How can I reach out to others when I'm an introvert and would rather be alone?

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I understand this question because I, too, am an introvert that has to make myself reach out. I first truly understood how difficult this is for me when I was at my friend Mary's house along with a woman who was in campus ministry. This woman told us of an Indian student who needed housing. As she was telling us of this girl's situation, I was saying to God, I don't want to have her live with us, but if that's what you want, I'm listening. But every fiber of my body was resisting the idea. Before she could even finish telling us about her, Mary said, "We'll take her. We'd love to have her!" In that moment I realized what a struggle reaching out is for me.

The one thing I cannot live without is alone time. Whenever such time is crowded out of my life, I feel like I'm being crushed in a vice, with so much pressure that I'm going to crack.

Extroverts don't understand this struggle. They will overcome all sorts of obstacles to be with people. In fact, they are so motivated that they reach out naturally as they go about their days.

We introverts, on the other hand, usually look for ways to avoid people. We're the kind who look the other way when we see someone we know in the grocery store because it means we'll have to talk to them. Most of us are content with having just a few friends around us, but we certainly don't enjoy going out of our way to meet new people and invite them into our living space.

But Scripture is full of encouragement to reach out to those around you. So, I've given this quite a bit of thought and come to terms with the commands and my personality. So for those of you who belong to the introvert camp, I may have some wisdom to share.

Concentrate on reaching out to a one or two people, rather than feeling like you continually have to make new contacts. We have a three-minute rule at our church. The first three minutes after the service, members are encouraged to meet someone new. Although, I understand the importance of such a rule, it strikes terror in my heart. As the service comes to an end, I feel anxious and tense as I feel the pressure to meet someone new. So I've decided to tweak the three-minute rule and develop a relationship with someone new rather than simply saying hi each week to a different person. So after each service, there are several new people I try to consistently talk to.

My friend, Lenny, takes it a step further. He always finds someone to mentor during the first service and then they together attend the second service. He concentrates on only one person at a time, but gives a great deal of input into their lives.

My friend, Jane, is an introvert, but she has a heart for international students. She and her husband have extra bedrooms now, so they have had exchange students live with them and have international students from the local university over for holidays. She finds this kind of hospitality fulfilling and worth the effort and likes the smaller nature of it, rather than bigger gatherings.

Set boundaries, such as making a clear ending time to the gathering before it starts. One of the problems I have with inviting people into my home is the open-endedness of it. If we have a Bible study or a party in our home, there are always those who want to linger way past my comfort level. So for Bible studies, we set a clear ending time before it even starts. We explain that we both are early risers and need to keep the study within the time frame for our own health. Of course, there are rare occasions when we need to break that rule, but it helps to have it up front.

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