Church for Introverts

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Matthew 18:20

One of the main features of life as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is gathering with your fellow church members. This isn't exclusive to our faith, of course; most faiths gather together on a regular basis.

There are many good reasons for this. Spiritually, there's the reason given in the quote from the Bible above. When we gather Christ has promised to send His spirit to be with us. Additionally, when we gather we get to know each other better, and we can build lifelong bonds, find help when we need it, and also help others in their need.

Intellectually, I agree with and understand all of this. There's just one little problem.

I'm more introvert than extrovert, and there are weeks where Sunday morning just isn't a “be with people” time for me. It's not that I fear the people in my congregation (or “ward” in the parlance of our Church); far from it. I've lived in this ward for almost ten years; I know, trust, and love these people. It's not them, it's me. When I'm feeling a need for alone time being with anyone is a problem.

But I still go to church.

Over the years I've gone through all sorts of phases, and I've learned all sorts of ways to handle my own introversion.

Ironically, one of the most powerful ones was turning my focus out away from myself to the others in the ward. As one of the modern apostles said:

...we do have our own sins and shortcomings to resolve; that’s why we’re there. But we might be more successful in such contrition if we are mindful of the other broken hearts and sorrowing spirits that surround us. Seated not far away are some who may have wept—outwardly or inwardly—through the entire sacramental hymn and the prayers of those priests. Might we silently take note of that and offer our little crust of comfort and our tiny cup of compassion—might we dedicate it to them?

— Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: Behold the Lamb of God emphasis added

When I come to church I need to focus less on myself and more on those around me. My wife is far better at this than I am. More than once she has stood up in the middle of a meeting to go put her arm around someone who needed love in that moment. The signs she sees are opaque to me, but I'm trying to learn.

I know this seems counter intuitive: overcome my introvert tendencies by focusing on other people, but so far it's the only thing that has worked.