Tag Archives | introvert

Exploring the reality where more than 80% of church members may not be Christians

A long while back I read a Slate article expounding on the conclusions reached in the book Forbidden Fruit, written by a sociology professor and consisting of several comprehensive surveys that were conducted with young adults about their views on sex and religion.  While 80% of teens who identified as evangelicals believed they should wait for sex until marriage, the number who actually put this into practice is a lot smaller.  Only 16% surveyed consider their religious beliefs as extremely important and actually appear to practice what they believe.

Based on what I read, 1 out of 5 evangelical teens don’t even believe sex outside of marriage is wrong.  80% say they do, but roughly 60% of them don’t really have the strength of their convictions.  That leaves only 16% of the demographic of evangelical teens that a truly devout Christian teenager might have anything in common with.

I’m of the view that these numbers probably mirror the state of Christian churches as well.  Imagine picking a church at random and realizing 80% of its members are either apostates or frauds.  To clarify, I regard   You might think you can still find camaraderie within the 20% who take their beliefs seriously, but there’s a caveat to consider here as well: I found when seeking out this 20% they tend to be of the very legalistic sort.  There is a fervor to their beliefs that the rest of the 80% don’t have, but they also exhibit a cold, arrogant, detached personality reminiscent of the ancient Pharisees.  Sadly, I’ve made the mistake of believing these were the real Christians and initially sought their company out in the past, desperate to find people who believed as I did, and perhaps within that circle finding a wife who loved God and sought to live a life pleasing to Him.

Instead I seemed to exist in this weird murky area where I wasn’t sinning enough for the nominal Christians, but I was sinning too much to be accepted by the legalists.  The remnant of believers that I might actually have anything in common with was indeed a lot smaller than the 16% who consider their religion “extremely important,” because it doesn’t screen out for those who take a pharisaical/legalistic  approach to their Christian beliefs.

Note: there’s been some confusion regarding these labels in the comments.  To clarify, I regard hypocrites/frauds as those who pretend to be perfect Christians while either hiding or simply ignoring their sins.  Legalists are those who aren’t so two faced, tend to be more “learned” so to speak, but they lack charity and have a smug sense of self-righteousness.  The real Christians are those who sin, but they acknowledge their sin, and they try to do the best they can to live as holy a life as possible.  They don’t pretend to be perfect, but they strive for it, which is a key difference.

Presuming that most churches have a predominating mix of apostates, frauds and legalists, should I still give it a chance, as long as the preaching itself is good?  It should matter more what’s coming from the pulpit than what the makeup of the congregation is, right?

I have two issues with this: one is that the message from the pulpit tends to define the audience.  People aren’t going to stick around for preaching that pricks them to the heart and convicts them of sin, unless they are willing to lead sincere Christian lives.  More often than not the nature of the congregation will reflect what’s coming from the pulpit.

The second issue has more to do with my introverted (INFJ) personality.  For most people, the disingenuity that exists in many church members is something they can merely observe, but for people like me it’s something that we actually feel.  We don’t merely observe it;  we sense it as well, and with that level of sensitivity comes a great deal of agitation and oppression.  Sitting in for a sermon, I can sense the spiritual wickedness around me in ways that others can’t (others more secular would call it bad energy or vibes).  It is painful to endure and there is no relief from it until I finally leave.

The only exceptions I’ve found was when attending prayer meetings.  I did so a few times at a church boasting over 1,000 members, and while I had no peace sitting in for Sunday sermons, attending the men’s prayer meeting was a different experience.  The nature of these meetings tend to draw the most devout, sincerest Christians from the rest of the congregation, and it was then that I could finally enjoy true fellowship with other believers, even if it was in a limited capacity.  I did find it very telling that despite a church of over 1,000, only 3 people showed up to pray the last time I was there (4 when you include me).

As important as church is, I can’t accept that God would require me to subject myself to agonizing oppression and despair every Sunday just to fulfill my obligations to the body of Christ.  For others this level of spiritual sensitivity is switched off, enabling them to function even in the midst of evil and being in a position to reform the churches from within.  Such does not seem to be the case for me.  That’s why I relate more to John the Baptist and Elijah than I do the likes of Paul, men who dwelled in the wilderness and separated themselves quite physically from the rest of the civilized world.  It was probably the only way they could cope with the wickedness of humanity without going insane.

