June 5, 2014

The Most Beautiful Curve

smile!
I'm not an outgoing kind of person.  My first day of college, back at the start of the Fall semester, was agony: I had no idea what I was doing, I didn't know anyone, and I have that very British problem of not being willing to ever admit my ignorance.  I will continue walking in the wrong direction just so others won't know I'm lost.  Being obliged to speak to people - especially to my peers - has always been nerve-wracking for me.

This is still the case, but to a lesser degree.  Through a combination of "the college experience" and simply growing up, I have begun to realize that one can - and must - learn to be shy without being rude.  I mentioned in my last post that ours is a very rude generation; I can't tell you the times I've tried to strike up a conversation with a fellow classmate, only to have them give a monosyllabic answer before returning to the oh-so-fascinating world of the iPhone screen.  Of course, those of us who are less tech-savvy can scoff at these people and pretend that because we are engaged in reading an educational book rather than scrolling through Facebook, we're not being rude - we're just introverted.

but we should never let a label become our excuse.

The naked fact of the matter is that, whether we classify ourselves as an extrovert or an introvert, we must make room for the human interaction required by our daily lives.  Maybe this isn't on a university campus: maybe it's at Wal-mart, or church, or at the fast-food drive-through.  Sure, you can go through life in your own impenetrable bubble, never acknowledging unless obliged, never learning to make small talk ("bit the bowl off the spoon!"); but on a wholly pragmatic level, people do not like the self-absorbed.  Even if they're self-absorbed themselves and totally unaware of it, they will still observe it in others - and let me tell you, it's very off-putting.

In addition to the pragmatic winning-friends-and-influencing-people argument, however, it seems to me that our profession of faith demands that we look outside of ourselves to consider the good of others.  Now, I'm not talking about handing out tracts and evangelizing people: I'm just talking about how our attitude toward life and toward those we meet reflects on our Christianity.  Of all people in the world, we should be the most joyful, the most enthusiastic, the most willing to uplift others simply by acknowledging them as human beings like ourselves.  "Someone will say, 'You have faith, I have deeds.  Show me your faith without your deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.'" 

Far too often we are a whiny, negative people, filling up our social media with complaints about being sick (bet someone else is, too) or having a headache (maybe we shouldn't be on the computer...?) or not wanting to take this exam (does anyone?).  And then we do the same in real life.  (Because when someone asks how you are that day, chances are they are not requesting the low-down on your entire week.)  But in reality this doesn't make us feel better and certainly doesn't uplift anyone around us: it just creates an impression of us as an Eeyore, and no one really wants to be chummy with an Eeyore. 

rather, let our speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were with salt, that we may know how we ought to answer each one.

This morning Rachel Heffington posted a link to an article on how to make small talk with strangers, and I thought it spot-on in that, while it does not claim that by chatting it up with random folk you will win ultimate happiness, it does point out that you feel better if you engage with the world around you.  So let us lay aside this label of "introvert" that so frequently besets us, and learn to be a light in a gloomy world.

Learn tact.

Dress with respect for yourself and others.

Look for things to comment on positively.

Be enthusiastic if at all possible.

Appreciate the efforts of others.

Put away your books and your "cellular devices" when with others.

Smile (even if you don't feel you have a very nice one). 

So let us lay aside this label of "introvert" that so frequently besets us, and learn to be a light in a gloomy world.

11 comments:

  1. So true! Thanks for sharing! Love this- "Let our speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were with salt, that we may know how we ought to answer each one."

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    1. The Apostle Paul may not have been a very good speaker, but he was a dashed good writer!

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  2. I did this today. Grocery shopping is long and taxing and it's really not that engaging, but as I stepped out of the car I thought, "Chins up! - smiles on!" I didn't complain. I took the time to notice the nice little things about people. I stopped and talked to the poor haggard door greeter whose sole purpose is to sit there and be ignored by all the people she is saying hello to. And I felt so happy. I didn't feel run-down or achy or moody. I'm tired now, because, let's face it, this is grocery shopping we're talking about, but my whole attitude helped bolster me physically as well as emotionally, and it made a world of difference. <3

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    1. This is generally what I find when I push myself to be friendly. Of course, there are those times when you try to be nice and are completely shut down by the other party, and then your mood sours and you want to beat them over the head with your handbag; but that's (mostly) beside the point.

