Last time I started a conversation on introversion and how those of use who are introverts can feel somewhat marginalized by the Church. Today, I want to tackle a topic that is perhaps even closer to home: Dealing with criticism. I know I struggle with it, and based on the conversations I have with other technical leaders, I’m not alone.
My thinking has been challenged on this topic in a few ways over the last few months. First, I read the book, Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam S. McHugh. I’ve also been talking about it with a good friend of mine with whom I meet fairly regularly. And he gave me another book to read (which I have yet to start…).
There were two quotes in McHugh’s book that really got me thinking. Perhaps this will ring true for you as well.
“Facing the disappointment of others seems to take a greater toll on introverts because we habitually internalize everything and can be conflict avoidant. [sic]”
Habitually internalizing everything? Me? Yup. All the time. I think a lot of it goes back to the fact that we’re largely artists, and when you create something and it’s criticized, it stings. We talked about that a few weeks ago. Our ideas, projects, mixes, videos, lighting designs, everything we do in fact, become our friends because we spend so much time with them; even if it’s only in our heads. When someone doesn’t approve of or appreciate our friends, we feel hurt.
As someone who has been in creative fields for years, I’ve learned to toughen up and not take every “suggestion” so personally. But still, I admit to reading way more into things than I should. And there is a problem with that. If we internalize too much for too long, we can end up bitter and angry.
McHugh talks about Moses (who I believe was an introvert) and what happened to him when he simply mumbled to himself instead of dealing with the problem.
“Moses allowed the complaints of others to fester in his soul, eating away like acid at his sense of call and joy in serving God.”
Ouch. Man, do I not want to end up like that! But look at what happens; we start internalizing everything, not working it out with people because we are afraid of conflict. Then that internalized grumbling begins to fester and destroy our souls. We end up being the grumpy old tech that no one really wants to talk to or have anything to do with.
I don’t want that for me, and I don’t want that for you. It’s hard work to deal with this stuff, though. It’s going to mean having hard conversations with people. We may have to do some ground work with those people up front as well. If we’re feeling bitter towards others who are extroverted, we may need to help them understand a process that enables us to walk through resolving conflict. That may be hard for them, and it will certainly be hard for you.
But I think it’s worth it. The church is facing some serious giants right now, and we need all hands on deck. We can’t allow our introversion to disqualify us from what God has called us to do. Even if we have to stretch.
I encourage you to pick up the book. It’s a good read with lots of practical advice for introverts by an introvert. My fellow technical artist, you have so much to offer, it just looks different than what others contribute. Go forth and make a difference!