Don’t be shy!

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

There have been many times in my life when I’ve allowed shyness to hold me back. There were the boys in school that I longed to be friends with, but I would never dare make eye contact with them. There was the part in the school play I would have loved to have auditioned for, but I didn’t. There were the questions the teacher asked I could have answered, but I never raised my hand.

It doesn’t matter how you define it, shyness is rooted in fear. Fear of rejection, humiliation, loss or failure incites shyness — or perhaps I could say — insecurity.

It’s no different than when we allow ourselves to become introverted, sheepish, timid and guarded after a relationship ends badly or unexpectedly. If it was a bad experience, we may be questioning our judgment and doubting our ability to make a better choice in the future. If death ended a relationship, we may be afraid we will face loss and grief again. Either way, the result is probably the same — shyness that results in being cowardly, wary and alone.

The problem with being shy is that the impact is far-reaching. We are not the only one who loses or is hurt.

Not long ago I read an article about a basketball coach who explained how hesitation and timidity leads to passing the ball. He said, “If a player has an open shot that she can make, and she decides to pass instead, that player is being selfish and hurting the team.” Fear of failure sheltered this basketball player from her likely success, the coach further explained, and could have cost her team the game win.

Indeed, other people need you. They need your intelligence, insight, skills, talents and help. Hiding behind shyness, you limit the benefit you can be to others.

Shyness almost always leads to assumptions and assumptions are almost always wrong. This is especially true when we believe that the other person will not like us or will not be interested in what we have to say. Our fear will intimidate us into missing an opportunity to make a new friend. The fact is other people may have the same fears and inhibitions we do.

I’ve often been inspired by the story of Ruth in the Bible. Ruth was described as a warmhearted and unselfish woman who trusted and loved her mother-in-law very much. After Ruth’s husband passed away suddenly, Ruth traveled with her mother-in-law back to her homeland.

This was a more gracious act by Ruth than it might sound. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, was not only a widow, but all of her sons had died as well. She would have been traveling alone to her homeland if Ruth had not returned with her. Plus, Ruth had to be courageous to go to an unfamiliar land and be around people she had never met before — especially during a time when she was facing her own grief and uncertainty as a young widow.

I love the fact that Ruth was willing to embrace a new experience. She didn’t over-think or speculate about her future. She didn’t wallow in her doubts. And even though she had no certainty of what would happen next in her life, she moved forward.

Ruth and Naomi arrived at their destination. Among strangers in a strange land, Ruth could have been apprehensive, anxious, nervous and cautious, but she wasn’t. She boldly took initiative to gather food in nearby fields. She even, without hesitation, asked one of the women gleaning grain near her for the name of the man who spoke kindly as he went by. It turns out the man, Boaz, was the owner of the field.

And I bet you can guess the happy ending to this story. Ruth and Boaz soon married and Ruth’s mother-in-law lived with them and helped care for the son they eventually had. Their son, by the way, would become the grandfather to the famous King David.

Sometimes a shy person will say self-consciousness keeps them quiet. But I would say — what self are you being conscious of?

You are the man and woman of God’s creating — made in His image. Your innate nature includes the qualities of poise, confidence, strength, courage, compassion, love. Be true to yourself, my friends. Happiness is found in being who God made you to be.

You can do it. Your thinking is your most powerful weapon. Use it. Follow your heart. Don’t hide your light and love. Be the spiritual self that God intended. Don’t be shy. Be yourself — freely, unconditionally and fearlessly. You’ll be much happier if you do.