One of the most memorable parts of “Mere Christianity,” to me, is in the chapter on morality and psychoanalysis. I’m going to try to paraphrase it, but forgive me if I get it a little wrong.
C.S. Lewis tried to make a case that each of us starts at a different place of base “goodness,” depending on our upbringing, personality, and environment. And that the behavior can’t really be compared, person to person, as a measure of our inner self.
For example: he said that “a man perverted in his youth and taught that cruelty is the right thing” who “does some tiny little kindness” may be doing more than another person who gave up his whole life to rescue someone.
I really resonate with that.
There is another place in his writings (that I can’t find the reference for, ) where he compares two hypothetical people- Mrs. and Mr. so-and-so. He says, Mr. S may be a naturally friendly person, taught from youth to be polite and kind. But Mrs. S may have been a curmudgeon her whole life, and naturally grumpy. And she finds the Lord, and is full of joy in Him, but even in her redeemed state she is never quite the outgoing and friendly person that Mr. S. is. CS Lewis said that we shouldn’t look at these two people and say, “What’s the point of being the Lord’s, if this unsaved person is nicer than the saved?” He says that we don’t know what she might have been if she hadn’t had the Lord, and we don’t know what he might be if he did.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Because I think I am Mrs. S.
I feel sometimes as if the “perfect Christian” should be friendly, not shy, flexible and easy to get along with. She should love going to church. She should love when the phone rings, or when someone stops in.
And I don’t. Not any of that.
Don’t get me wrong, I love people. And when I say love, I don’t mean “I love being with people, I love a party, I hate being alone,” like some kind of otter-sanguine ENFP Enneagram 7.
I mean: I sincerely care about people. I think they are valuable. I feel compassionate and tender towards pretty much everyone I meet. I do. I think people are the eternal things. I think people matter. I usually enjoy some part, if not many parts of every one I meet, and the good things in my life are largely due to the blessings of the people in it.
But I also know that I don’t wake up in the morning wanting to talk to anyone. I don’t tend to want to be in a crowd, to want to get together with people. I get anxious before a gathering and irritable easily when I’m in one. I get “done,” where I’ve talked to too many people and spent too much time with people, and I’m ready to sit down and read, and the phone rings, and my reaction is frustration instead of happiness.
I’m not naturally flexible. When my plans get interrupted or messed up, I don’t naturally shrug and pollyanna it. I sometimes lose it and freak out.
I’m not naturally thoughtful! If I remember your birthday or anniversary or that your grandmother is in the hospital, it is because I purposefully put it in my calendar or wrote it on my hand to ask you about it.
I’m not naturally calm- I get overexcited when I’m happy, and I am easily loud when I’m angry.
I’m not naturally friendly. I would prefer to slip in the back of the church with my coffee and my notebook, and worship alone, and take notes alone, and duck out to the bathroom during meet and greet. I force myself to shake hands and say “good morning” and compliment your outfit. But it isn’t because I don’t love you! It’s because I do! And I know that my “natural” tendency isn’t loving, isn’t friendly. Isn’t kind, good, or righteous.
I guess what I’m saying- is that- is there anyone else like me out there? I feel like so many Christians out there are extroverts and naturally kind. Naturally thoughtful. Naturally easy-going and flexible. My closest friends are so naturally kind and thoughtful that compared to them, I feel like a troll!
In fact, to put it bluntly, I would say I’m an intense, easily irritated, loner who has to work really, really hard to be friendly, and patient, and thoughtful, and flexible. I don’t think I do it particularly 1well, and I’m wondering if anyone else out there feels like this.
I’m wondering if anyone else knows how hard it is to plan a bible study because you love the scripture, and you love the ladies, and yet an hour before it starts, you’re almost crying on your bed because you’d rather just be home alone.
I’m wondering if anyone else hosts a cookout to welcome a new family to the church, and escapes into the kitchen for ten minutes to “make more lemonade” because you just can’t do the small talk thing one more minute.
I’m wondering if any of the rest of you get angry easily, hate the sound of your loved ones chewing, throw a fit when the cat poos in the bathroom, or just plain don’t answer the phone occasionally.
Are you out there?
I’m not writing because I want permission to be mean. Or unkind. I’m not saying, “We should be allowed to be brats!”
I’m also not writing this asking people to give me more space or stop interacting with me!
See- The thing is, I do want to be more like Christ, all the time. I know the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22 is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I know that we have to “put on Christ.” I know that our fleshly tendencies are selfish and it is easier to hate than to love. I know that Christ himself is kind, and tender-hearted, and friendly! He is “the friend that sticks closer than a brother.”
I’m not writing this in any way trying to say, “I’m tired of that, I’m done with being friendly.”
I guess I’m writing for two reasons. The first is to say that if you are naturally outgoing- if none of this rings true to you at all- if you’re shocked at my admissions (or you guessed them about me a long time ago) I would like to ask for some grace. I would love if you’d understand that my inner mean girl isn’t naturally friendly, but because I love you, and Christ loves you, I’m trying. It’s a lot of work for me, but I’m doing my best.
I would love if you would have patience with me if I take a little while to get back to you when you call or message, or if I say no sometimes to getting together, or I’m not particularly chatty at church.
And I sincerely apologize for the times when I haven’t been able to tame my unfriendliness, and I’ve hurt you.
And if you are reading this and you get me- you aren’t “thrilled to be there” on Sunday mornings, you feel like you’re a thousand years behind the “good” people- Hey, you won’t get any judgy side-eyes from me. I want you to know that I 100% understand. I feel ya, and I know what it’s like.
I guess I’m writing to all of us- whether you’re naturally friendly or not. I want to say- let’s be kind and tender to each other, because none of us knows how hard it is in someone else’s shoes.