During the year I have listened to some wonderful interviews on the ABC Conversations program with Richard Fidler (lovely to fill in time on a long run).
There are great stories and interesting things about different people. Recently an interview was with Sian Prior who has written Shy, A Memoir. Despite being an accomplished performer and journalist, she has suffered from shyness all her life.
Listening to it brought back many memories of my own experiences and how we learn to function with shyness in the world.
Some of these include:
- Never liking children’s parties in primary school and often choosing to spend time with the host mother rather than the other children.
- Hating giving talks up the front of class in high school, and being unable to stretch a book review talk to the required 2 mins.
- Struggling to walk up to groups and join in a conversation.
- Only really having one or two close friends at a time, rather than a lot of friends.
- Being quite happy with my own company and quite contentedly enjoying a good book and some silence.
Then it made me ponder the reality of being a shy person and being in ministry.
Much of my natural shyness I have had to overcome in ministry:
- While I struggle with it, I will walk up to new people and introduce myself.
- I still find breaking into groups of people hard and am more likely to be seen standing on my own at church wondering who to approach.
- I have learnt to lead services, give talks and speak up the front with ease and comfort – this is still astonishing to me.
However it has made me realise that shyness, and her related sister, introversion, do come at a cost. My husband is not shy, but is introverted. At times, I am both. Both of us need silence at times. We both need to ‘veg out’ and not talk at the end of busy days before we have energy to talk together. We both cherish silence but need to keep remembering realise that a house with 3 children will never be quiet. We both want to be hospitable and have an open house, but know we have limits in how we can do so in a helpful way for others yet also for ourselves.
When we talk about ensuring about ministry is sustainable for the long term, it includes rest and holidays and days off, but it also means we need to ensure we don’t so overload ourselves with people that we are unable to care for ourselves, each other and our family. Some of the things we have found work for us are:
- We do not host Sunday lunches. Sunday is busy enough with morning and evening church, and having people over for lunch means that there is no break in the day to recharge.
- We try to make sure school holidays have no busy evenings. Evening meetings and catch ups mean we usually have 3-4 nights a week automatically taken up, and at times it’s 6-7 nights. Breaking the cycle every school holidays is a chance to re-set a bit and take a breather.
- We share our calendars online. That means we can both see when things are getting too full and we need stop booking in more things.
- I have to plan my days with ‘free-time’ to enable me to get through the evenings. Sometimes it feels decadent making myself put my feet up with a cup of tea for an hour or two in the early afternoon, but it means I can manage the rest of the day so much better.
- We have to make a concerted effort to accept each other’s limitations in this area. When one of us cannot do more, we both have to respect that and change things accordingly.
I find it odd that people think I am not a shy person. I am definitely still shy. I just manage it reasonably well in public.
What about you?