Extroverted Love, Introspectively Known

Do you recharge by being social with others, or by spending time alone? Perhaps you are a person to enjoy conversations with a large group of people, or perhaps you prefer one-on-one interactions? Would you describe yourself as an introvert, or as an extrovert? Whether we are happiest out partying with our extroverted friends whom we have only just met, or whether that thought fills our introverted souls with dread, most of us can certainly say where, on that scale, we find ourselves most comfortable. With that in mind, I was fascinated to read recently about an introvert who deliberately lived, for a week in the most socially extroverted way possible, saying yes to every social engagement she could. The prospect, she said, was ‘as appealing as root canal treatment’. Her behavior was a sociological experiment prompted by research from the University of California in which over a hundred people were asked to act as extroverts for a week, and then as introverts the following week. During her week of extroversion, this intrepid introvert made new and lasting connections with others whom she perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have – and she described the process as ‘fake it till you make it’. There was nothing fake about the connections that she made with her now new friends, but her comments reminded me of a piece of Confucian wisdom which invites us to try acting ‘as if’ something were the case in order to bring about that which we seek. For example, if we are naturally introverted, acting ‘as if’ we were extroverted can playfully and courageously break up patterns of normality and expectation, and help us to see that different ways are possible. It’s practical advice that could just work in any walk of life, and you have to try it, of course, to see the results. Within a faith context, imagine for a moment not just believing in an abstract sense that God loves you unconditionally, but to act intentionally so as to shape all of our interactions and the challenges which we face with that knowledge at the forefront of our minds, watching for what happens when we let go of trying to prove our own worth, and resting instead in the reality of God’s complete love for each of us. Faith can seem like a beautiful idea which is one step removed from the reality of our lives; but living purposefully, while acting as if God’s kingdom of love can be found on earth, as it is in heaven can be a daring way of bringing the reality of that faith about.