|Mrs Cecil Wade, John Singer Sargent|
It's when I want to express my affection for or encourage someone. I clam right up.
I can't manage to articulate my love, and this frustrates me, because of all the things I could say why must it be these words, the words that could really strengthen another person's heart, that stubbornly remain inside?
A few months ago I mentioned this problem to a friend, and she encouraged me to dig a bit deeper. Could I find out why I struggle this way? I thought that perhaps I could. I mulled over it, and mulled again, and here's what I came up with.
I am not a particularly mushy person. I feel things deeply, but I tend to spoil tender moments by laughing. Since my typical demeanor is more Marilla Cuthbert than Anne Shirley, I fear that if I do try to articulate softer feelings, I won't be taken seriously. How can I persuade the other person that I mean what I say?
Also, I gravitate to sarcasm and understatement, which distance me from what I'm saying. Compliments make me squirm-- I tend to ward them off with a light-hearted remark. When it comes time to compliment someone else, I have to leave my verbal safety zone and say something straightforward, not wrapped in layers of irony. Since I derive comfort from sarcasm, sincerity is decidedly uncomfortable. It's risky.
Another risk I take, of course, is of being misunderstood. As I mentioned above, I feel deeply but hesitate to reveal my feelings, because what if they don't come out exactly right? Will the other person get what I'm trying to tell them? I understand poor J. Alfred Prufrock's dilemma:
Whenever you talk about relationships and emotions you have the potential for injury.It is impossible to say just what I mean! . . .Would it have been worth whileIf one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,And turning toward the window, should say:“That is not it at all,That is not what I meant, at all.”
So maybe that helps to explain why I avoid expressing affection: I am scared. Of not being taken seriously, or of not having sarcasm and silliness as a backup, or of saying things awkwardly and either hurting myself or others.
I've thought about this and in the past months I've heard God speak through his Word and through other people. I have been thoroughly challenged to step forward in faith. He calls me to use my gifts to build up His people and to communicate love in this world. I can speak and let his grace work through me, and not be afraid that I'll mess it up, because it's God who ultimately encourages us, loves us, and establishes us in his peace.