroverted energy – energy that I doubt I could summon every Sunday.

    Thanks for writing. It is nice to see someone writing about introversion directly, particularly as it relates to faith.

    From one introvert to another,
    Rafols

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    1. Thank you for your comment! I can really relate to what you said about feeling more in tune with the sacramental nature of worship when you’re able to spend quiet time praying. I stopped attending the Catholic Church in high school and a few years later found myself in Protestant circles… and I often miss the quiet, more introspective nature of Mass–even though I don’t connect with all of the rituals involved with Catholicism. Whenever I attend Mass with family during the holidays, I really appreciate that part and find myself missing it. I like that my current church plays a lot of quieter hymns rather than modern worship music, though. I like my faith to have a sense of mystery to it, and I find that some of modern evangelicalism focuses too much on trying to have an answer for everything and refuses to allow a sense of the unknown that I think can enrich our experiences as followers of the faith. But this could fill another blog post entirely :p Thank you again for your thoughts!

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  2. I grew up Protestant and everything was about following “the program” and participating in it, group Bible study again usually following a study guide, etc. Solitary Bible study was encouraged as well, but again, with a plan. Faith and Religion and Church were practically synonymous. Over the years I have learned to see distinctions there.
    I have spent time with an Anglican friend at her church. In many ways it’s similar, more liturgical of course, but the leadership is encouraging exploration of the contemplative path, hiking as a meditation, etc. and are considering the construction of a meditation garden-labyrinth.
    Through the Bible and church history the greatest spiritual figures are mostly those who were contemplative, meditative, who spend time alone with the Divine even if they might be engaged in ministry for others on a regular basis. Sometimes other “religious” people got scared of their difference and persecuted them. But most prophets, many saints, and Christ Himself were recorded as going out into wilderness to be alone with God, often living solitary in wilderness.
    That friend introduced me to the writing of Richard Rohr (he’s on YouTube as well), a Catholic Franciscan who encourages contemplation as worship. I have found his work resonates with my introvert soul.
    About the “hands in the air” evangelical thing – I have been in those services, and I don’t think of that as something I’m doing to be seen or to relate to other humans just then. I relate to it as reaching upward to Heavenly Father and any communication is between us, any song sung is between us, and seek to remain open to that connection being real and to receive what impressions may come.

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    1. Thanks for your comment! I have also recently found my way to a more contemplative Anglican tradition and have found that it really fits with what I need as an introvert, too. And yeah, that’s so true that many successful faith leaders participate in contemplative actively. I was reading a biography of Desmond Tutu recently and found out he regularly scheduled time for silent prayer and wouldn’t let much get in the way of that time. I also agree with you that the waving-your-hands-in-the-air style of worship can be a very genuine way of connecting with God–though I’ve never done it myself and feel exhausted at the thought of trying! But God can meet us where we are with our distinct personalities, which is pretty awesome 🙂

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