I wrote the following at AMBS to post on our Wittenberg Door (a location where various students and staff/faculty can write whatever they want to contribute to discussions). It was posted around September or October 2012. I also encourage you to join the dialogue on this blog.
Community. That is probably the word that I hear most frequently at AMBS and in the Mennonite church in general. Personally, I am a big fan of community mostly because I consider myself an “extroverted extrovert”. If you tell me there is a community event I will be sure to be there and the more people the better. However, I have spent the last 3 years of my life with very introverted people who prefer small groups or do not really have the same desire I do to spend every waking moment with other people. So in honour of the wonderful roomates that I have had over the years, I have decided to explore the pros and cons of community and also to take some time to describe the pros and cons of introverts and extroverts.
Clarifying Community: The word “Community” here means a group of likeminded individuals who get together to discuss or do other likeminded activities. Specifically I am speaking of our Mennonite “bubble” – also known as the communities which shape our school and churches. I am aware that there are many definitions of community, but for the purpose of this short paper this is the definition I am using.
What’s Good About Community: Being in community gives you an excellent opportunity to meet likeminded people as well as to engage with those who are different than yourself. If gives you a chance to be stretched about what you believe about politics, ethics, and faith. Being in community gives you a certain sense of belonging and helps you to stay up-to-date on relevant news and even social gossip. Furthermore, being in community helps bond the school together and helps everyone to have a voice as they shape the school through their own experiences.
The Bad: Constant community building activities can put pressure on those who prefer to spend time alone. Also community events often are large groups which many of my introverted friends do not prefer. Furthermore, community often centres around small talk, and some people would just rather spend that time having meaningful conversations with just one or two people rather than flitting about with only five minutes to speak to each person.
The Good About Extroverts: From my own experience I have met many extroverts who have high amounts of energy and several of them like to be involved with everything. Extroverts can be a lot of fun and also good conversationalists who at times are like the Energizer Bunny.
The Bad About Extroverts: Since extroverts tend to be like Energizer Bunnies they have been known to dominate conversations and sometimes as an extrovert I really need to spend time listening and drawing out information from my more introverted friends. Some extroverts like being the centre of attention and this can detract away from the more quiet people who are very smart and talented but who feel overpowered by extroverts. Sometimes I can become an insecure extrovert. Since I enjoy spending all of my time in groups I can sometimes feel that if there is an event for which I was overlooked or simply not invited that there is a reason why I was not invited. Sometimes I also spend too much time thinking about how others view me. I have been told that someday I may outgrow my need to constantly be invited to community events.
The Good About Introverts: Introverts are also a lot of fun. They can be very reflective and can spend time internalizing world events sometimes better than extroverts do. Certain extroverts have a tendency to process things out loud and sometimes say things they may regret later, whereas, introverts take time before they speak and most of the time what they say is profound. Introverts also are generally able to help extroverts stay on top of their projects because extroverts can become easily preoccupied with the people who are there.
The Bad About Introverts: Certain introverts are seen by certain extroverts as not being much fun because they aren’t spending every waking moment in community. This probably is just because extroverts don’t spend enough time learning how to have fun with an introvert. Despite the fact that introverts hate being embarrassed publicly and many of them don’t like surprizes, they can actually be more fun to hang out with than extroverts because they give you a certain sense of mystery and are comfortable with silence.
All this to say: is community divine or dividing? I think it is both. Divine in the sense that we can continue to learn and grow from each other and face belonging. Dividing in the sense that sometimes community can become too much of a security blanket excluding those who don’t like to spend every minute in community. I mean that there are so many inside jokes that take place in community and if you miss an event you could be out of the loop for the next week and a half. So now I will leave you with two questions: 1) How can we make community more accessible to our introverted friends? And 2) Is community divine or dividing? I’ll let you be the judge.