Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Musings on Shyness and Freedom

Growing up I was 'shy.'

Not just the garden variety, uh oh, here's a new person I'm going to look down and hide behind mom's skirt for a few minutes 'shy.' I was the wedge myself in the tiny gap behind the refrigerator for an hour until everyone goes away 'shy.'

In complete contrast was my older brother who was outrageously gregarious. When people were around him they were whisked into his world of jokes and tales and laughter. People were drawn like a magnet into his charismatic universe. While I hid, by myself, in my very private world, occasionally taking part in the periphery of the activities that orbited my brothers world.

At times I enjoyed my lot. I could build and play and create for hours on my own and not be bothered. And I became good at the things I did on my own: I got prizes and ribbons for schoolwork and music and art. For the most part all of them solitary activities.

But as time went on, I stopped enjoying my quiet life and began to just feel lonely.

And I began to realize that my 'shyness' was an all encompassing wall. Not only did I not talk with people I didn't know, but even when I was with 'friends' I hardly ever talked about what I felt about something. It was OK to talk academically and debate theories or ideas, but if a question became personal (i.e. "Rob, do you like her?") I clammed up tighter than a toddler on his mother's leg who's not wanting to go in the nursery.

It interesting that in book of Proverbs it states:

Proverbs 17:28 (NIV):
28 Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.

I have heard that verse most often used to encourage people with little self control on what they say to hold their tongues and be thought the wiser for it. But in my case that verse was a description of me: I was a foolish person who was thought wise because I didn't speak.

I was afraid: afraid of being embarrassed, afraid of saying something I didn't mean exactly and being unreasonably held to it, afraid of being laughed at and afraid of being the back end of jokes. I felt that if I laid my life out and people rejected me it would hurt (more.)

And I was right. It does hurt when people reject you and when you really opened up your heart. It does hurt to be on the wrong end of a joke. It does hurt to be held to something you didn't mean, and it is, well, embarrassing to be embarrassed.

But I began to learn that if you don't talk about what you think, what you feel and about who you are then nobody can accept you when you do lay your heart open. No one can laugh with you when when you've done something funny. No one can take the time to have a conversation with you about what you really meant. And no one can show love and friendship to you in your times of embarrassment.

There's a balance.

Ecclesiastes 3(NIV)
1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
. . .
7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

We don't have to share all things at all times with all people. But if you don't share your life and thoughts and experiences (the good the bad and the ugly) no one can get to know you.

And when I have talked and shared my life with people, God has shown me freedom. Freedom to know people, freedom to agree with people, freedom to disagree with people and freedom to learn about God and the people He created outside the walls of my own very private world. Perfect Love casts out fear. Not sharing my life because of fear was a terribly lonely way to live.

P.S. Those 'most embarrassing' circumstances of your life, that you wouldn't want anyone to know about, those end up being the stories that encourage others around you the most.


Anna Naomi said...

Great post! I'm trying to open up and talk more...

When I was little, I would hide behind mom's skirts, but I never remember wedging myself under refrigerators. =)

Rob said...

It wasn't under (I was never that small.) It was 'behind.'
Its not easy to open up. But its worth it.

Miriam Rebekah said...

Good post!
I don't remember being really shy when I was that age, but there times now when I would love to hide behind something (not necessarily a refrigerator). :)

I do have to work at opening up. With the people I know well, that's no problem, but meeting new people (especially by myself) is not always easy.

Elijah Lofgren said...

> Its not easy to open up. But its worth it.
Amen to that!

Rob said...

Thanks for your comments.
Miriam: In my case I didn't "open up" even to people I knew well. I would talk "about" things but not about what was personal to me.

Mrs. Hart said...

Hi Rob,
This is a very enlightening post. Hmm...shy=Rob...Rob=shy ...nah!

Seriously, I actually CAN believe it. Know why? Because (I know this will stun you with incredulity) I (yes, me) have not always been as "wide-open" as I am now. Shocked?

As Shrek said, (or was it the big-mouthed donkey?) "We all have layers!"

I am always curious about human behavior. Always pondering why people are as they are. Always wondering how birth order, personality types, parents' personality types, parenting styles, and the environment (lifestyle conditions) figure into it all.

I respect the uniqueness of individuals and I try to never put people in tidy little boxes with tidy little labels. (Not to mention a whole host of other factors)

I acknowledge that God (and His personal dealings with us) is always the unknown variable in a person's development. He is also the catalyst in producing the individual He intends us to become.

Well, enough philosophizing for now. I just couldn't resist commenting on this post.


Mrs. Hart said...

"(Not to mention a whole host of other factors)"

Weird...this should come at the end of the previous paragraph.
Need to proofread better, don't I?

Rob said...

Shocked, no.
I agree that people have many layers, and everything (parenting,personality, circumstances, etc.) plays into everything. The thing that grounds me is this: I know that God doesn't want me to live in fear. 1 John 4:18 "...Perfect love casts out fear..." As God has overcome the fear in me (an ongoing process)I am free to be, do, and say what He wants. Instead of not being, doing or saying something just because I'm afraid that I'll feel silly, or someone might laugh at me, or some other useless thought, I can go beyond the fear, live life, and not just exist. I'll stop philosophising now as well.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.