Monday, August 18, 2014

The Ways We're the Same (Or, What Not to Do in an Awkward Social Situation)

A while back I went to a meeting. A woman I had never seen before was standing alone, so I went and introduced myself. After we had chatted a bit, she confessed that she was worried about the meeting, because it was clear that the other women there were “not her type.” She then went on to list the reasons why she was different—and superior—to the other women present.

The problem? Those women were my friends. She didn’t know that, of course. But because one of them was blessed with good looks and a bubbly personality, and another was uncharacteristically preoccupied with her phone—for a very good reason—the woman had made her judgment and pronounced them inferior.

I wish I could say I had words of peace and reconciliation. I wish I could say I looked beyond the woman’s obvious hurt and fear and sought to build a bridge. But no. As soon as someone else started talking to her, I hastily retreated to the alleged bubbleheads across the room. Even worse, I was still distracted when the meeting began. I kept imagining what I could say to make her see how wrong she had been.

It was several hours before I realized that I was just as guilty as she. Yes, she had wrongly judged my friends—but I in turn had wrongly judged her. She didn’t form those opinions in a vacuum. I could have used the time discovering what we had in common, rather than dwelling on the ways I thought she was wrong.

We've All Been Hurt Before

We can all remember a time when we were excluded and rejected. For some the wounds came early on. For others the wounds are fresh. Maybe it’s a mixture of old and new scars, but we all have them. We are all sinners, and we’ve all been sinned against. No one will leave this world without a few bruises.

We All Want to Be Understood

Behind the woman’s insistence that she was different was the desire to be understood. She wanted me to see that her priorities were a conscious choice. They were also more similar to my friends’ choices than she realized, but she didn’t know that. I’m sure she's encountered people who don’t know what to make of her. She wanted me to know that she was basically good with who she was, even if she was sometimes excluded because of it.

We All Are Prideful

The woman’s pride compelled her to judge others. My pride caused me to retreat in hurt and anger—and do a little judging of my own. It caused me to sit and fume rather than reach out.

We All Need Jesus

I have no hope apart from God’s grace. I am also pretty hopeless without him.

Paul was probably the most unlikely person to take the gospel to the Gentiles, but God used him mightily. For one thing, he was willing to be all things to all people.
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings (1 Corinthians 9:19–23).
And then there’s me, who was unwilling to endure an awkward social situation.

I dropped the ball that day. I’m sure to do it again. I missed a chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus. But in spite of my foibles and mistakes, God still loves me, and his grace covers me.

I like to believe I’m beyond all that high school stuff, but that incident reminded me how quickly I can retreat when things get uncomfortable. I’m not as selfless and fearless as I think I am. I need God’s grace and mercy every second of the day.


  1. What more can I say but "Whoop, there it is!"
    Wait, did I just create an awkward moment...
    Let me rephrase that. I wholeheartedly concur with all the sentiments in this post.
    I am great at creating awkward moments and escaping from them when obviously I should be putting God first so that I can rightly view them and be useful to Him. Thanks!

  2. How easily we fall into the trap of judging others! A good reminder to keep our focus and perspective right! So often we jump to conclusions, elevating ourselves or our opinion at the cost of others. Thanks!