Monday, January 11, 2016

Master’s Monday: Strike “Awkward,” Insert “Opportunity”

I don’t know whether you have found this to be true in your life, but I have recently realized that in my interactions with others, the temptation to “avoid awkwardness at all costs” is generally at the forefront of my subconscious mind. Almost without fail, I find myself trying to involve multiple people in a single conversation in order to avoid the potential awkwardness of a one-on-one encounter. If the discussion lulls, I scramble to find words (or nervous laughter) to fill in the dead space. I avoid catching the eyes of those whose names I can’t remember, and I always try to generate a list of possible discussion topics before approaching those I don’t know well.

While I suppose some of these strategies can be useful or perhaps even beneficial in certain contexts, I’ve lately begun to reconsider whether the assumption behind each one of them—namely, “awkwardness is an evil to be avoided at all costs”—is really valid.

What is so scary about “awkwardness” after all? Is the organization of one’s social interactions in such a way as to “see no awkward, hear no awkward, speak no awkward” not the first mark of an immature mentality? Even if “the awkward” were objectively “bad” in itself, is avoiding it really the best method for combatting, or even better, disabling it?

I certainly don’t have the answers to all of these questions. When I think back on past experiences, however, I can’t help but notice that many of my most cherished memories involve what were at the time extremely “awkward”—or at least, “potentially awkward”—situations. I have come to accept the fact that making new friends and reconnecting with old ones will probably never run as smoothly as the perfectionist within me would prefer. But when Paul said, “God has not given us a spirit of fear,” do you not suppose that his words can apply even to our fears about our own inadequacies in relation to other people?

Too often, I’m afraid, my fear of the awkward has prevented me from reaching out in Christian care to old acquaintances, nervous newcomers, and intimidating peers. Instead, this week I want to purpose to push through my foolish fear of the awkward, to embrace the chance of awkwardness, and instead to see in each human encounter an opportunity placed before me by my Heavenly Father to share His care with another.

~ LaRae ~

Note: The pictures in this post come from my recent visit to San Francisco for the #aiascs conference, a source of many opportunities to put into practice a Christian perspective on human interactions. :-)