On Initiative, The Velvet Hammer, and What I Want

Confession chased the heels of awakening.

"I feel...kinda...really...lonely."

Mom gave me that look. The dimple pronounced itself. The corner of her mouth turned up. And those baby blues flashed her thoughts like a neon sign--"Finally, I can get this off my chest."


Mom is what a writing friend of mine calls a "velvet hammer."

Exhibit A: The Velvet Hammer:
Pounding out hard truths in the softest ways...
(Until she's annoyed, in which case...watch out.)

"Well, you've been in isolation--writing your book--for months. You haven't had time for people." Her eyes darted to mine. "Which is fine. It's the way it had to be. But now your book is finished, and you're left with the isolation."

Translation: You shut everyone out for months, including me. It's your own fault. Not that I blame you. Your book is important. But you made the bed you woke up in. Just sayin...

See what I mean? WHAM! With a side of sugar.

So I asked her what to do about it because apparently, I'd forgotten how to relate to people who aren't characters I created.

Her reply was both simple and profound --"Tell people what you want."

Initiative. It's hard, folks, but somebody has to take it. 

There are several reasons we don't. Probably more than I've listed here.

We're busy. Many people my age are parents of small children. That automatically makes a person busy. Others have a job. Some have many jobs. Busy-ness can fry the brain and zap the energy until we fall into a social coma. This is why my long distance pals and I go months without talking. And these are my best friends!

We're shy. We introverts are comfortable enough with our friends. Within our own circles, we may be the life of the party. But throw us into a room full of strangers, and we speak to no one. Because we are overwhelmed by all the bodies and the stimuli, and small talk creeps us out.

We're self-consumed. I'm not talking about people who can only talk about themselves here. I'm talking about the ones who just lost a job or found out their mother has cancer or whose kid is self-destructing. Everyone has their own stuff. When we're preoccupied like that, it's difficult to even see outside of ourselves, much less connect with another person.

We lack confidence. Connection is risky. Will they like me? Accept me? Hate my guts and trample my heart?

And then there are people who are just downright intimidating. We all know a few.

For one reason or another, I've always been one of those people.

Until a few years ago, people often assumed I was a goody-goody, know-it-all, pretty-girl snob they couldn't relate to. Don't believe me? Here are a few things real people have actually said to me. In earnest:

"They hate you because you're a goody two-shoes."
"I'm insanely jealous of you! You always know what you want out of life, and you're able to make it happen."
"Gah--you're so pretty. I hate you."
"Before I met you, I thought you were one of those weirdo Bible-thumpers and that we could never be friends."
"I thought you were a snob."

(I was always bewildered and devastated by these comments, but I think I understand them better now. As a defense mechanism, people will reject you before you have a chance to reject them. In the end, we're all after the same thing--acceptance--and we're scared to death it will be denied. This is why we need Jesus. In Him, we are accepted by God. God's perfect love casts out fear, and when we're unafraid, we can withstand the risk of rejection because there will always be One to accept us.)

I'm not sure how I'm perceived now. People don't feel as free to comment as they did before. But here are my best guesses:

  • A walking reminder that life can go terribly wrong. 
  • A hypochondriac.
  • A drama queen.
  • FRAGILE. Do Not Touch.

I grant the mask is intimidating...

almost as intimidating as Brandon's bodyguard face.

Did you know it's every bit as intimidating to realize people are intimidated by you as it is to feel intimidated by someone else?

It all goes back to fear of rejection.

If I want community, I have to work harder at it than a normal person. 

I don't have a job. I don't "get out." I don't make it to church that often. And when I do, how much community can I really have when I bee-bop late into a crowded room, sit in an isolated corner, and duck out before the fragrant masses arrive for the next service? 

With these hurdles, I'm not allowed to be too busy, shy, self-consumed, or intimidated. Whether I like it or not, I have to initiate relationships. 

So here's what I want:

  • I want you to approach me. Unless you bathed in perfume, peanut butter, or a pool of rubber bands. In that case, try again later.
  • I want you to stop feeling intimidated by my struggles. Feel free to share your own. My struggles bore me. Let's talk about you!
  • I want you to call me, text me, and invite yourself over for tea. 
  • I want your kids in my house. Bring them with you.
  • I want you to accept my invitations. I won't invite you if I'm not sincere.
  • I want to feel happily exhausted at the end of a good visit. 
  • I want a hodgepodge of friends and family to come over, sing hymns, and have communion with me. I'll provide the rice crackers and hibiscus tea.
  • I want to feed people.
  • I want you to ask favors of me. Trust me to say "no" if I can't say "yes."
  • I want more velvet hammers in my life. 

Maybe I'm not the only one...

It occurs to me that maybe I'm not the only one who has room to improve in the realm of relationships. Maybe we could all stand to be a bit braver, more selfless, more intentional, and harder to offend. Maybe we should all attempt a little warmth and vulnerability so people aren't so intimidated to approach us.

Maybe we could all stand to take a little initiative with the people in our lives. Just sayin...
 (I learned to hammer from the best.)