Laudable Linkage

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I don’t usually do these three weeks in a row, but I have come across a lot of good reading lately!

An Army Without Supplies. The people on the “front lines” – of either military or spiritual endeavors – are needed, but so is the support system behind them.

Instant Coffee, Instant Faith. “It is not the massive floods that cause a tree to grow; it’s the steady stream of water day after day, month after month, year after year. The Christian life does not consist only of great breakthroughs; it consists mainly in mundane, steady obedience.”

A Blog on Worship, HT to Proclaim and Defend. “Worship God, not just with your voice, but with your obedience, your devotion, your service, your time, your resources, your priorities, your thoughts, and your actions. Jesus bought all of you, so worship with all of you. Worship: It’s more than you think.

What Does Forgiveness Look Like?

How We Misunderstand Strong Women, HT to True Woman.

When the Words of My Mouth Are Pleasing Mostly to Me, HT to True Woman.

I Had an Abortion, HT to True Woman. Counsel to someone who has lost hope of forgiveness.

If You Like Narnia….suggestions for other books in a similar vein.

And finally, I saw this on Pinterest but couldn’t get to where it originated from. But it hit home – I have a tendency to over think things.

Overthinking

Have a great weekend!

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To the Shy

Photo Courtesy of marcolm at freedigitalphoto.net

Photo Courtesy of marcolm at freedigitalphoto.net

I grew up extremely shy. I think it’s party due to my natural personality, but it’s probably also influenced by my being the oldest and the only child for four years. As a child I preferred being with the adults – that’s what I had gotten used to. I didn’t interrupt or try to monopolize the conversation – I grew up in the “Children should be seen and not heard” era and was taught to sit quietly. But my mom would often “make” me go play so the adults could talk. Once when another mom with kids about the age of my brother and myself came over, my mom, an extrovert who never knew a stranger, told us to take them into the bedroom and play. We all just looked at each other for a long moment before finally venturing off to the toys, where eventually the ice broke.  Even as a young adult I was content to listen to others talk and would almost panic if someone tried to draw me into the conversation. I did have friends growing up, but often it was just one or two very close friends.

I say all that to convey that I understand what it is to be painfully shy. But I want my shy friends to consider something for a moment.

Picture this scenario: you’re about to come down a sidewalk or aisle at church, and you see someone you know coming toward you from the other direction. So you begin to consider when and at what point to make eye contact and say something, try to think of what to say, etc. (This probably sounds totally insane to non-shy people, but it’s a very real process!) So just when you’re about to come up even with the person, you look toward them, open your mouth to say hello, and….find them looking in the complete opposite direction as they pass you in silence. That feels like a slap in the face or a deliberate snub. It’s not, and the people that this has happened with all have a reputation for being shy, but even though I understand, it hurts, especially when it happens at church, and I have to remind myself that it probably wasn’t meant to be personal. It happened so often with a few people that it was obviously more than that they had just been deep in thought and hadn’t noticed me.

I was surprised more than once in college when someone would tell me, after they got to know me, that they had originally thought I was “stuck up.” They took my natural quietness as snobbishness. And who knows how many people’s feelings I may have hurt or how many beneficial conversations and potential friendships I missed out on because I didn’t want to engage people.

I can’t say I have truly overcome shyness; it’s still my default mode. But I have grown to the point that I can usually have (and even start!) a conversation with most people without going into a panic attack. One thing that helped me personally was that I attended a small Christian school for my last two years of high school. I had come from a big high school where it was easy to be a wallflower, but in the smaller group setting I was able to get involved in a number of areas I never would have dreamed of in my former school. Plus, in a smaller group, it was obvious that one was the “new kid,” and it was easier for people to talk with and welcome me in that setting. College was an adjustment, but it did improve my “people skills.” Then the man God directed me to marry was much more relaxed that I was and had no trouble talking to people, though he would describe himself as an introvert. But besides those factors, here are some general principles I learned:

  • Relax! If you work yourself into a tizzy over interacting with people, it’s very hard to overcome that.
  • Think of the other person. Once when I was an officer in a ladies’ group at one church, at an officer’s meeting the pastor’s wife was admonishing all of us to speak up when addressing the group so we could be heard. She was a no-nonsense older lady and went on to say, firmly but not unkindly, that if we felt self-conscious, as Christians we were supposed to forget self. Putting it that way helped me a lot, because often the tension comes in focusing on myself and how the other person might react, etc. But if I think of them instead, that takes the focus off myself. Greeting new people at church is still something that does not come naturally to me, but one thing that motivates me is the thought of how they’ll feel if no one speaks to them, or if I am sitting right by them but don’t extend myself. And in situations like passing another person I know but not well, one thing that motivates me to speak to them is remembering the feeling of being snubbed when someone else looks away instead of speaking to me.
  • Remember an acronym to aid conversation.The husband of a couple that have been our friends for 35+ years once said that his mom taught him as a boy the acronym for what she called the conversation ball: ALC for ask, listen, and comment. That’s really what conversation boils down to, but remembering that helps if it doesn’t come naturally. I wished I had known this years before.
  • Practice. You may feel stiff and stilted and awkward at first, but interacting with people is a skill that improves with use. Even making mistakes and experiencing conversational flubs happens to everyone.
  • Accept that you’re probably not going to be the life-of-the-party type. Big, crowded, noisy events are not my favorite thing, but I can usually find a quiet spot with one or two people to talk to.
  • Pray. This is really the first principle. Even though God made you more quiet and probably introverted (though introversion and shyness are not exactly the same thing), there are times He wants you to step out of your comfort zone and interact with people. You may not feel comfortable being the church greeter and glad-handing everyone in the lobby, but look for people you can say a few words of greeting to. Ask Him for what to say and for help with nerves and for the grace to focus on the other person’s needs.

