|A Wise Counsel Answer
“There’s a girl in our church who’s only about a month younger than I. She’s the quiet type who doesn’t say much and looks rather sad and lonely standing by the stairs all by herself -- that’s why I’d like to become her friend. However, when I try to make conversation, or be friendly, she quietly answers my questions and says nothing more. I don’t know if she likes having someone to talk to, or she’d rather be left alone. When I talk to her I can’t tell if she’s actually enjoying it or not. I’m open to any of your suggestions!”
An answer by Hannah G.
Dear Friend Who’s Out of Ideas,
When I read your question, a thought went through my head -- "This girl on the steps isn’t me, is she?" :-) (Thankfully, I’m "safe" as our church doesn’t have steps, nor do the girls fit your age specifications!)
I very much love to express myself, and I am really not a shy, quiet person, but sometimes it’s hard for me to talk in public. We made an interesting discovery: usually, when people meet me at home, they think I’m older than I am. However, if people meet me in public, sometimes they think I’m younger. One of my sisters said, "That’s because you look at the floor." :-)
I really don’t know what your stair-steps friend may be thinking inside or why she may be shy, but here are some things that might be going on inside of her:
I’ve met people who I wondered if they thought anything at all... Why were they so awkward and soooo quiet? I think other people have also felt that it’s hard to know what to say to me! If your shy acquaintance somehow seems “spacey” or not really there, or something, maybe she is quite there, but reasons (such as the ones above) may be hindering her. In fact, you may discover that this girl is brilliant, has some very fine character qualities, and maybe has many common interests with you!
- She may not be sure what to do and just feels awkward and out of place.
- Maybe she actually disapproves of what is going on. (For example, she may not feel comfortable joining a group of girls and boys talking together.
- Perhaps she's been very hurt in the past and is afraid. Maybe there are stresses and hurts in her own home.
- She may feel that everyone is somehow "above" her; that they don't really want her, and that she is not their "class."
- Maybe she's trying not to be too friendly/forward and isn't aware that, in the attempt, she looks awkward and withdrawn.
With that in mind, I want to share with you some situation in which I tried to reach out to shy or socially awkward people.
The first is a girl who came with her family to our church for a time - I’ll call her "Lily." Lily was much like the girl you wrote about. She was extremely shy and very withdrawn, and you could hardly get her to say anything. I tried to talk to her some, but, like you, didn’t really feel that I got very far, or that Lily enjoyed the "conversation." However, later on at anther family’s house, the mother told us that Lily’s mother had noticed that I tried to draw Lily out.
Maybe the girl you’re talking to won’t be blessed all that much through your efforts. Yet, it may bless her parents to see you trying to befriend their lonely daughter.
The second girl I’ll tell you about I’ll call "Rose." Rose went through a period of shyness. Sometimes you’d say something to her and she would hardly answer. She acted rather strangely and seemed "spacey." However, one time when we had Rose over to our house, we were able to see her beautiful, hidden self in full bloom! We discovered Rose was a very interesting person! She was full of dreams and thoughts. She was so sweet to her little brother. Rose was truly a person, and I regretted that I hadn’t tried harder to talk to her. We really had a lot in common.
I can only guess at Rose’s reasons for being so quiet. I think that she had been hurt many, many times, and not enough people were willing to take the time to try to really be her friend. Then, too, it seemed that Rose outgrew some of her awkwardness.
Maybe your acquaintance is also deeply hurt, and maybe if you try long enough, she’ll warm up and prove to be a very interesting friend. Perhaps, it would be easier to get to know her in a different setting than before or after church.
Thirdly, I’ll explain about "Violet." Now, Violet is not shy - in fact, she’s anything but shy! She’s too friendly. She jumps head-long into awkward situations. She’s out of bounds in all directions, and is constantly doing unusual things. You see, although Violet is “friendly,” she’s rather hard to like. She has few friends. I’ve worked a lot with Violet (she’s a number of years younger than me). Sometimes Violet doesn’t seem very grateful or appreciative. Yet, at a few other times, I think I’ve gotten to her real self. Maybe I’m not the "razzle-dazzle" friend of her dreams, but I think, in a small sort of way, she counts on me.
Lastly, I want to mention "Daisy." I don’t really know Daisy very well. She only came to our church for a little while. Daisy seemed quiet and shy. I didn’t talk to her that much, which is sad, because she probably needed friends badly. Perhaps I could have brightened her life a bit.
This is what I want to say in all these stories -- we never know who we will bless if we try to talk to the people who are left out and lonely. It’s really hard sometimes. I find myself getting shy, or just not wanting to go up and start talking. It’s difficult to know what to say if the person won’t say much in response. It’s uncomfortable not to know if the shy person would just plainly prefer that you leave. But all of that doesn’t mean we can’t try and try again! Keep on keeping on, and praying that somehow God will break down the walls.
May I mention one thing, though? Maybe this girl has been really hurt by the feeling that people are "trying to be nice to her." Perhaps she knows that people don’t really want her -- they just talk to her because it is their "duty." It really hurts to know that people approach you with the attitude of, "I’ll be nice to stair-steps girl now." It’s painful to be left out of their real circle of friendship, but have them come and "be nice," and sort of "baby" or "talk down to you," as if you weren’t quite on their level for some reason.
Anyway, no matter what has happened, please keep trying -- and thank you so much for trying!! Even if you never seem to touch your friend, you will touch Someone.
"For...I was a stranger, and ye took me in..."
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~ Matthew 26:35 ~
printed in HW Volume 43!