I miss being shy (The scale of Gratitude, Learning, and Not knowing)


I miss being shy (The scale of Gratitude, Learning, and Not knowing)

When you guys were little, what kind of people were you?

Nobody remembers all of what they were, but the parts of me that I remember, I generally like. Remembering used to be really painful, and then after a while I couldn’t do it much at all. But hey, that’s life, sometimes things come easier than others, and that isn’t really a bad thing. Sometimes it’s pretty ok to not know things, and up until it’s not, ignorance is bliss.

I remember that I was a kid that took risks. But I was also afraid of things, mostly because they were poorly explained. I have a lot of faith in people, and a lot less faith in words. I think that is just how I was born to think. When I was a kid, I was the one who asked completely strangers to play on the playground. I had no idea that was bad until I got in trouble at daycare. The funny thing about the strangers is that 99.99% of them are nice. I knew who to bother if the strangers weren’t nice to me. However, then the people in daycare decided to escalate what they were saying. Before too long, they were infinitely less nice than the strangers, who had remained mostly nice. How is that a surprise to anyone?

I was a kid that did things all or nothing. If I said I was going to do something, I was going to do it. Now, I did not always choose to do good things, but I did them. I meant exactly what I said, and often. If I didn’t, I meant it as much as I could. Lying wasn’t something I liked to do, but sometimes it was necessary. Not everyone (including my parents) would try to understand what I was saying a lot of the time, or even in trying, succeed. That is no one’s fault, it is just what happened. When I am excited, I talk a lot. That has never changed. But when I think, when I reflect on something, when I am very very quiet, that is also an enormous part of who I am.

Which is strange. Many people think that you cannot be both “outgoing” and “shy”. I don’t know how that could be true, because I am, given the context. I don’t know why we design ordinal or nominal scales to measure people based on things we fabricate based on not paying attention. I don’t want jargon; I have never wanted to learn the words. I just want to do it right. Duh.

Which is why Psychology is the most naturally confusing and obvious thing to me in the entire world. People think. Yes, that is established. We perceive the world. Okay, still doing fine. But why would the ways that one person thinks be an indicator that something is wrong with them? One person cannot corrupt the world. It must be the world.

We design fabulous and intricate tests, but we fail to really be honest and learn to listen very well. One theory about Freud is that he actually designed the predecessor of modern counseling, “psychotherapy” as his “talking cure”, because many of the women who spoke to him had been sexually abused and he could not directly call out their rich families and the patriarch’s therein, because sometimes, they were the rapists. Clearly, the norms of the 19th and 20th century were not what they are today. But how many women have been called “hysterical” because they simply want to talk? How many men? What is so wrong with talking? Are we so afraid of what we will find that suddenly we have to limit the pursuit of happiness to suit our individual egos? You cannot fix, but you can listen. Get it right.

I don’t like how children are made to decide who they are in all of that. It doesn’t make very much sense. The most terrible things to me in school was when my teachers tried to force us to define ourselves with specific adjectives. I always wanted to see it done, to have a visual example of what a ____ is. It was not enough to say ____ is “good”, because most ____’s were “good”. Funny. Good. Happy. Good. Spastic. Not good, but why? No one knew.

If all things are simply good, then nothing is good, because all things simply are. If everything is good, then why even mention it? I wanted to talk about the words people had used to describe me. Turns out, some of those words were not “good”. Well, if it describes me, and those words are not good, then I must also not be good. See what you did there?

I knew I was smart; it was something I never thought about. I liked school more than anything in the entire world. My classmates called me smart. I’m still not sure what that means. I don’t think I ever will be. I remember once in my 6th grade year book, one of my classmates said something wrote something about my directness, and said “never change”. I’m not sure what that meant, but for whatever reason, I liked it and I didn’t change. I don’t know if it is the believing in things that makes me better off, or the liking them and just doing them, or [I really just don’t know]. People always pick favorite things about themselves, or the world, or others. Could it be that the favorite things don’t need described, or if they do, they don’t need to be in any kind of hierarchy? Well, no frick. How obvious could that be?

If children are the most wise (not the old people; they have merely retained it if they still have it and can tell you why), then why do we demand that they label themselves? It is absolutely ridiculous. Children should be free to be children, and make it the hell up as they go. We all should be. If we accept these piss poor little categories, we eventually whittle our options down into misery. Why can’t we just let things be simple, and yet, beautiful?

I like being quiet. Shy. To me, it means having a certain amount of reservation, self-control, and thoughtfulness that shows in the ways you take care of others. Sometimes it is good to be outgoing; it can coax people out of their shells. But both are good. You need both for different things. More than anything, I wish I knew that sooner.

When I got to college, I decided to make it up some more. I was able to; there was no good reason not to. Yet people called me “outgoing” for making friends easily and doing my best to be nice. I accepted that label, because it made no difference to me. Labels only make a difference to the people that need them; what did I care? The danger came when people started telling me that a [insert label] person was a _____, did ______, felt _____, or worst, became a ______.