My experience with prayer meetings makes me wonder if there’s a middle ground to all this that I could pursue instead.  I could attend bible study or prayer meetings rather than participate in Sunday services, though these tend to require you be vouched for by a regular member of the group before joining, which I can understand.  Other times it’s over the top, such as barring people from signing up for ministries to feed the hungry until you’ve been a regular member of the church for at least 6 months.  To set up such roadblocks just to perform charity work is something that’s offended me to no end, and rather than play by those ridiculous rules, I’ve chosen instead to do any charity work independently and directly, without dealing with the oversight of churches and groups I have no reason to trust with my time or money.  Sad, but as I’ve written so many times before: it is what it is.

The price of being an INFJ

INFJs I think are especially sensitive individuals, not in the sense that it means we get easily offended, but that we have a natural ability to absorb and read energy around us in a way that many people can’t.  We absorb so much in fact, that there’s a limit to how much stimuli we can experience before it becomes too much to bear, and we need to withdraw into solitude to escape from the overload of sensations we sometimes feel.  While this describes many introverts, I think INFJs are even more keenly sensitive to our surroundings, and we can quickly detect changes in mood and behavior long before others do.  When there’s negative energy or conflict, we don’t merely sense it, we’re actually experiencing it as well (like being in a middle of a storm).

While others can take people and things at face value, INFJs experience intuition at a uniquely high level that can’t easily be understood or verbalized.  We just KNOW things, even in the absence of any foreknowledge of the subject at hand.  It’s also why we can detect disingenuity in people’s behavior and words so quickly, or as Obi Wan Kenobi would say, we sense a “disturbance in the force.”  Such intuition can’t be experienced in a detached manner either, somehow we’re also absorbing the negative energy we sense, giving us a feeling of dysphoria that doesn’t stop until the deception ends, or we remove ourselves from that environment (usually the later).

This is not a personality trait that many people can understand or relate to.  One of my Facebook friends in fact dismissed a recent post where I commented that INFJs “see fake people” as the result of me projecting my personal bias onto others, not due to any innate ability to read others.  Her flippant disregard belies a fundamental ignorance of what INFJs experience, and I’m sure most of us would candidly admit, far from seeing this as some sort of superpower we can brag about, it’s actually a burden we wish we could TURN OFF.

It’s like having eyes without eyelids.  There’s no way for us to merely shut this off and block what we intuitively feel, even when we desperately want to give people the benefit of the doubt.  The overload of negative energy/stimuli becomes so overwhelming that the only way to get a reprieve from it is by dissociating ourselves from its source, either by seeking solitude or the company of a very small circle of friends and family we implicitly trust.

My experience at the Grand Canyons was such a good example of this too.  In the early morning I managed to find a quiet spot near the edge and enjoy the views in peace.  I closed my eyes, and I could feel the canyon’s winds gently blowing past me, the sounds and echos of birds, animals and plants moving in perfect harmony, while my nose were permeated with the smells of damp earth and swirling pollen.  I felt at ease and at peace.

Grand Canyon View from Rim TrailAnd then the crowds came.

Obnoxious, braying, loud and boisterous, they continued to swarm past me as I tried to regain the short-lived moments of peace I had experienced only minutes earlier.  It wasn’t enough to shut my hearing aids off:  I could still FEEL them.  Crazy, chaotic energy disrupting my inner world with its poisonous darts.  I literally did not feel at ease again until I left the Canyons and drove the through the Navajo Nation on the way to Colorado.

Rarely does a day go by when I wish I weren’t the way I was, that I could be more detached and numb to the world around me.  I’d probably have a FAR wider social circle of friends and associates, as well as being a happy go lucky person with no sense or awareness of the evil that surrounds him.  Ignorance as they say, is bliss.

I wish I could be that person sometimes.  But it is what it is.

Exploring a world that harbors a subtle bigotry against introverts

Walking on RailroadI’ve been reading the book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain, and while I haven’t finished it yet, it has truly been an eye-opening read.  (If you’re an introvert, seriously, GET THIS BOOK.)  Incredibly, it touched on nearly everything I’ve come to observe about the world of Christianity, dating, education and work that always felt… wrong to me.

