This will be a rambling post, so be forewarned! At church this morning, the pastor was talking about witnessing. He said that, by smiling at people, we show them that we care.
This was interesting, in light of things that I have been reading and listening to this week. I listened to the Free Believers Network’s podcast on Being a Person of Grace, and it touched on how consistently trying to be a nice, patient, make-no-waves sort of Christian is playing a role and actually can repel people from you. One of the hosts told a story about a guy who was like that, and people never came to him for help with their problems, presumably because he did not seem real to them.
I also read Christian Piatt’s posts on avoiding Christian cliches. Click here to read the final post, which has links to the previous posts in the series. My impression was that he was arguing that Christians should invest deeply in the lives of others rather than tossing at them Christian platitudes, which can come across as dismissive, condescending, simplistic, and lacking in insight.
Personally, when I hear people tell me that I should do this, or not do that, I’m not always sure about how I can carry out their instructions. In public, of course I’m a nice, patient, make-no-waves sort of person! Of course I’m playing a role! I’m usually scared to be around people at the outset, so, yes, I lean on a role. Perhaps I have even tossed out cliches because I’m not sure what to say in a particular situation. And you know what? I’m not particularly interested in investing deeply in the lives of others. I have enough difficulties making friends, let alone developing deep community with other people. Some may tell me that’s evidence that I’m not a true Christian. Oh well. I am what I am, and I’m not about to assume that God beats me up on account of that.
That said, while I enjoyed the nuanced discussion on the podcast, and was guided by the Christian Piatt posts about what I perhaps shouldn’t say to others (since saying socially-inappropriate things can be a problem I have), I appreciated the advice that my pastor offered this morning: smile at people. Granted, there is enough cynicism in the world that some will take your smile to be phony. But smiling at people is at least giving an indication that you are interested in them. Then, maybe a relationship can develop. Maybe you’ll find that you’d actually like to invest deeply in that other person. I find that to be a better approach than giving a “Thus saith the Lord” of “Thou shalt invest deeply in another person.” I mean, when I hear that command, I’m not sure what exactly I should be doing!