Church services. Small groups. Women’s gatherings. My family had just moved from North Carolina to Atlanta where my husband would be taking a new role at a local church, and I was the new girl at all of these types of gatherings.
I was meeting new people left and right, something I usually really enjoy, but it just felt exhausting.
I was afraid of saying something stupid, silly, or perhaps laughing when it wasn’t intended to be funny. I was afraid of not wearing the right outfit and coming off too stiff, too loose, or not age-appropriate enough. I was afraid of not meeting others’ expectations, not knowing the Scripture reference or having wise words of counsel.
I feared rejection.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. ~ 1 John 4:18
Fear says I need your approval, but love says I need you.
It can be hard to admit that we need people. But we do. We were created for community.
Our genuine need for people, however, can be masked by a shallow need for their approval. Approval is shallow. With each interaction we feel the stress of holding on to that approval or keeping up with whatever standard was first set when we felt the approval that was gained, for fear of the opposite–rejection. It’s is exhausting.
Love agrees with God about who we are and who He is–that He is sovereign and will orchestrate our relationships whether they will end up being casual acquaintances or deep connections.
Fear says I cannot be my true self, but love says I want you to know the true me.
I’m growing. I’m in process. I make plenty of mistakes, but by the grace of God, I get a few things right too. When I walk in love for others and the grace that covers me through Jesus I can open myself up to people–flaws and all. At the same time I’m loving others by being a safe place for them to be who they are.
Friends, let’s be real. Because it’s exhausting trying to act perfect and being around people who do the same.
Fear is self-focused, love is others-focused.
When we walk in fear in our relationships, we are thinking too much about ourselves. And in my experience, when I spend too much time in my own head, I don’t love others well, because I’m not thinking about them–I’m too absorbed with me. Because I want to come across as a great person, so I talk too much because I want to explain to you how great I am through my conversation. But love listens and focuses on getting to know others.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. ~ Phillipians 2:3,4
With God’s grace I’m clinging to love and doing much better with the relationships I’m building here. The process can still take a bit of energy, but it’s not energy that comes from trying to be someone I’m not. It’s energy exerted simply because building relationships does take work.
Being intentional to initiate with others and also respond when they initiate with me is a energy that is well worth the outcome.
Do you ever struggle with wanting to fit in?