A year ago, I struggled to make eye contact with strangers. I struggled to speak to people I didn’t consider good friends. I avoided places like the dining common and our student center because it was too crowded.
Whenever my extreme shyness would get to me, I’d blame it on my introverted personality. This was a mistake, though, as it gave me an excuse to brush off some severe character defects that both held me back and hurt other people.
Don’t get me wrong, I thank God for my introverted nature. I love that I genuinely enjoy being alone and that I crave silence. I love how a good book or a deep train of thought can leave me feeling energized and ready to tackle anything. I wouldn’t change my introverted nature for anything but that doesn’t mean that only focusing on the internal world in my mind and neglecting the physical one around me is good.
Throughout my life, I have had multiple people let me know that they originally thought I was unkind or a “snob” before they got to know me. It hurt that I was giving off an impression like that, especially when my quietness stemmed out of fear rather than a sense of superiority. Shrugging back the hurt and blaming my introverted nature was easier than tackling my fear of small talk.
I missed the opportunity to be blessed by countless friendships through my quietness. And, even worse, I missed the opportunity to bless others with my friendship because of my shyness.
My shyness kept me isolated. My shyness kept me from fully fulfilling what God wanted of me. Yes, my quiet nature is from God but my fear of man was not.
My fear of man was a perversion of my personality and I kept using my introversion to excuse this.
Philippians 2:2-4 calls us to truly work in harmony with others and put their needs above our own. It calls us to be humble and to focus wholeheartedly on the interests of others. I couldn’t do this when I was too afraid to speak. I was putting my own quietness and fear above loving others.
Crippling shyness keeps us from fulfilling our full potential and loving others as Christ did. We can’t use introversion to excuse this. This doesn’t mean we have to be the life of every party, but it does mean expanding our comfort zone to talk with others.