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How to Overcome Shyness

Q.  I know I’m probably too shy, but it’s the way I am.  I wouldn’t even know how to change now.  So how does one begin to overcome shyness?

A.  I also know shyness. I lived it for years as a child and adolescent.  I also craved attention enough that I would act the clown at times to get that attention. But inside, I didn’t know how to express myself or have a decent conversation about anything of substance with another person.

(That leaves you, by the way, very open to negative and damaging relationships with the opposite sex. Simply put, the affection starved person often jumps at the first opportunity — no matter how deplorable the conditions. Then the downhill spiral really starts.)

Here’s the truth: Some people will not like you if you are who you are.   AND, some people will like you if you are who you are. That’s simple, yet profoundly freeing.

As a human being, created in the complex image of the Almighty, there are more sides to me than one or two. I still have touches of shyness in my personality, and I like times of quietness and solitude — without a wife or children (all of whom I love). I also enjoy very loud music at times. I like to work hard chopping wood. And I can be deplorably lazy about other tasks. I can be hard as flint when it comes to challenging error. And I have known what it is like to weep over my own failures.

That being said, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that, through the years, I have rubbed some people the wrong way. Sometimes “A-way” from being my friend. But, then again, friendship must be a two-way street.  Otherwise it’s mercy, or compassion or being kind to someone else.  But friendship is where you meet on equal terms as beings created in God’s image who value the time, energies and communications of each other. My wife loves me enough to let me play my new Jews harp in her presence! Amazing what true friends will endure!

Deep down, do you realize that you want that type of relationship with other people in your peer group? To know that they KNOW you and still want to hang out with you? What’s more, to know that YOU know you and still want to hang out with yourself?

Someone once wrote that “Man cannot fully find himself, except through a sincere gift of himself.”  That allows for the possibility of rejection. It also allows for sincere appreciation and acceptance by the other party. Either way, you learn more about who you are in the process.

Ultimately, the crisis points for me were a handful of spiritual experiences in which I opened myself up (or was opened up by the Spirit?) to receive the truth of God’s love for me personally. When I truly believed that God loved me, the shadows and doubts of human love were as feathers before a mighty gale. I found peace and contentment.  My maker knew me, and yet He still loved me.

This enabled me to begin to reach out in faltering steps to people around me.  It was a painful time, an awkward time.  At times, it was embarrassing to watch my own feeble attempts at building new relationships.  But it was also so encouraging to know that I was making real progress in being open, honest, and real.

This type of growth doesn’t happen fully overnight.  It takes days, weeks, months and even years to cast off a shell of shyness.  Sometimes you do it by discarding one brick at a time in the wall you have built.  Sometimes God knocks down the wall through adversity and graciously allows you the opportunity to make a giant step by reaching out to others in a time of need.

But remember that God is faithful, that He watches over you during the entire process, and that the Holy Spirit will guide you daily if you ask Him.

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