A couple of thoughts for parents: if you have a child who is painfully shy, I think the “sink or swim” method of leaving them in a large social setting like nursery or preschool to “cry it out” might be more traumatic than helpful, especially if they panic. It’s helpful to introduce them to social settings on a smaller scale, having one other couple or mom over with their kids. Instead of shooing them off to play, suggest things they might do (“Mary, Susie might be interested in your paper doll collection,”) or start the “conversation ball” rolling yourself (“Stevie, I heard you’re learning to ride horses. That sounds like fun – how did you get started?”)

Do you have any other tips for overcoming your own shyness or helping shy children?

See also:

The Quiet Person In the Small Group.
Solitude vs. Community.
Thoughts on Being an Introvert.

 Sharing with Inspire Me Mondays.

When People Say the Wrong Thing

In the last couple of years I have seen an abundance of articles about “What not to say to…” single people, a pregnant person, a childless couple, adoptive parents, a depressed person, the chronically ill etc. Some are actually quite helpful and enlightening. For the record, never ask a single person why they’re not married yet (they may be wondering the same thing themselves), or a couple when they’re going to start a family (it’s not our business, and if they’ve been trying without success such questions are extremely painful), or any lady when she’s due (unless you know she’s pregnant!) I remember when my husband and I were dating during college, whenever we’d come back from any kind of break, I”d hear remarks like, “Let me see that left hand!” or “Are you engaged yet?” I wanted to whimper, “We’re trying to figure it out. When we have news to share, you can be sure we’ll tell everyone we know.” We can easily make people feel hurt or pressured or frustrated by such questions. A friend shared on Facebook a chart of some of these common statements (or thoughts) to parents, and a lively discussion ensued of those on the receiving end of some of these comments:

how many kids

Sometimes it’s not so much hurtful speech as thoughtless speech.Years ago friends with the last name of Fox had their first child, and when I saw them at church I smilingly quipped the verse about “little foxes spoiling the vine.” The husband looked at me and said wearily, “Everyone says that.” I instantly realized what a thoughtless, inane statement that was, and later was convicted that it was a horrible misuse of Scripture.

Sometimes people can rival Job’s “miserable comforters,” who meant well, sympathized (at least at first), and said many true things, but misapplied much of the truth they shared. We need to be especially careful about telling people why we think God allowed something to happen in their lives. We don’t really know, but we can comfort and encourage them in many others ways.

Ephesians 4:29b reminds us make our speech “that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers,” and Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” We need to be careful, thoughtful, prayerful, and edifying in what we say.

Yet not everyone is going to get the memo or read these kinds of articles. Eventually we’re all going to have someone say or ask something that hits us wrong. What’s the best way to react?

Avoid sarcastic retorts. Most times they don’t realize they’ve said something hurtful. Sending back a zinger will only escalate the incident.

Educate if needed. If they’ve never been in our situation, of course they are not going to understand. A friend with a child with severe life-threatening allergies has often had to shed light on common misconceptions, as have many others in different situations.

Appreciate their interest. At least they are interested in your life and they’re not ignoring you.

Give the benefit of the doubt. Most people truly do mean well. If they are trying to say hurtful things on purpose – then we need to have a different kind of conversation with them.

Realize sometimes we’re the problem. Sometimes something is meant well but we take it the wrong way.

View the opposite end of the spectrum. Sometimes, particularly when a person is in a very difficult situation like marital problems or illness or a death in the family, people are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that they say nothing and avoid them. We can foster that by too much complaining about the wrong things that have been said.

Give them grace, the same grace we would want people to extend to us if we said the wrong thing…because we likely will at some point. In fact, we probably have at some time without realizing it.

You may need to talk to them about why their comment hurt and try to resolve the issue. (Matthew 18:15: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”)

Or you may decide just to overlook it (I Peter 4:8: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins,” Proverbs 10:12: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”)

But we need to deal with it one way or the other and let it go. Don’t hold it against them, don’t carry a grudge, don’t let it fester, don’t avoid them afterward.

We need to forgive:

Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

We need to forgive on the basis of the great wrongs we have been forgiven, not on the basis of whether or not they “deserve” it (See Matthew 18:20-35). We didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness, and He has forgiven us so much more than anything anyone has done or said to us.

We need to exercise patience and forbearance:

Colossians 3:12-13: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Ephesians 4:1-3: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

We need to be filled with and manifest the fruit of the Holy Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Whether we’re the speakers or the receivers, we need to walk closely with the Lord, seek His guidance, and manifest His grace.

(Update: I’m not saying there is anything at all wrong with those “What not to say” type posts. Sometimes they are very informative and enlightening and usually help dispel our notions of stereotypes. There is nothing wrong with telling someone that something they’ve said is off-base or hurtful. But I’ve known people to carry around a personal bitterness because of something another person has said in ignorance about their situation, and that’s not healthy.)