Question: I’m shy and have difficulty knowing what to say to people. I think up questions beforehand, but then forget them when I’m in the situation. What can I do?
I received this question on Saturday and decided it would be a good topic for the week. I am starting “What Do You Say”Wednesdays, but this week will be ALL “What do you say? posts. (Except for Fun Friday, of course – which will be a cooking presentation by the Munchkin Cooking Crew – stay tuned.)
This question resonated with me because I was an extremely shy young, pastor’s wife.
If you read my ABOUT profile (look under About in the sidebar), you know I decided to be a pastor’s wife when I was a preschooler. But my mom remembers me waiting for her after a Sunday service (I was in my teens at this time) and listening to her talk with some church people. Later, I said, “Mom, I don’t think I can be a pastor’s wife, because I don’t know what to say to strangers.” My mom gave me a lot of encouragement – she had overcome shyness in her own life. (She was voted shyest student in her senior class.)
And, I credit the people at our Michigan church for pulling me out it – somewhat. They were so warm and accepting and I felt so at ease, that I gained a lot of confidence.
I don’t think I could call myself shy anymore, but I’m still reserved. I don’t mind speaking to an entire group of people, but sometimes – like this PW asked in her question: “What do you say to someone you don’t know well?”
This is also a subject I talk about in one of the workshops I do at Awana conferences – “How to Be Friends with Parents.” The workshop is geared toward leaders who want to chat with the unchurched (and maybe churched) parents who bring their kids to club, but the leaders aren’t sure how to start a conversation.
But before we start in on WHAT to say – I think we can gain courage and comfort from the bio of Moses.
Think about his life. Born to a Hebrew dad and mom at a time when Pharaoh wanted all Hebrew baby boys killed – Moses was put in a basket (lovingly made waterproof by his mom) and placed in the Nile River. His sister Miriam watched over him. (We don’t know that she was told to be security guard by her parents or this simply showed an older sister’s love for a younger brother.) Did you ever wonder what Jochebed EXPECTED to happen to her son? I mean, how long could a baby float in the Nile River without being attacked by animals or … Well, it seems as if she had a plan. Did she put him near the palace on purpose? After all, why was he so close to where the princess bathed? The Nile is a LONG river.
Miriam (yea for the quick-thinking big sisters of the world) arranged for Jochebed to nurse Moses as a young child. So, not only did Moses learn Hebrew history, but he was schooled (by the princess) in the ways of the Egyptians. God’s plan in action.
Of course, we all know he got angry when an Egyptian master beat a Hebrew slave. Moses killed the man and then fled to Midian. Now, even though Moses was smart and probably knew his way around people – both rich and poor. He was destined to spend the next 40 years taking care of sheep.
You don’t learn how to talk too well, taking care of sheep. Just not a lot of conversation going on. Yet, even in this quiet part of Moses’ life, God had a plan. Moses learned how to take care of himself in the desert – preparation for the big EXODUS in his future.
Yet, when God approached Moses about leading the Israelites out of Egypt –
Moses said, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)
1. Some Bible scholars feel he had a speech impediment that he later overcame.
2. Some Bible scholars feel he had a difficult time expressing himself, but was able to do so with God’s power.
3. Some Bible scholars feel this was a language difficulty – he was away from the Egyptian language for 40 years, or that he didn’t feel he knew enough Hebrews.
Whatever the circumstance, God reminded him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:11-12)
Moses still asked for help and God reminded hi that Moses” brother Aaron was a good speaker. But Moses himself eventually was the spokesman for Israel. Later, in the New Testament, Luke writes: Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. (Acts 7:22)
No, we won’t suddenly have the miraculous ability to say the exactly right words in the exactly right situation. (That would be nice, wouldn’t it?)
Yet, just as God was with Moses, He is with us and has a plan for us — and is ready to give us the courage to reach out to other people.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about some good conversation starters.