The book exposes what was in fact a culture-wide shift in perspective on how one succeeds in life that began in the early 20th century, spearheaded by none other than Dale Carnegie.  Evidence of this shift could be found in part by simply making a comparison of the advice manuals in the 19th century to the manuals of the 20th century that Carnegie helped to shape.  Using word counts, the 19th century guides often resorted to words like these:

  • Citizenship
  • Duty
  • Work
  • Golden deeds
  • Honor
  • Reputation
  • Morals
  • Manners
  • Integrity

Cain writes:

But the new guides celebrated qualities that were–no matter how easy Dale Carnegie made it sound–trickier to acquire.  Either you embodied these qualities or you didn’t:

Magnetic
Fascinating
Stunning
Attractive
Glowing
Dominant
Forceful
Energetic

Now why does this sound so FAMILIAR?  I realized that this described almost to a T the VERY same traits the “manosphere” has long since recognized as the necessary qualities a man must have in order to attract women.  Far from being a case study on sexual attraction, this actually appears to be part of a MUCH larger cultural phenomenon, one that engulfs nearly every area of life and dictates how successful we would be not only in dating and relationships, but also in our careers and education too.

Speaking of education, Cain quotes a dean in her research as an example of what college admissions officers look for in candidates:

“…in screening applications from secondary schools it was only common sense to take into account not only what the college wanted but what, four years later, corporations’ recruiters would want.  ‘They like a pretty gregarious, active type, so we find that the best man is the one who’s had an 80 or 85 average in school and plenty of extracurricular activity.  We see little use for the brilliant introvert.'”

This bias against introverts runs so deep that some view introversion as a pathology, not merely a distinctive personality trait, or at the very least a problem that needs to be dealt with.  Rather than being able to embrace their introversion, introverts are forced from the very beginning of their adult lives to abandon their natural proclivities if they’re ever to have any hope of getting ahead in life.

In today’s world, it’s no longer about quality, but appearance.  It’s the one who speaks the loudest that gets promoted, not the one who actually put in the work.  In the book Cain described a Toastmasters meeting in which an attractive brunette performs an exercise called “Truth or Lie,” where she must tell a group of participants a story, after which they must decide whether to believe her or not.  She tells her story, and when the room is queried, everyone believed her story was real.  She then gleefully admitted that not one word she said was the truth.  She confided later on that because of the competition in the workplace, it was important to keep her “skills” sharp.  Um, what?

Cain notes:

But what do “sharp skills” look like?  Should we be so proficient at self-presentation that we can dissemble without anyone suspecting?  Must we learn to stage-manage our voices, gestures, and body language until we can tell–sell–any story we want?  These seem venal aspirations, a marker of how far we’ve come–and not in a good way–since the days of Dale Carnegie’s childhood.

In another example Cain spoke of a group exercise conducted at Harvard Business School, the theme revolving around trying to survive at a hypothetical arctic substation.  The idea was to promote working together as a group and improve collaboration.  One group in particular had a member with extensive experience in the backwoods, yet because he was an introvert, he suggested his ideas too softly, and was hence ignored.  Of course the group failed miserably in their exercise, because they listened to the most vocal participants (despite their utter lack of experience in survival skills) rather than the soft spoken man who had been the true wellspring of knowledge.

I’ve met these loud, braying types before, and I never ceased to be amazed at how easily they could forcefully sell themselves as experts in whatever field they were working in, despite not having one ounce of actual knowledge in it.  The hubris is just incredible.  They basically lie, BUT they lie very well, and because of it they’re the ones that get the plush assignments, the best jobs, and the highest paying gigs.

It works in dating too.  Of numerous examples I can think of, I still remember one where the guy flat out lied about everything to the girl he was dating.  He simply played the game he needed to play to attract a girl, and it worked just long enough for her to marry him.  Once he had her though he dropped the charade and of course their marriage went to pieces as a result.  It’s hard to argue the effectiveness of his approach though: had he always been honest about himself she never would have been attracted to him.  And for an introvert who believes honesty is the best policy, it can be painful constantly watching a world succeed and get ahead on lies and deceit while he continues to trudge in the mud.

Even worse, this cultural infatuation and bias towards the extroverted has plagued modern Christianity as well.  Cain also took the time to interview an introverted pastor named Adam McHugh while visiting Rick Warren’s Saddleback church.  As examples of this bias she mentioned a few job advertisements she read recently on what large churches require of those interested in being a rector:  “The priest must be… an extrovert who enthusiastically engages members and newcomers, a team player.”  “If the first letter {of your Myers-Briggs personality score} isn’t an E [for extrovert] think twice… I’m sure our Lord was [an extrovert].”