Well, an outgoing person is outgoing. They do outgoing things. They feel outgoing. They become progressively more outgoing until they explode like a balloon, from what I can tell.

But a person is a person. They do person things. They feel person things. They become a person, because people will still be people when they age. Now, I didn’t necessarily believe any of that. But you absorb it, even if you don’t believe it. And when you are afraid, those become your doubts.

How much more obvious could that be? We fear what we don’t know, right? Okay, so if I am afraid, then I will listen to the not knowing. If I do not know, then I will start to un-know what I do know. What I know is mostly good. If the amount of doubt increases my amount of knowing what I don’t know, and it is that knowledge that causes me to fear, then it makes sense that I should fear the things that people tell me I am but I do not accept.

If I accept something, it is probably because it is good. I don’t know that all people do that. But I do. Now, if I accept what is not good in favor of trying to diminish from what is not good? Well, two negatives don’t equal a positive. They make you freaking miserable.

That is how doubt grows. You choose to believe what you do not know, based on what you are afraid, based on what others say, based on what you know. It grows because you are afraid of what others say. They don’t know. They simply don’t. No one does, in most anything really. You can doubt your doubts and believe what you believe. That only maintains distinctions between what that was already there. But the act of choosing to let things be distinct versus force yourself to explain them frees you. It is not your job to prove anything. You can accept the burden of not knowing with dignity, so long as you grant others the right to not know. And in the case of 99.99% of adults, regardless of if they are strangers; literally nobody knows what they are talking about.

Which is great! Should we have to? Is it good for us? If you can tell a tree by its fruit, knowing that good fruit comes from good trees and bad fruit comes from bad trees, surely you will be able to distinguish who knows what they are talking about from who does not.

You can see it in kindness. In compassion. Love, humility, gentleness, caring for others, service. All of the fruits of the spirit mentioned in 1st Corinthians, those are what you watch for. You observe where people are consistent, and where they are inconsistent. You consider the words they use. Do they describe themselves differently than they describe others? You do not necessarily need to know why, but could there be a reason that you do not know? Opening yourself up to not knowing is the hardest part. After that, you just have to pay attention. Could it be more simple? I don’t think so.

Which is why I don’t understand why we make it more complicated. If understanding people through paying attention works best without words, why do we put words on it? I was the kid that noticed everything. I knew someone was upset even if I did not know why. The most harmful thing adults can do it that situation is to make up reasons. I knew they were lying. A quicker answer would have been “I don’t know” or “They will be fine in a few minutes, someone is taking care of them”. It is not that I wanted to be the only one taking care of people. But if you are someone that cares, that will show when you are young. And if you are someone who really pays attention, you will know that rarely do people get the help they truly need. And if you are able, you will try to help them. And soon you will be helping strangers. And soon that will make you weird. And sooner rather than later, you will realize that no one knows what they are talking about. Which is dangerous, because if no one knows what they are talking about, then should you?

That is the hard part. If you accept that no, you should not, then you are fine. There is not extra pressure. But if you believe that someone must know more somewhere, that there are answers that are simply not being shared, that anyone else could potentially know more about this great yarn ball of living, then you make yourself miserable, because you become jealous. Which makes you doubt. Which makes you afraid. Which makes you even more miserable.

Doubt multiplies. Sin multiplies. You can’t have it both ways so much of the time. You don’t need to know everything, but some things truly don’t change. If it was bad then, it will be bad now, for the same stupid reasons it was bad then. You can take some things on faith and live to see them convicted. I promise. If not faith, you can choose to withhold judgment. This will mean you will not even need to open yourself up for criticism, because you have not decided. Who can criticize you for deciding not to decide? Only people who are similarly miserable. There is so much in the world that is to be lived, seen, or known later. The hardest part about being young now is that there are so many options it is truly all or nothing. What about some but gradually? Heresy!

Well, it’s too bad that that is actually what is most healthy. Learning slowly. Paying attention. Extricating yourself from this great circus of guilt so that you might briefly just experience, and draw concrete conclusions based on broad scale knowledge later. That is not to say that you have to accept or condone everything. But accept what is good, and move the hell on without judging the rest. It will make you healthy. Apart from that, don’t let anyone tell you they know better. They can’t. If they tell you, it is your choice if you believe them, just like it is your choice as you read this whether you agree with anything I have said. That is okay. It should be that way.

Everyone lives separate lives. The truth is big enough to be different in other’s eyes. It’s okay. No one owns it. It’s too big, because it comes from God. Let it be big. Let yourself be small if you want and you can. It will make the rest come so much easier. Gratitude at its finest.


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I am a second-grade teacher and pastor-to-be who loves people. I spend my weekends with friends or wandering the museums of DC alone and with a journal, trying to put words on the places of the soul that still feel wordless. I spent most of my days at school trying to learn patience through my students and running on sheer nerdy passion. I follow Jesus Christ, and savor that as my most important identity--that I am a child of God, as are infinite others, regardless of their other identities. Christ is my one thing.

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