Monday, April 29, 2013

To Exclude or Not, that is the ?

Do you have someone who is mean or nasty to you, or who ignores you and puts down things you suggest or ideas you have?  In my life I have had several people like this.   It is my policy to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.  Butter will not melt in my mouth when facing an enemy.  I am soooo  nice.  Mama used to tell me the worst thing you can do to someone who does not like you, is to greet her warmly in public.  Thus you force her to cut you or be nasty in front of others.   When I follow this policy I elicit one of the following reactions.  Sometimes the person will say "Oh! hello", with a puzzled expression on her face.  Sometimes she will pretend she doesn't hear me and then I get in her face and say hi again.  This time she will say hello, sometimes with a bit of irritation.  The third and most usual reaction is she will say "Hello", back with some degree of warmth.  She will then follow up with a comment like "isn't it a lovely day", etc. and we will be in a conversation. 
By taking this kind of action with difficult persons I have found it has cost me nothing to be nice.  The other person is forced to show her colors, and she usually doesn't really dare to do so in public. Finally, I may find I have been wrong.  I have given the other person a chance to be nice and sometimes she just is nice.  I may have mistaken her previous behavior for my own insecurities. The criticisms she made or the attitudes I attributed to her may have revealed more about me than they did about her.
I have to constantly examine my assumptions.  They are so easy to make and can be so destructive to relationships.  They say people make up their minds about others in the first 20 seconds of meeting or seeing them.  I know I am very quick to judge.  I quickly pick up of superficial clues, but I try real hard to not be overly influenced by them.  I have learned how mistaken I have been in the past and I know people are often mistaken about me. 
I am often puzzled about why people just don't seem to like me.  I remember walking into the cafeteria as a kid and heading immediately to the safe zone of one or two of my friends.  I still did this at work and other areas of my life.  It always seems there are circles of people I am never invited into, and if I were to inadvertently crash one of these circles, I would be greeted with condescending looks or completely ignored.  I have gotten on elevators with groups of these people and deliberately pushed another floor so I wouldn't have to stay and be uncomfortable.  I have tried to avoid certain circles at business parties where I know I would feel inadequate or unwelcome.  I sometimes would walk into such a group anyway, to see if I had misjudged them.  Guess what?  I hadn't.  I was made to feel as unwelcome as a sardine in a shrimp cocktail. 
Even now, in Church, which should always feel like a safe place, I am forced to confront these same unwanted feelings.  It is even more subtle and insidious now as everyone is supposed to play nice.  I have formed many real friendships in Church, and I shouldn't complain, but this goes back so many years and still continues, and I know it is not just me.
So many people are left out or ignored because they are too loud, to meek, complain too much, don't dress right, dress too fancy,  talk too much, don't talk enough, etc. etc. etc.  I always have to examine my own complicity in this judgemental process.  One must constantly ask WWJD.  Rich or poor, saint or sinner, healthy or diseased, all were welcome with our Lord.  How can I stand myself if I continue to be so exclusive.  So I keep trying, and trying not to bother with those who exclude me.  It is really their problem, not mine.