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  3. Pleasantries are hard for me. I'm much more inclined to dress well and think of that alone as my "beautiful form of politeness" rather than the two working together in harmony. Working out of the home has helped with that, I think: suddenly I have to greet that stranger who looks ready to hurl his water bottle at my head. And I've found that putting a smile on forces you to relate and sympathize and communicate in a whole new way. People respond, too -- they notice when you're trying to love on them and welcome them, and I've met with a generally positive response. There is still the occasional person who looks ready to hurl his water bottle, but I think they've just been in the gym too long at that point. :P

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    1. Judge people not by how they act in the gym.

      I think dressing nicely is step one, but Jenny already did a spot-on Adonis Ephemeral post on that topic months ago, so I decided to focus more on the second step: putting yourself out there and greeting those bottle-hurling strangers. Something that has frustrated me to no end in my first year at college is seeing how rude many students are. They have no consideration ("for my poor nerves!") for their fellow students, or for the professors who put so much time and energy into their classes. (Okay, so some of the professors don't seem to put in any time or energy, but I speak in generalities here.) I think this is something we need to consciously resist. Somehow I don't think being salt and light implies being self-absorbed, negative, or a crosspatch.

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  4. SOMEONE FINALLY SAID IT.

    I always try to be cordial to strangers when they talk to me. Now, I'm not very outgoing, and while I'd love to be able to strike up conversations with people (Sometimes, you just look at a person and think "I bet we'd get along great. I wish I was brave enough to actually talk to you.") I can never bring myself to.

    It's something I'm working on. Being Introverted is great, but I have noticed that some people use it as an excuse to be rude and sometimes stuck-up. And often prideful or superior.

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    1. ...and then sometimes you strike up a conversation and halfway through you realize, "Oh. Oh my. You are not the kind of person I took you for."

      My cordiality to strangers does tend to fluctuate based on the day's mood: sometimes I feel incapable of being pleasantly articulate, and then I clam up. However, I think you made the right point: you have to try and to work on it, and sometimes wonderful things result.

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  5. Oh this is one of the sweetest posts you've written, Abigail; I loved what you had to say about being cordial and those points you made out are great ones too.

    As a general rule, I am a friendly creature, and I love people! Being nice and friendly is something that I enjoy doing! However, I have lately realized I can be just as selfish and self-centered as a none-sociable, non- friendly person. The matter of 'in-society' with me is I like to be friends with people since I want friends to care about me and like me, and then we can be good friends. . . I am friendly, then I hope they are and we can get along nicely. But half the time, people are not really friendly or caring in return, show indifference or maybe just are really shy about responding in like manner. When I offer greeting, some seem to act as if I had just offered them insult! I know not everyone is of a social inclination but it makes me feel really awkward when I try to be friendly and show interest and I instead turn out looking pushy!

    But your sunshine post, along with a growing realization over the past months, has been that I ought to seek to be friendly for the simple sake of others, to truly always care about the other person, their happiness and welfare irrespective if they are yet willing to reprocicate that feeling or not. Being willing to talk and inquire after those around me, offer a word of encouragement or comfort to those around me, and simply be quietly there for them even if no one bothers to do so in return. Christ taught us that, and the Apostle Paul wrote of that in 1 Corinthians 13 - "love seeks not its own" "rejoices in all things" "bears all things". . . love never fails

    P. S. I think the photo on top with those darling chic yellow heels go a long way to bring a joyful feeling to this encouraging post too.

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  6. hi, Abigail! I nominated you for a Liebster award =) I hope you can participate!

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    1. whoops, and here's the link ;) http://forthebookish.com/nominated-for-my-2nd-liebster-award/

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meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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Published Writings
The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
Finished Writings
The White Sail's Shaking & The Running Tide: Follow a midshipman in the young U.S. Navy during the First Barbary War and a Syracusan woman who accidentally finds herself tumbled into the harsh world of life at sea.
Both Novels Complete
Currently Writing
Tempus Regina: Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era.
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