As part of my 12 month mission, I am writing posts in approximately alphabetical order about what being a Quaker means to me. It’s part of the Quaker Alphabet Project 2014 and more information can be found over on this page about it.
This month I have made it as far as the letter I, which is brought to you by Introversion. Get me in my Big Bird outfit!
You see, my dears, I have a bit of a theory. It’s not a big theory, or even a well-considered one. It’s one born of the need to find a word beginning with I and the fact that I was reminding myself about Myers-Briggs indicators the other day. You might say it’s less of a theory and more of an early hypothesis.
Are Quakers predominantly Introverts?
I am, of course, referring to Quakers in the British or similar tradition of silent, unprogrammed worship. We sit still for an hour and wait to see if anyone feels they have a message to share. There is no priest or pastor or vicar or cleric (except that we all are priests in a way), and there is no programme of worship, just a willingness to sit down together and see what happens.
In Myers-Briggs one of the “preferences” (there are four in total) is Extraversion – Introversion. By completing a questionnaire you receive a score along the scale indicating which side you are on and how strongly.
As you will see, it turns out I am fairly introverted.
The extraversion – introversion scale measures where a person prefers to focus their attention and where they get a boost to their energy. So in this case, it would imply that:
- I am drawn to my inner world
- This is true. I enjoy mental challenges: crosswords, quizzes, meditation, academic work, genealogy, writing and reading about Ideas. It’s one reason I like science fiction as well as science.
- I prefer to communicate in writing
- I would certainly rather email than pick up the phone, also I blog a bit.
- I work out ideas by reflection
- I mull things over and let a conclusion arise, I expect my team to be psychic because it’s all going on in my head.
- I focus in depth on my interests
- I interpret this as obsessing over the minutiae of my hobbies rather than having a broader range of more general interests. I want to be an expert. Good enough is not good enough!
- I am private and contained
- Despite the fact I am sharing this with you, I blog under a pseudonym. I don’t mind if you work out who I am – I wouldn’t say anything here I would not say in public. I just prefer not to use my name because you don’t need to know it.
- I take the initiative when a situation or issue is important to me
- Do I wade in and interfere when I think it’s needed? Why yes I do.
It also indicates I restore my flagging energies by taking time out alone. Absolutely. I have to have time on my own, which is why I find regular meditation so helpful.
What it does not mean is that I am shy (although I am in some social situations – at work I am completely the opposite of shy).
So, EBL, what is this to do with Quakerism?
I’m glad you asked, dear reader. It’s because of the silent worship.
You see, those of us who take time out to participate in it tend to say we find it refreshing, restorative, energising. We think of it as the time we recharge batteries, mull over issues, get back in touch with our inner light.
I invite you to look back at the definition of Introversion. I see a link, and I wonder if you do too?
Well, what does that mean? Why does it matter? It’s because only half of the population at most fall onto the Introversion side of the scale. Obviously the rest are extraverts. I suspect they would always struggle with silent meetings for worship, no matter how spiritual they are as individuals.
Don’t forget the scale is a sliding one, so someone in the middle would not be strongly inclined one way or the other; it will be a normal distribution curve. However, a significant proportion of the population is unlikely to find silent meetings for worship as strengthening as we firm Introverts do.
Does this mean Quakerism is not for them? Well, that’s kind of up to us, isn’t it? If all we do is based on silence and reflection, then we will only attract and keep clear introverts. Our community will be biased. If we choose to engage in a range of activities, events and opportunities which satisfy all tastes and preferences, then we can be more balanced and whole by including everyone. We often debate in our meetings how to include children, young people, and so on. Perhaps we should redefine what we mean by inclusion and who we think we are failing to nurture.
Just a thought, dear Friends. I would be interested in your views. (Although perhaps we don’t need to debate MBTI in detail …I have used it as a starting point only!) For all I know there is a Woodbrooke programme for just this kind of thing.