During my first month as a student at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, I took the Myers Briggs Personality Test. I then spent the next 3½ years dealing with the results of that test in various forms.
The constant assumption in this process was that my type, introversion, was not an ideal characteristic for the pastoral office, and that extroversion was. To be fair, I did learn a lot in this process, and probably needed to, not that I was going to change, but that I needed to be aware of who I was.
Now 12 years after taking that Myers Briggs test, and learning about my introverted nature, I can tell you I should have just read Quiet by Susan Cain.
Quiet tackles the premise of the world around us, that if you are quiet and prefer solitude, there is a problem; because if you want to succeed, you need to be outgoing and working with others in teams.
You can probably imagine why I spent 3½ years dealing in various ways with the results of the Myers Briggs test. The pastoral office is one of relating with people, and with working with others. Evangelism demands engaging in conversations with others, often times strangers; ministry demands working with others to accomplish tasks and to plan for things. I may be in my comfort zone sitting at a desk in an office by myself, but the reality is that there are many days where I need to step out of that comfort zone and engage with others.
Quiet, which is written for those classified as introverted, says that being quiet is okay. It is okay to sit in an office alone and work; it is okay not to accept every invitation to every party; it is okay if you sit with someone and have nothing to say, but just enjoy their presence.
What Cain seeks to convey is that you need to be aware of what your strengths and weaknesses are; you need to know who you are and why you are tired after a day with people, or why you hate group work (like I do). The goal is not to make you into someone that you are not, but instead to recognize who you are and what you have to offer to the group. The goal is also to help you better prepare yourself for situations where you will be outside of your comfort zone; both in what you do ahead of time, and in what you do afterwards. Cain does offer some tricks of the trade in how to be honest with oneself about demands for work and demands for self.
All of which brings to mind an episode of Home Improvement. Oddball eccentric Wilson is publicly criticized for how he lives, and so Wilson changes his entire lifestyle, so that it more resembles his neighbor Tim’s. After an experience where Wilson realizes that the life he is comfortable with is not the life he is living, Tim quotes one of his life philosophies from Sammy Davis Jr: I gotta be me.
That is the final lesson of Quiet: you have to be you. People will see through the fraud, and even if they don’t you will be miserable living it. In the end, extrovert or introvert; loud or quiet; you just gotta be you.
Quiet would have helped me out a lot 12 years ago, but it has helped me immensely more going forward. Some days it will still be more fun sitting alone in an office as opposed to going out to a social event; but I will know why, and I will know how to best prepare, not just physically, but mentally as well.