10 signs that Paul was an extravert

Introverts have been in the news recently. The Guardian ran an excerpt from a new book by Susan Cain, Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Regarding introverts and extraverts, she says that "both personality types appear in the Bible."

Never mind Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, the really important division we need to be aware of in the world is the difference between introverts and extraverts. It always has been, and always will be. It is helpful to view the men and women in the Bible in the same way. When we see these ones as people like you and me, it becomes a lot easier to appreciate what they have to say.

As a brief summary of the difference between an introvert and an extravert, Dorothy Rowe in her book, The Successful Self, explains, "When I use the word extravert I mean experiencing your existence as being a member of a group, as the relationship, the connection, between yourself and others. When I use the word introvert I mean experiencing your existence as the progressive development of your individuality in terms of clarity, achievement, and authenticity." (Unless otherwise stated, all quotes will be from The Successful Self)

A broad and completely unsubstantiated general rule for who wrote the Bible is: Extraverts wrote it, introverts stitched it. Peter was an introvert, and like Jesus he didn't write anything down. He gets a raw deal because it is suggested that Peter might be the influence - the source - behind Mark's gospel (and subsequently Matthew's and Luke's which were essentially copies and elaborations.) We can imagine Peter recounting in glowing terms how remarkable Jesus was. What a calming presence he was. "We would be out in the boat, just the four of us and Jesus, and he would be talking about faith - how man had his back to God, was hiding from him, and if only we turn around and go back to our heavenly father, it would have a profound effect on our faith. All the turmoil of my mind would still. What he said made so much sense. I could feel it all slipping away when I was out on my own...but, with him, things were different. He was so free of anxiety, and at peace with life...I swear, it seemed that he could just step off the boat and stay floating on the surface of the water like Elisha's axe-head."

The next morning the tabloids have got hold of the story. The headlines scream: "HOLY MAN CALMS STORM, WALKS ON WATER!"

However, it seems that our first port of call when it comes to Christianity is through the writings of Paul, not always helpful when we understand that his being an extravert informs every action he takes.

1. He yearned for approval
Extraverts take great pride in being lovable
Paul goes to great lengths to convey how lovely he is. He is "longing to see" the holy ones in Rome. "I do not want you to fail to know, brothers, that I many times purposed to come to you, but I have been hindered until now." When he came to the congregation in Corinth, "I came to you in weakness and in fear, and with much trembling."

The reaction of the older men from Ephesus when he leaves them is what Paul lives for: "And they all wept and embraced Paul and kissed him, sorrowing most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they should see his face no more."

(I feel very strongly that Luke's agenda is to produce a portrait of a church leader that parallels that of Christ. Here the brothers from Ephesus weep because they shall see his face no more, as the disciples did with Jesus. In Acts 21:12, 13 "We and the people there begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." In Jerusalem it could be argued that Paul is in some ways betrayed by James, encouraged to go into the temple where ultimately he is found and arrested.)

This need for approval led to bouts of self-justification. Paul was not great at handling criticism. Criticism meant disapproval. It seems that he did not go down too well in Corinth. Certain members of the congregation had a thing or two to say about him, and Paul does not find it easy to let things go. Subsequently there are several sections of his letters to the Corinthians in which he vociferously defends his credentials. From chapter 10 of Second Corinthians, he really hits his stride, sarcastically referring to his naysayers as "super-apostles," and justifying his diatribe with the shrill outcry, "I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it."

2. He needed to be needed
Extraverts who do not value and accept themselves feel that they can never keep themselves in a group by mutual affection alone. They feel that they have to secure the membership of the group by making the other members of the group need them. Thus they become the indispensable member of the team, the totally dependable and unselfish doctor, nurse, or therapist, the selfless, self-sacrificing parent.
Dorothy Rowe, The Successful Self

"We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children."
Paul, 1 Thessalonians 2:7
Paul made sure that he had an opinion and an answer for everything. He established himself as the one who made rulings on matters so that very quickly he became the one to approach when there were doubts and questions. His first letter to the Corinthians is a veritable law-book. He covers everything from church unity, lawsuits among brothers, sexual immorality, marriage - nothing would seem to be outside of Paul's scope. It is a great irony that in his letter to the Colossians, the New International Version has three subheadings, one after the other that read: Freedom From Human Regulations Through Life With Christ, followed by Rules for Holy Living, and Rules for Christian Households. Here was a man who had left the stifling life of the Pharisee behind, and was now creating another religion in its image.

