That’s advice I often heard growing up. It never helped; it just made matters worse. And yet, if you’ve been suffering from shyness as I did years ago, maybe that saying could be taken as encouragement from God rather than an awkward request from someone. It’s a little bit like what God said to a reluctant Moses when He promised to put words in his mouth (see Ex. 4:15).
I would have liked to have had words put in my mouth! People knew me during my childhood and teenage years as a very shy guy. I desperately wanted to be more confident. I had things to say, but it all felt trapped inside. I remember how requests to speak in front of others, even if for just a small group, brought waves of fear and a desire to run the other way. But when I began to practice Christian Science seriously as a young adult, the shyness disappeared. It didn’t just go away on its own as I grew up. My study and prayers in Christian Science made all the difference.
If shyness is something affecting you, a few lessons I learned from my study and prayers might be helpful.
First, I was learning that there really is a God I could trust in and understand better. It’s easy to say it. It’s another thing to feel it – a palpable sense that God, divine Love, really loves you. Speaking of angels, or God’s presence, Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “Oh, may you feel this touch, – it is not the clasping of hands, nor a loved person present; it is more than this: it is a spiritual idea that lights your path!” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 306). And I found that it is a path leading to confidence in God’s ability to guide, protect, and comfort us.
It’s common to hear it said that you need to love yourself before you can love others. My need was different. I needed to feel God’s love for me before I could love myself or others. That made all the difference. I didn’t need to be filled up with "me" or to become more self-centered. I needed to feel less self-centered. Actually knowing that there was a God caring for me, cherishing who I really was, enabled me to stop being preoccupied with what people were thinking about me. It also empowered me to begin to love others more.
I discovered that the more I reached out to love and help others, the more I felt God’s blessing to love more. I learned to reflect back the love I felt from God. Feeling His love and trusting in it enabled me to shift my focus away from myself and toward loving others.
I also learned that only God, divine Mind, had the right to judge me – not other people and not even myself. This was crucial because it felt as if everyone were judging me. And when I felt that critical jealousy, ridicule, or mean-spirited taunting, it was devastating. So I learned to ask myself, But what does God think of me? That was an amazing question. And I got such good answers, too! Knowing that God is infinite good and omnipresent Love, I saw He knew me only as His child, reflecting His intelligence, poise, and grace. Sometimes I had to ask myself that question repeatedly because I was continually conscious of what others were thinking. But holding to that divine Truth really made a difference.
As I stopped thinking that people had the power to rightfully judge me, I not only felt freer, I realized that I’d been judging them; I was thinking just as critically about them as I thought they might be thinking of me. That was a huge revelation. And I discovered that sometimes my judgments about others were simply wrong. Basically, I was learning to love more and judge less.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health, “In Christian Science mere opinion is valueless” (p. 341). I like to think that applies to all human opinions – mine or others’. If opinions are valueless, then they are powerless to harm.
All that matters is the love we feel from God and how we express that love. It takes courage – a lot of it. But it’s far better to find that courage and risk having your feelings hurt than to spend years in isolation. It’s a powerful motivation to remember that nothing feels better than feeling God’s love and taking that love to others. And with that motive comes Love’s tender guidance and support for every step you take in this direction. This is a discovery of your individuality and spirituality. After all, God is Life, and reflecting that Life is why we’re here. Or to put it another way, “Come on now, be who you are!”
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