Back in my 20s, when I was dating my ex girlfriend of five years, a time I learned a lot because I made so many mistakes (whereas now when I’m near perfect… if you have no idea what perfect is like this wordy and rambling introductory sentence), my ex girlfriend’s divorced dad married a woman who had two kids of her own. Even though I hadn’t received any therapy training yet I still knew this was a disaster situation. Her dad and this woman dated for less than a year before he proposed and they were married shortly after that. A short dating to marriage period can work, but within that time, my ex had seen this woman five times, and I write “seen” because these meetings were like a family barbeque with a bunch of people there and my ex and this women didn’t talk. They maybe had three two minute conversations before the wedding. See how I could tell this was going to be a disaster even with my limited experience? There was so little connection with the two families that after the 11am wedding ceremony that was booked at the last minute and held in a family friend’s basement, my ex and I drove to Canada’s Wonderland for the Christian concert day. We already had the tickets before the day was planned and she was given permission to leave. That’s pretty impressive isn’t it? After the wedding, it was about a year before my ex refused to go to her dad’s house where she was supposed to visit forty percent of the time because she felt so unwelcome. My ex’s dad claimed his new wife was shy, but many times when people say someone’s shy, what they’re really doing is giving an excuse for this person being rude. I grew up hearing the phrase half jokingly said, “Children are meant to be seen and not heard.” I ended up taking this to heart and was very quiet, but there’s a point when “quiet” is rude. My favourite example of this woman’s behaviour came one afternoon when I entered the house with my ex and her brother and sister. As always, I said hi entering the house and the step mom said “Hi Chad.” That’s it. She didn’t greet the others even though she knew they were with me. She could’ve said “Hey guys,” or “Hey gang,” like a weird person, but she specifically said my name. This was apparently the normal dynamic. She never greeted them, and they never greeted her. The step mom’s argument was the kids didn’t greet her, so why should she greet them? After all, she’s shy… Um, no, you’re rude with a touch of stupid. You’re the grown up; it’s your job to role model good behaviour. I said hi, not because I was worried about her feeling good, but because it’s the right thing to do. You say hi to people because it’s the right thing to do.
Almost everyone can have a shy moment; shyness is just fear and anxiety. Walking into a room of strangers, who feels alive and ready to mingle minus con-men? We are meant to have some social anxiety in order to prevent us from taking our pants off, putting on the TV, and belching the alphabet… I can’t belch the alphabet, but part of me always wished I could after seeing someone do it. Despite my so called shyness, I push past it to not be rude. If you don’t push through it, you’re rude. If you asked my ex if she thought this woman was being shy or rude, she’d say rude. If you asked my ex if she was being shy or rude to her stepmom, she’d straight up say she was being rude because she was angry at the whole thing, which makes a lot of sense. Your dad marries a woman you don’t know and who changes where you live and how you interact with your dad, and she complains you don’t say hi when she doesn’t say hi to you? Blending families is tough, but this is a guarantee disaster situation. Rudeness tears apart, and that’s exactly what happened. That marriage ended a few years after it started and it ended because someone stuck to the excuse of being shy when she was rude.
Years later when I was running a retreat at a church I was just hired at, I had two fifteen year old boys in my car who were about the same age and who grew up going to that church. They both agreed the church was rude because no one greeted them Sunday morning. Fun fact, this was the first time these boys had really talked to each other… see where I’m going with this? They both said they don’t say hi to other people because other people don’t say hi to them first. Um, you’re angry at people for doing what you’re doing? There are a few words for that: rude, hypocrite, stupid, etc. That’s like a bank robber judging someone else for robbing a bank; you both do it, so you both suck. Of course, they’d both argue that they were shy. Why is it that when we don’t say hi, we’re shy, but when other people don’t, they’re rude? It can be harder to say hi, but the harder path is normally the healthier path. Exercising is definitely harder than watching TV… unless you’re watching The Wiggles, then watching TV is harder because that show is just awful.
This week, may you do what you expect others to do for you.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people