Loving Others, Resting in Christ, security, wisdom

Learning to Turn My Gaze Outward

My shyness was almost painful and certainly debilitating. As a little kid I’d hide behind my mom, the couch, a tree, whatever was handy, willing myself to disappear into the very earth if possible. Don’t look at me, I’d plead inwardly. Don’t make me speak.

Over the years it grew worse, not better. I’d settle into a new class, then the next year I’d have to change schools and start all over again. Eventually I learned to hide in a book and create my own safe zones.

Yet today people laugh when I say I used to be shy. “You?” they ask, giving me that surely-she’s-joking look. “I don’t think you’ve ever met a stranger.”

It’s true—somehow over the years I’ve transformed from an excruciatingly shy girl into a confident, friendly, and outgoing woman. The sort of woman who sees another timid woman, grabs her by the hand, and tugs her along for the ride. The sort of woman who used to help me.

The transformation wasn’t sudden but gradual, a combination of theater classes and career training and leadership transitions, of becoming a mom and getting so busy I didn’t have time to think about doing my hair or whether I was “good enough,” let alone worry about other people’s judgment of me.

Recently, a friend asked me to explain to her exactly how I did it. Her questions stumped me, and I needed some time to really think them through.

My answer, when it finally came, hit me hard: I got over my shyness by getting over me.

I’m sure we all have different reasons for being shy, but mine were rooted in issues of self, from fear to self-consciousness to, later, self-worth. Because all of my attention and energy were focused inward, I agonized whenever attention turned my way. It was like a giant searchlight was pointed directly at me, and I couldn’t escape.

But when life naturally brought responsibilities my way—at first a sister to tend, then friends, then small jobs, then big jobs, then pets, then children of my own—I wasn’t the center of my world anymore. Others were. And I certainly didn’t have time to worry about little-old-me when I needed to be focusing on them!

And when my faith in Christ grew to the point where I realized I needed to put God at the center, not myself or others—well, forget shy! Who has time for that when you’re living for the One, the Lord, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End?

Today, my soul is thriving because my energy is focused on God and loving others instead of being all wrapped up in myself. That was my ticket out of shyness.

Today, my soul is thriving because my energy is focused on God and loving others instead of being all wrapped up in myself. That was my ticket out of shyness. Click To Tweet

Of course, not everyone is shy because they are self-focused. That was just my experience. But looking around me, I’ve noticed a theme. Focusing outward, not inward, is often the key to success—or at least perseverance. Churches that are focused inward crumble… until they begin to focus outward, live and reach beyond their own walls, and start to soar and grow for God. People who are ill but rally the strength to care for others end up achieving an ability to do and be beyond their pain or infirmity.

Focusing outward, not inward, is often the key. Click To Tweet

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the early church in Corinth, knew how important accountability in one’s personal faith journey could be. And he knew the Corinthians needed to focus on Christ to get through their struggles and adversity.

As he wrote, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it” (2 Corinthians 5:6-9 NIV).

When our goal is to please God, to be acceptable to God, that’s our focus—not worrying about ourselves or our shortcomings. It’s about God.

For me, concentrating on God instead of self has made all the difference.

Do your insecurities or self-worth issues get in the way of being all you can for God? Pray on this, and ask God to help you push your gaze outward.

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