I always know when God is trying to show me something about myself, that I’m uninterested in seeing. My showers get much longer in the mornings, so I have to rush through Bible/Prayer time. My prayers get very “surface” and short. I decide I should read a book about how to live for God better, instead of seeking God for what he wants me to do each day.
This pretty much sums up the last few days. Apparently I also get irritable, since I’ve been accused of being in a bad mood not a few times since the weekend.
I’m generally what I would call a “closed” person. I like people… so long as they leave me alone. I like them as long as they don’t interfere with my plans or encroach on my life in any kind of bothersome way. I can see personally that this is obviously not the way to live, if I also intend to live my life in a way that shares the love of Jesus with people. I certainly don’t recall Jesus ever saying, “What? You want me to pray for what? It’s 8:00 at night, I worked all day, and I’m tired. Don’t bother me.” Because that’s the way I view people: bothersome. When all of this was working it’s way into my attention, my wife frustratedly exclaimed, “That’s why you don’t have any friends. People are scared to talk to you.” My quick and rather hateful response back was, “I have NEVER complained about not having friends.” Upon saying it, I realized that I take a little perverse pleasure in every time someone says that people find me intimidating or unapproachable. I found myself smiling when my wife told me that people are scared to talk to me, because they think they’re bothering me. For some reason, I’ve developed an attitude that people are to be kept as far away as possible, at all costs. And the more foreboding and intimidating I can be, the less I actually have to talk to any of them.
I recall, as a child, a particular incident where someone I considered a friend said, “Nobody likes you because you’re so smart.” It was elementary school in the 80’s. I was one of the few kids that had a computer, and my dad had found some silly program that let you make crossword puzzles. I thought it would be neat to make one of some of our vocabulary words, and had him make it, so I could take it to class. Teachers are typically very thankful for anything that helps pass the time in a class, so she copied it and passed it out. A lot of kids thought it was neat that I (my dad) made it, and some didn’t. Looking back, I can see that perhaps my little friend was jealous of the attention, or perhaps hated schoolwork, and didn’t want to do the crossword puzzle. Maybe she just enjoyed being the “good” student in the class, and I had taken her out of the spotlight. Either way, those words stuck with me. Nobody likes me because I’m smart.
Now, I know many of your are reading this and thinking, “Really? Get over it. It was elementary school. You’re an adult now!” But in order to change the person we have become, I think we have to take a long look at what made us this way.
I’m not bragging about my intelligence here . . . I consider myself to be of relatively average intelligence, however sometimes people make me reconsider that idea. 😉 I did make straight A’s in school, and generally enjoyed (and still do enjoy) learning something new. Anything new. I rock at Trivial Pursuit. But the perception was there, at least for that little girl, at that moment. And at that moment, I embraced a very dangerous way of thinking, to ease the pain of the idea of nobody liking me. I embraced superiority. People didn’t like me? That’s fine . . . it’s because I’m smarter than them. She said as much. It may be lonely at the top, but it just means I can look down on everyone else. That began the wall building project in my heart. And it didn’t stop for many years.
Now, I didn’t go around acting and claiming to be smarter than anyone. It was the window through which I viewed the world. Who needs friends and other people? Not me. Why would I? I don’t need their help. I was, and still am, for a large part, an island unto myself. The foundation was laid for the walls around my heart. And we know that our enemy took every opportunity to continue building them.
I never made friends easily. I was pretty shy. But probably as a result of this self-righteous and arrogant view of the world, many of them parted ways with me. Each time adding another brick to my wall. I remember when I was 15 having a friend that was one of the few I had personally gone out the way to make throughout my life. On a school trip, his entire attitude changed towards me. To this day, I’m not sure if or what I could’ve done to illicit that type of response from him, but we never spoke again. We sat next to each other in a few classes. The next day at school I turned around to try and see what was wrong, and he told me to never speak to him again. Ever. Ouch.
I did finally find some good friends, that I’m still friends with today. So this isn’t a total pity party. More of a “bringing you up to speed” explanation. By the time I was an adult, however, I typically preferred being alone, and enjoying whatever things I found to pass my time. My walls were complete. Few came in. The gates were way too guarded for that. Too afraid to be hurt, too proud to open the gates, and walled in from all other sides.
Which brings us to today. I’m a know-it-all. But I’m seldom hurt, because few people get that close. I can even admit to holding my wife at arm’s length occasionally. The situation, at this point, requires more than my decision to go out and be nice to people. I need God’s help to tear down the walls that I’ve built up. It’s ugly to see myself as an arrogant, self-righteous smart-alec who believes he is never wrong. I’m ashamed of my attitudes towards other people. But I’m thankful that God showed me this in prayer, and is giving me the opportunity to change rather than causing circumstances to come about in my life that would force me into it.
I’ve let the cares of the world choke out the love of God in my heart. It’s still alive in there, just small. But luckily, if I let it, there’s nothing that can keep something that powerful walled up. Now . . . I think I have a few relationships to mend, and perceptions to change.