McHugh tells Cain:

The evangelical culture ties together faithfulness with extroversion.  The emphasis is on community, on participating in more and more programs and events, on meeting more and more people.  It’s a constant tension for many introverts that they’re not living that out.  And in a religious world, there’s more at stake when you feel that tension.  It doesn’t feel like ‘I’m not doing as well as I’d like.’  It feels like ‘God isn’t pleased with me.”

Cain further writes:

Contemporary evangelicalism says that every person you fail to meet and proselytize is another soul you might have saved.  It also emphasizes building community among confirmed believers, with many churches encouraging (or even requiring) their members to join extracurricular groups organized around every conceivable subject–cooking, real estate investing, skateboarding.

Discussing the experience of the Saddleback church service, McHugh notes his discomfort with it all:

It sets up an extroverted atmosphere that can be difficult for introverts like me.  Sometimes I feel like I’m going through the motions.  The outward enthusiasm and passion that seems to be part and parcel of Saddleback’s culture doesn’t feel natural.  Not that introverts can’t be eager and enthusiastic, but we’re not overtly expressive as extroverts.  At a place like Saddleback, you can start questioning your own experience of God.  Is it really as strong as that of other people who look the part of the devout believer?”

“Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme,” Cain writes, “If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love.  It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly.”

{McHugh} knows that meaningful change will come slowly to a religious culture that sees extroversion not only as a personality trait but also as an indicator of virtue.  Righteous behavior is not so much the good we do behind closed doors when no one is there to praise us; it is what we “put out into the world.”  Just as Tony Robbins’ aggressive upselling is OK with his fans because spreading helpful ideas is part of being a good person, and just as Harvard Business School expects its students to be talkers because this is seen as a prerequisite of leadership, so have many evangelicals come to associate godliness with sociability.

Astonishing.  I’ve always felt like a fish on dry land, but that feeling extended to almost every aspect of my life.  It didn’t matter if it was church/Christianity, my job, or trying to find the girl of my dreams: there was a common denominator that seemed to define my frustrations with it all, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was exactly, until I read this book.  In essence, I’m dealing with a culture that has evolved to reward only the extroverted.  It’s not so much that being extroverted in and of itself is wrong, but that society has come to revere it in its most extreme form, all the while regarding the introverted at best as a peculiarity, and at worst as a pathology or disease.  Not even church can provide a respite from this.

Cain’s book helped me gain an immense understanding of the world we live in, but I’m still left to wonder where I go from here.  Should I play the game like everyone else, push myself to become more extroverted and “fake it till I make it?”  That does seem to be the advice of many.  If I’m ever to attract women, move up the career ladder, or establish an authoritative presence in the Christian community, then I have to get with the program.  Adapt as they say, or die.

But as a Christian, do I really have to resign myself to playing the world’s game of extreme extroversion in order to succeed?  Or did God assign me another path to follow, one different from the path the world (and most Christian churches) expect me to travel on?

I know in some respects, I could afford to be more outgoing, to get out of my shell and learn how to talk to people.  But I also know there’s a line that can be crossed, where I’m not merely learning to become extroverted in a way that’s still comfortable to me, but where I start to deny who I am.  There’s a reason why God made me an introvert, and I can sense the danger in trying to repudiate His work.   I may not like it, and may resent how my introversion has “handicapped” my ability to succeed in life, but then again, I also feel an inner sense of peace when I stop (to use a biblical phrase) “kicking against the pricks.”

Rather than blindly accept things as they are, maybe it’s more important that I accept who I am, and let the chips fall where they may.

How I surprisingly got a date out of chatting up a hot girl on a flight back home

Finally got back yesterday after wrapping up a 16 day road trip!  (I’ll start recapping with photos and posts as the week goes on.)  I had a pretty awesome time, but towards the end I was ready to go home.  As much as I truly love the road (and Colorado) it still remains a place I can only visit, not a place I can truly call home (yet).

So I arrive at Denver airport, check in my bags, and eventually make my way to my window seat.  While I was moving through the plane I was thinking, “I’ve been on dozens of flights now and I never, EVER wind up sitting next to a hot girl.  EVER.”  I see some ugly dude standing over the aisle seat in my row and I’m like, “Yep, here we go, same old crap.”

