Why am I so afraid of people? This is a question I’ve asked myself many times. I can’t count the times I’ve avoided speaking to people I’ve seen sitting alone out of fear of their reaction. What did I think was going to happen? I guess they could’ve spit on me; they could’ve rolled their eyes and said, “Leave me alone;” they may have even ignored me completely. What would I have done then?
Upon further reflection, I realize that I would’ve gone right on living. Not only would I have gone on living, but the possibility of someone responding in any of those ways is rare. Chances are I’ve missed many opportunities to lift people’s spirits, make new friends, and share Christ’s love. Is the fear of how they will react to my presence worth losing all of those opportunities to connect with others?
I’m not sure how many of you have struggled with these same fears. There are those who love welcoming people and showing hospitality – and while it is not in my nature to be open and hospitable, it is something I desire to pursue. It may never come to me as easily as it does to others, but I believe it is worth the effort to grow in this area.
Until recently, I was not so convinced of this; but after attending a Bible Study at my local church last year, I realized the power of reaching out to others. Once I began attending this study, I would slip in, stay for the study, and then leave quickly after it was over. This went on for a few months until someone specifically reached out to me and drew me into her life and her group of friends. All it took was a few, small, kind gestures… and my entire experience there changed. Before long, I was not only comfortable attending the Bible Study myself, but I felt more inclined to reach out to others who looked as out of place as I had felt at first.
Almost nine years ago, I crept into my Group Dynamics class on the first day of the Spring term and did what I always did: I spied out a seat close enough to the front that I could pay attention while avoiding the front row. I looked around the room, but not too much – after all, I kept to myself. Then, out of the blue, this guy I’d never met before swung around and introduced himself. At first, I thought his bold introduction seemed a bit odd, but I couldn’t help but appreciate his interest in talking to me, a complete stranger. Though he seemed strange to me at first, I’m glad he was bold enough to talk to me, even if I seemed like I did not want him to talk to me. And, if he had not… I’m sure I never would’ve married him. We would have likely sat there the entire semester – never realizing how important we could have been to each other.
We never will know what we are sacrificing when we allow our fears of the rejection of others to keep us from reaching out and getting to know other people. Sometimes the people that seem the most unapproachable are the ones that just need someone to care about them the most.
In college, I remember seeing a girl on my hall that did not look like she wanted to talk to anyone – and today, she’s one of my best friends because I took the initiative to talk to her. Less than a year later, I was the one sitting in class, looking as though I did not want anyone to bother me… and the one who chose to bother me anyway is now my amazing husband. Fear is not a blessing to your life and it will rob you of the great things the Lord has for you. Fear is only from the enemy; God does not give a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
Are you struggling with the fear of others? Do you find it inhibiting you from pouring into others’ lives and having others pour into your life? Has it caused disharmony between you and your significant other? Are you currently single and would like to become more open to meeting new people?
If so, you may feel like the only one in the world going through these emotions, but I assure you: you are not alone. Take it one step at a time. While at church, school, or another safe place, locate someone who seems to need a friend and reach out to him or her – even if it just begins with a small, “Hi, how are you today?” Some relationships won’t grow past that and that is okay. Other relationships will flourish – all because you broke out of your comfort zone and determined within yourself that you would no longer allow fear to paralyze you. If this is an area with which you struggle, ask God for help and even take a friend who may be more extraverted than you are for the first few times. Eventually, work up the nerve to show some kindness to strangers and bless their day.
Who could be your next best friend?