Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Cautionary Tale

My most embarrassing moment was the happened during the summer I was 14, my first week (and coincidentally only?) week at camp. We were playing four on a couch with one of the boys' cabins, and there was some kid in that cabin I had a crush on, a brother of one of my cabinmates. And I don’t remember what I did exactly, but I remember that I was acting really goofy and laughing uncontrollably, which didn’t strike me as like terrible or anything, until a friend told me I was acting like a fool. 

And I was mortified, of course. Not so much because of the random boy I had drawn into my spectacle, but because of what my friend said. I cared intensely of what my friend thought. She called me out on acting like a fool, and I was embarrassed like Meg from Little Women was when Laurie caught her putting on airs at a party. I cared very much that she thought I was making a fool of myself, and I cared about what my cabin thought, what the other girls thought. I had made myself that girl. Not in a 50s television kind of way. In a Mean Girls kind of way. You know. Kind of still makes me cringe.

I am reflecting on this because I did something similar today. And it was humiliating not just because of the amused bewilderment on the guy’s face, but because I did it in front of a room full of my coworkers, one of whom point-blank asked me why I was acting like a fool, and in that moment I was so thankful I didn’t blush and I hoped no one could see the sweat on my forehead as I tried to save face and laugh it off.

Why do I never learn?!

True confessions, though I don’t see myself as a flirty person, I also live in fear that I don’t really know myself. I don’t want to be that way. I want to see myself accurately. I want to understand who I really am and accept my fallenness and my neediness. But I second-guess that always. I am so confused by the things I think and feel. I don’t understand the things that happen in my own mind, and this is so frustrating because it leads to a lot of cognitive dissonance. Cos there are things my instincts want that my mind doesn’t.

But one thing I know to be true is that I’m an attention whore. I chalk it up to a mixture of factors, like being a first born and also, being human, but it takes a lot of work for me to call it what it is. For example, I kind of hate that I enjoy teaching so much, because part of the reason I enjoy it is I like commanding a classroom, and I like everyone asking me questions and following my instructions and laughing at my jokes and listening to my stories. That’s an ugly thing to admit, and I hate it because it’s often true. I can say that teaching is rewarding and missional and it totally is, but sometimes I don’t love it for that reason, sometimes I love it for bad reasons.

So you can imagine how this colors my interactions with people. I really believe that people are the most important thing, and I want to affirm people and serve people and see people because I believe that’s what I’m called to do, but honestly, sometimes I turn towards people not because I want to build them up but because I want to build myself up.

And that’s what makes flirting selfish, isn’t it? I don’t even remember the same of the kid I flirted with at camp. And my coworker, I can’t say I’ve ever had a serious conversation with him. We riff non-stop. This, actually, was part of my flirty faux pas. I think I said, “We have got to get better at having normal conversations.” It wasn't embarrassing because my actions potentially betrayed some veiled affection, no, it was embarrassing because I was caught trying to draw attention to myself.

I don’t want to communicate to my coworkers that I don’t care about them. I don’t want to be the person who is (unprofessionally) flirting with people just to make herself feel good. I want my coworkers to feel valued and respected. I want my coworkers to feel individual heard and noticed by me. I don’t want to have conversations based only on teasing and quick wit. And while I love love LOVE laughing with my coworkers, there seems to be an appreciable difference between laughing together and flirting. 

Flirting is not the greatest social ill or anything, but it’s not something I want to do. Not subconsciously and definitely not on purpose. And to be clear I’m horrendous at flirting, which is one reason why getting caught doing it is so embarrassing. I’m like the opposite of smooth, probably because I don’t flirt to be smooth, I unwittingly flirt because I wittingly want attention. But I think flirting is fundamentally using someone else to make yourself feel like you’re awesome, and, that’s not something I want to be associated with. And I don’t want to be that girl. You know the one. 

Though the shame was still hot when I relived the exchange two hours later, the embarrassment has already faded substantially by now. I wonder if I will remember this as an embarrassing moment once time passes. Hm. I make this mistake a lot. I can remember so many different versions of this situation, from high school, university, oh! Ugh, even from last summer. I wish I hadn’t stopped to think about it; this isn’t a fun game. But it’s a necessary one, right? Identify the mistake, repent of the mistake, move on, rest in grace. 

Jesus is shaping this attention whore into a validation giver. Jesus is making me less self-focused and more others-focused. I gotta believe that, even though these mistakes make me wonder. And His beautiful grace means that my testimony to my coworkers isn’t forever broken, and even if I’m that girl for the rest of my time on earth He can still make good things happen. Sanctification I’m sometimes still skeptical about, but on grace I am certain: my mistakes do not prevail over the power of His will. Thank the Lord.

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