But… he was standing there to let people pass and winds up moving to the row in front of me.  Whew.  I get into my seat and patiently await to see what Michael Moorish 500 pound creature out of Lovecraft’s books would end up sitting next to me.

It never materialized.  Instead, this GORGEOUS looking girl takes the aisle seat next to me, and it turns out no one had booked the middle seat between us, so we had the entire row to ourselves.  And I’m like… “Did that really just happen?”

After griping not 5 minutes earlier about never having the random good fortune of sitting next to a beautiful woman on the plane, lo and behold here she was, with the extra bonus of having a seat between us free for added comfort and minimal distractions.  It was like God had heard my complaints and presented a GOLDEN opportunity for me, all wrapped up in a nice red bow, and was now challenging me, “Here’s what you wanted Frank, now what are you going to do about it?”

So what did I do?  Nothing.

It was the curse of the introvert.  Instead of seizing the moment, I was calculating probabilities in my head, exploring every conceivable outcome that could arise from my talking to her.  Was she married, was she single, is she friendly, or would she rudely cut me off, would I even be able to hear her over the roaring of the jet engines, or would I completely embarrass myself, was she from Colorado or New York, and if Colorado how could that work, and if New York would she have that typical New York attitude, was her boyfriend/husband actually on the plane too and just in another seat, and would he curbstomp me for daring to speak to her after we de-boarded?

The more I thought and envisioned all the possible scenarios, the worse the knot in my stomach started to get.  Meanwhile I had to exercise serious restraint from openly admiring her exotically feminine figure, stealing a glance every now and then, but otherwise being a gentleman (I hope).  Of course it didn’t help that she would occasionally stretch her arms out, accentuating every gorgeous curve of her body as she did so.

Sweet mother of merciful goodness…  (I reach out and twist the A/C to full blast…)

I was still cognizant of all the ridicule I had received in a previous post about befriending women in public, the consensus by feminist trolls being that I was teh creepy creeps giving off teh creepeh vibes, and that under no circumstances should I ever smile, approach or talk to women in public, lest it be considered a form of stalking and verbal rape.  The Feminist Imperative has spoken.  So let it be written…

And the truth was, I honestly didn’t want to bother a girl if she didn’t want to be bothered.  But it was always hard to tell what their state of mind was.  The safe route of course is to simply not talk to anyone, EVER, and being an introvert that would have suited me just fine (while making all the feminists happy by acknowledging my place at the bottom of the totem pole and not polluting the air they breathe with proof of my existence).

But then I knew, if I didn’t say something, ANYTHING, I was going to regret this lost opportunity, just as I’ve come to regret all the other lost opportunities over the years.  Whereas before the old Frank would have shrunk further into his seat and buried himself in his book or iPad, the new Frank decided, “You know what, I am getting TOO OLD for this S@#$.  CARPE DIEM.”

I gently tap her shoulder.  “I was just wondering, are you from Colorado or New York?”

Her soft, expressive face brightened at my opening question, and off we went, chatting about this and that.  I tried to absorb the tremendous relief that arose from her willingness to talk to me, but my stomach continued to be in vice-like twist, pain receptors going off almost everywhere I had sensation.  It was literally like trying to move a muscle that I hadn’t moved in years.  I soldiered on though.  No more regrets.

As our plane made its descent I asked her out for coffee since she lived in Brooklyn, to which she said yes (?!?!?) and afterward we traded contact info and emails.

VICTORY!

Not so much that she said yes, but in forcing myself to turn over a new leaf, to resist the old patterns of withdrawing and letting opportunities like these slide past me.  In a way I think it’s part of getting older.  You realize time is not in fact on your side, and life will only offer you X amount of chances to meet, befriend and perhaps find the person you’re meant to be with.  I decided I would rather go through life knowing even though I may have failed, at least I gave it my all, than to say I failed because I never tried at all.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must commence the fine art of strutting.

Cool mice strutting on red carpet

Introverted like the wolf!

A pair of wolves

INFJ: Wolf – Value-driven individuals who tend to remain mysterious and complex even after you’ve become close to one. They are often creative and inspired individuals. They are good at perceiving emotions and are sensitive to the feelings of others, but they are not very prone to revealing much of themselves until they trust someone completely. That said, they are intensely interested in the well-being of others and are often seen as protectors as well as natural leaders.  Source: Buzzfeed.com

Well, I always knew I was hungry like the wolf, guess I’m introverted like one too.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes

Clicky

%d bloggers like this: