Monday, February 8, 2010

Defensive

I admit it; I'm a bit naive.

Maybe I'm a lot naive; how would I know? Isn't part of being naive not knowing that you're so ignorant? It didn't really dawn on me until the past few years that I had a lot to learn about the world outside my little circle of acquaintances.

I think it all started the first time I met a young man who was not a gentleman. He stepped right in front of me, blocking my path, and deliberately let out a long, low burp. I think the man accompanying me might have punched the younger man in the nose if it weren't for a great deal of self control. I was very thankful that I wasn't alone at the time.

But that's a long story, unrelated to this post. The point is, I came home from that incident a bit more aware that the world isn't all roses and chocolate. There are rude, uncouth people in the world. All sorts of people in the world. And most of them believe differently than I do.

But I haven't met very many of them. I've heard about them many, many times. My parents, pastors I sit under, friends, and other mentors in my life want to be sure that I'm prepared to face real life; they want me to know that I'll be challenged. They want me to really know what I believe and why I believe it.

So I'm told again and again that I'm outnumbered in the world.

That I must stand firm despite overwhelming odds (humanly speaking).

That the world at large is completely opposite everything I stand for.

I don't think I was meant to get the impression that every third person I pass in walmart is an atheistic, pro-abortion, anti-God, anti-homeschooler, family-hater... ...but somehow I find it easy to start thinking that way.

The problem with this is that I find myself expecting everyone to disagree with me ...constantly. I expect them to challenge every statement I make. I expect them to look down on me, to classify me as crazy.

So when I start talking about anything that is remotely connected to world views, religion, life styles, etc., my voice seems to automatically take on a defensive tone. I feel that subtle increase of my heart rate. I'm positive that the person I'm talking to is criticizing me in her mind, and I strain every fiber of my brain to anticipate her objections and answer them before she voices them. All in all, I become a very tense, fact-spitting, fast-talking young girl.

Can you relate to this? Do you ever feel the same way? Do you identify with that inner drive to always explain and defend yourself?

I've found that this habit of mine to be more destructive than helpful. It builds an immediate wall between me and my listener. It makes me defensive instead of offensive. How can I reach out to that person when I'm so busy inside my little castle, dunking behind the walls to avoid arrows that I haven't even seen yet, and wildly shooting my own arrows without seeing what I'm aiming at?

I can "feel" a picture in my mind of the young woman I want to be. Gracious. Calmly in control of myself. Content to let the world think what it wants, so long as my actions and words speak truth. Free to reach out to the people I come in contact with, unafraid of what they think of me...because isn't it pride that is causing my problems in the first place?

The truth is, there are atheistic, pro-abortion, anti-God, anti-homeschoolers, family-hating people in the world, but the large majority of people are just garden-variety ordinary folks who are pleasant moral people...in need of the Savior. I need to stop looking at people as battles to be won, or convicts to be made, or strongholds to be torn down and really see them as people. They have feelings like mine. It isn't intellectual arguments that are going to change hearts. It's love and truth and God's Holy Spirit.

So the next time someone is looking at me, and I'm "positive" they are silently criticizing my actions or appearance, I think I'll just send them a smile and remember that God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind. :)

7 comments:

Alethea Jordan said...

Wow, that was a rather vague post...

Amber said...

I'm sorry - was it? I didn't mean it to be. Maybe I should confine my "thinking on paper" to my journals, and save more "everyday" writing for my blog, huh?

Angelique said...

I didn't find it vague. I'm going through this right now because my belief structure is changing (things, like no longer celebrating Christmas etc)and I went through it when I was a strict vegetarian / eco hippy. It is hard to not be defensive because (in my experience) most people do get uptight and threatened when met with something out of the norm, and sadly anti-abortion, families, and homeschooling are not the norm. God is okay as long as he is not revered too much. I think you are right in overcoming your temptation to see it as a battle. Its often so much easier to get your ideas across and accepted when you make allowances for differences in beliefs and do it slowly.

SavedGirl said...

Dear Amber,

I actually really enjoyed this post. In my mind I don't consider it vague. I totally know what you mean. It is so easy for me to view everybody as against me and my views, and to let that interfere with my Christian witness in my manner. I always try to remember that verse in Philippians where it says (paraphrase/memory) "Let your gentleness be known to all men."

I really do enjoy your "thinking on paper" posts. It starts me thinking, as well. So please don't stop!

Lulu

Alethea Jordan said...

No, I don't necessarily think that...it's just that it was interesting how you went from the beginning to the end. =\

Amber said...

I understand, Alethea. :)

Lulu, I'm glad you enjoy my "thinking on paper" posts. And I love that verse in Philippians. I love the whole book of Philippians, actually! :)

Angelique, thanks for your thoughts. It is always hard to find a balance between "making allowances" and still being true to what we believe is right, isn't it? "Speaking the truth in love" is much easier to talk about than to actually do!

Amanda said...

That was great, Amber Sue! I also find myself automatically trying to defend myself, my actions, and my beliefs from time to time... actually, probably a lot of the time! :/ Thank you for the reminders.