Wanted: YOU3:38 AM
|Freshman Orientation @ Hillsdale|
Actually, I don't know that. I don't know anything about them (other than the fact that they obviously don't "like" my clever and unique comments). What I do know, loud and clear? I know myself. I know that I am nervous about total immersion in a brand-new social circle. I know that I am self-conscious about the very atoms of which I am made. I know that I feel the pressure to fit in and think thoughts which are not my own. I know that my gut screams that survival of the fittest requires mutation and evolution.
Silly gut feeling.
In the Life of Me, such mental conversations go on all the time: the pathetic unsocialized homeschooler in me raises a ruckus over its numerous skin flaws and measure of naivete and lack of social graces, and the mature, rational Bailey (wait -- is there really one of those inside?) soothes it. If you count soothing as pounding the wide-eyed fears back in like a wild game of Whack-a-Mole.
The conversation continues.
She is well-dressed, well-groomed, and well-liked. She always acts confidently. Nobody ignores her when she talks. She's funny and attention-grabbing. She's pretty. She's the hub to the Cool People's Circle. And she doesn't even try.
He's intelligent, well-read and can talk circles around a Socialist if he ever met one. He uses big words flawlessly and keeps his hair trimmed. Nobody dares cross him. And he's not even a snob -- he's just effortlessly awesome.
So I write them off from the category of Won Friends and Influenced People and do one of two things:
(1) Drool at their feet OR (2) Ignore them
Usually it's the former, which manifests itself in everything from aborted attempts at humor to copying their way of talking, dressing and life-living to walking around in a stupor of sycophantism. The Bailey of overly-huge words and over-the-top laughter enters and shipwrecks the happiness of Normal Bailey.
In any case, up they go on a pedestal and down plummets my confidence. I don't speak my mind in the presence of Pedestal People; I parrot their attitude with my now-chained creativity. I don't pray for them or advise them (that looks presumptuous for a peon like me). I don't love them: Pedestal People are adored, not loved. I'm an accomplice to conversations and activities that ought to be questioned.
Equally worse, I might clam up and kill everything that makes me me lest I offend the delicate sensitivities of the Pedestal People. I'm not a fun person to be around when there's a personality outage; I'm very quiet and needy and pensive, and my brow develops unflattering furrows.
You know what happens next?
They end up being human. The popular people have deep wounds. The popular people need advice. The popular people need extravagant love, even though their skin is flawless and their style is impeccable and their social lives bloomed.
Humans are human.
I've found that whenever I subconsciously place people in categories of PERSONS WHO ARE OFFENDED BY MY MERE PRESENCE or PEOPLE WHO DON'T UNDERSTAND ME or IMMORTALS WHO MAY NOT BE SOILED BY ORDINARY HUMAN FRIENDSHIP, I miss out on opportunities to serve others. I'm so wrapped up in not appearing stupid to the Pedestal People that I don't hear their cries or see their hurts or weaknesses. I'm so busy flattering them that I forget to encourage them. I'm so overwhelmed in being clever that I forget to be sincere. Worst of all, I fall over myself trying to impress them and never even listen.
Sometimes, all somebody needs is you.
It's a very humbling thought, actually, but it's true: you are who you are so that you may be the hands and feet of God to specific people at specific times. Anytime I am with a new group of people, I am not to set them on pedestals and then erect a rope and pulley system to hoist me up to their level. I am to look for ways to serve and lead and care -- everybody appreciates people who truly care.
Recently I was in a situation where I was not the center of the social world (imagine that, ego!). I recognized from the get-go that I didn't fit into the main circle, the majority of the group there, and that bothered me. I like to be the recognized favorite one. For most of the week, I nursed self-consciousness and reeled from popularity withdrawal. I didn't fit the mold. I couldn't do it.
Towards the end of my time with them, someone -- another exile -- told me I was different. It was the third time someone had told me that that week.
I laughed. "What do you mean?"
"You're different than them," she said. "You're more spiritual and more mature."
I could have crawled in a hole and died from my hypocrisy -- earning her respect all the while trying to change who I was, to tone down my likes and my intense interest in serious things in order to talk girl talk and look cool and be relatable to this group. I wasn't at that moment very spiritual or mature.
In order to connect with this girl, in order to bless the adults who relied on responsibility and not popularity factors, in order to counsel and encourage a "popular girl" who needed love, I had to be radically different. I had to not fit in. I had to be myself.
I didn't realize until then how destructive my self-absorption was: I was listening only to my need of acceptance. I wasn't thinking of how to love and serve them -- I wasn't tuned to God's leading. I missed big, blaring opportunities. I regret that.
So I have to make the choice: me or others. The whole me. The real me. The me God can use.
p.s. Instead of camping out by the computer to tally how many "likes" my comments get, I'm taking a different route -- co-leading a freshman Bible study. God has a funny way of exploding my comfort zone.