3. He was right, everybody else was wrong
Extraverts try to protect themselves by charming, controlling, and manipulating people into doing what the extraverts wants them to do, that is, to form and maintain groups to which the extravert belongs.
Paul tells the Galatians a story about how he gave Peter a piece of his mind when Peter was vacillating between the Jews and the gentiles. Even though Peter had probably been a factor in Paul cleaning up his act, Paul still harboured some sort of grudge and tore him off a strip when he was only doing what Paul himself claimed to do: "To a Jew I became as a Jew."

Paul was convinced the end of the world was coming. In a similar turn of events that Jeremiah experienced when he had to rethink his world-view after the death of Josiah, so it was with this so-called promised Messiah. In the prime of life, he had been cut off. Paul was convinced that more was to be expected and he built his theology around this hope, persuading many believers along the way. However, after a couple of decades some had begun to doubt Paul's opinion. His later epistles contain advice not to get sidetracked by debates about words, and he laments the loss of followers. He tells Titus to reject any man promoting a sect. He didn't suffer any rivals.

4. He Liked to Talk
Extraverts who do talk a great deal have found that talking usually ensures other people's attention and with that their sense of existence. Non-stop extravert talkers, unsure of their existence, believe, 'I talk, therefore I am.'
It is very hard to picture Paul silent. He was a man who liked to talk. There are thirteen letters attributed to him, of which we can be sure of about ten - but that's still pretty impressive. Paul had many words to say about the Christian experience, and as such he becomes the primary voice for anyone interested in Christianity. The gospels didn't come first - as regards the written word, it was Paul who was first on the scene, a good decade before Mark's gospel account.

We mustn't forget that Paul had very likely never encountered Jesus, but that didn't stop him from installing himself as an authority on the subject. The fact is, he was in an excellent position to wax lyrical about the Christ, coming as he did from a strictly Jewish background. It didn't matter that he had never met the one who was supposed to have filled this role, there was so much that could be said about the mere concept of "the Christ".

Even when it comes to the letters themselves it is easier to picture Paul talking rather than writing. Imagine a secretary hunched over the scroll while Paul paces up and down, dictating as he goes. Behind the scenes, 1 Corinthians 1:13-16:
PAUL: "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptise any one of you."

SECRETARY: What about Crispus?

PAUL: Eh? Oh that's right. Okay, back up a bit. "I am thankful that I did not baptise any one of you except Crispus..."


PAUL: *sigh* "I am thankful that I did not baptise any one of you except Crispus and Gaius so that no-one can say that you were baptised into my name."

SECRETARY: What about Stephanas? In fact, I think you baptised that whole household, didn't you?

PAUL: Oh for the love of Pete, yes, yes, "I also baptised the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptised anyone else." Now stick that in parentheses, and let's just leave it at that!
Once he got going, Paul didn't always find it easy to stop . Legend has it on one occasion he was in Troas, he got up after the evening meal and "kept on talking until midnight." A young man named Eutychus became drowsy, sank into a deep sleep - "I was in a deep sleep" - fell out of the window, and was picked up dead. Paul resuscitated him, and then carried on talking until daylight.

5. He Vividly Externalised the Internal
For Paul, dreams were not dreams, they were messages. Several times throughout Acts, it is reported that he received a vision in the night, and he acted upon it the next day.

His revelation was a visitation by the resurrected Jesus himself. Luke will have fleshed it out quite thoroughly, but Paul gradually became more enthusiastic about the notion as time went by. And not only for himself, either. He was quite willing to propose that, after his death, Jesus had appeared to "upward of five-hundred people at one time."

