I’ve always been a person who enjoys time alone, doing what I want and being in my own physical, mental and emotional space. I am an introvert through and through. And it has taken me a long time to accept that this is how I am wired. Of course I have relationships with those around me at university, church, work and home, but I thrive most when I take those moments in my day where I am by myself, whether I am actively doing something I love like cooking, art, reading, watching a movie, or just quietly thinking to myself (though I try not to make a habit of thinking for too long!)
And while I enjoy the idea of ‘me’ time, I am always reminded that I do not live in a world by myself, but rather in a community of people who are all connected. So I ask the question- is there a way to balance who I am as an introvert, with my (and everyone’s) need and desire for community and relationships?
And I think it comes down to this: whether you are someone who has an introverted or extroverted personality, we are all designed for relationships and being in community.
But how can we practically cultivate our attitude towards our relationships and being in a community of people?
1 | Finding your own personal boundaries and respect the way you are wired
As an introvert, I have found that it is important to be aware of the times when I really need time to myself, and the times where I just don’t “feel” like investing time or energy into anyone else for lazy or selfish reasons.
In my experience there are times where it is okay to choose to have a quiet night in, read a good book, watch a movie, cook a delicious dinner, or just share time with those closest to you.
But I also know that there are many times in life where it is a good and helpful thing to invest a bit of time and energy into another person and into growing your relationships with friends and family.
It’s about being honest with yourself and being aware of the importance of both growing your relationships with others, and learning to recognise the time you need by yourself.
2 | In the way we love others
We can begin by taking simple steps to start building on and growing the relationships we are already in with our family and friends, by listening and responding to their troubles, worries, and joys in a way that is honest and authentic.
In each relationship we are given an opportunity to carry one another’s burdens and share in another person’s happiness, not out of guilt or obligation, but out of love.
Hearing someone’s pain or suffering can be heavy on your heart, mind and soul, but if someone opens up to you, listen to them. Even if you don’t know what to say, let them know that they can rely on you.
And if someone is filled with joy and can’t stop dancing around out of pure happiness, rather than being jealous, share with them in their excitement and dance with them!
Even if you can’t relate to the experiences or emotions of those around you, you still have the opportunity to encourage and care for people in authentic and purposeful ways.
3 | Be purposeful in spending time with others
While life does get busy and your time feels precious, there is always time to invest in those around you.
It is important to try organising your time so that you have a balance between time alone and spending time with others and growing your relationships.
It’s as simple as meeting with a friend for coffee one afternoon, or taking an extra five minutes from your own time to find a way to show someone you are thinking of them.
Even small things can grow a genuine attitude of love.
4 | Relationships help us practically
In growing our sense of community and really investing ourselves into others, we also can experience the benefits of having authentic and genuine relationships; we can both rely on and help the other person.
If we isolate ourselves from those around us, we can be in danger of pushing people away to a point that when we need them as a friend, they might not be there to help us.
5 | Sacrifice
The idea of laying your life down for your friend is a really important thing to consider when it comes to our attitude. And while that might not be literally dying for someone you love, sacrifice can be even in the little things that show those around you that you love them and value them above yourself.
In my experience, even something as simple as making someone a cup of tea and choosing to spend time with them can show that you are there, and are willing to listen.
6 | Your words
We can even use our simple words to build one another up with wholesome and encouraging conversation. I know that in my experience words can have a huge effect, and even leaving someone a note with a simple “I love you” can brighten someone’s mood in an instant.
Being in community keeps us anchored and supported in both the tough and favoured seasons in life.
If you’re like me, and relationships and community doesn’t come naturally to you, challenge yourself to start growing your attitude through small, simple ways.
While sometimes it is easier to be alone, being with people is an important part of how we grow and change in our lives. There are some seasons where being introverted is easier and more comfortable, but we need to remember that people need each other. We are designed to be in community with others, and that should motivate us to consider our attitude towards relationships.
– image credit: Kevin Young