Being an extravert, Paul was able to tell a story. Both he and Peter apparently underwent similar experiences. Peter's we know nothing about, Paul's we do. It wasn't that his was the more exciting experience of the two, it was simply that he was able to talk it up..

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul relates a vision in which he was "caught up to paradise..." but then he bottles out of disclosing any more information.

6. He Was Constantly On the Move
If as an extravert you believe that you are basically bad, of little value, unacceptable to yourself and other people, you see this badness and unacceptability as residing in the darkness of your inner reality, and as that in itself is dangerous, you must flee from it into external reality. You can make yourself very busy there, rushing around, even achieving great things.
Dorothy Rowe

Miserable man that I am!
Paul, Romans 7:24
Once Paul began his missionary journeys, he barely stayed still. Starting from Acts chapter 13, he engages in three journeys which take him through Galatia, Asia, Greece, and the islands of the Mediterranean Sea. He visits umpteen towns and cities, travelling by boat or on foot, over a ten-year period. Even while he was journeying around these parts, he was planning his next big voyage, dreaming of a visit to Rome, and setting his sights even further West, to Spain.

7. He craved excitement
Extravert's need for and delight in stimulation from their external reality is the central part of their experience of themselves. They will create excitement for themselves out of every available situation, and, if the situation will not yield the excitement of joy, they will create the excitement of anxiety.
On Paul's first missionary journey he enters a place called Lystra where disgruntled Jews convince the crowd to turn on him. "They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead." What did Paul do? He dusted himself off and "went back into the city."

His first act as a newly converted Christian was to visit Arabia where it seems he got on the wrong side of the local law-enforcement. It led to him having to make his escape from Damascus by being lowered over the wall in a laundry basket.

When a man gets himself in this much trouble, one begins to get suspicious: "Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one -- I am talking like a madman -- with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure."

Paul wasn't afraid of stirring it. For example, when he finds himself in the middle of a crowd of Pharisees and Sadducees all after his blood, he takes the opportunity to yell out, "Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead I am on trial." This caused a riot to break out between the two rival religious factions because "the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all." As a result, "when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn in pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them and bring him into the barracks."

8. He Was Terrified of Death
Extraverts build their defences in the external world, locating the cause of their immense anxiety...in the body with fears of illness and dying.
Health and diet was an ongoing issue with Paul. He encourages Timothy to "use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent cases of sickness." He appreciated the benefits of eating meat, and didn't think much of vegetarians. He obsessed about his failing eyesight, and it is likely that he suffered frequent bouts of malaria which no doubt brought on splitting headaches. This may well be the "thorn in the flesh" that he alludes to in 2 Corinthians 12:7, which he "three times entreated the Lord that it might depart from me."

However, the most important factor for Paul was a belief in life after death. It was impossible for Paul to believe that death could be the end of it all. He carried his belief in the resurrection over from his life as a Pharisee, and found in his interpretation of Christianity a way to bolster that belief.

9. It was unbearable to think he might have wasted his life
Although he had spent a good proportion of his life adhering to a religion that he subsequently had abandoned, he had convinced himself that it had all been part of a greater plan. "God, set me apart from birth," he told the Galatian congregation.

10. 2000 friends on Facebook
Extraverts can make themselves a member of a group in a tremendous variety of ways. They can, for instance, gather a large family around them, or have hundreds of friends, or play team sports, or run a business with colleagues, or enter one of the helping professions and enjoy being needed.
Paul's roll-call of names is impressive. He knows a lot of people. He surrounds himself with an entourage. By the time he is heading homeward at the end of his third missionary tour, "Sopater of Beroea, the son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus."

In Romans chapter 16 Paul mentions no less than twenty-four different individuals. It might even be that Paul didn't even know these people personally because he had not yet visited Rome. However, it didn't stop him from "friending" them, paving the way for a future visit.

...and always updating. Paul's noise to signal ratio was poor. If he was a Twitter user he would be a river of static: "Epaphras left my coat at Troas, again!"