WHEN I was a young person I used to hate going to parties and other social gatherings. I always felt out of place. My family was poor and so my clothes weren't always the best. But the real problem was that I didn't know what to say. I never felt more scared or lonely than I did in a room full of people.
One of the ``survival skills'' I learned was that people like to talk about themselves. So I became very good at ``interviewing'' them. This kept me from having to think of things to say, but it didn't really get rid of my fear. Still, I went along this way for some years, surviving social activities but not really enjoying them.
What helped me, at last, was a dialogue that Moses had with God. You may already know about Moses. He is the man who led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land. He had to go before Pharaoh, who was the king of Egypt, and tell him that God wanted him to let the Israelites leave Egypt. You would think that even before God chose him, Moses would have been pretty good at public speaking.
But he wasn't! The Bible tells us that when God said to Moses that he needed to speak to Pharaoh, Moses was not eager for the job. The book of Exodus records that he finally said, ``O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue'' (4:10). When I read that in the Bible, I thought, ``Yeah, I know just how you feel, Moses.'' But then I got zapped by God's reply in the next verse: ``Who hath made man's mouth?... have not I the Lord?'' (4:11) God was saying, ``I made you to be perfect, as I am, so how can you be telling Me that you don't know how to speak?''
That really gave me a lot to think about. By this time, I had learned that God made man in His likeness. That means you and I can do anything good because good comes from God. When we are exhibiting qualities like love, joy, peace, purity, and so forth, we are really expressing God. On the other hand, being stubborn, willful, angry, and scared isn't being like God at all.
From Christ Jesus' life, which is also described in the Bible, we learn that God is always present and that He loves all of us. So there really isn't any time or place where God won't be around to help us. As I began to understand this and to trust it, I started to see that I didn't need to be afraid of social situations. Instead of worrying about saying the wrong thing, I could silently pray to God and let Him guide me into conversations that were useful and fun.
From reading about the rest of Moses' life, which was pretty exciting, I learned the truth of something Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, says in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes, ``The human capacities are enlarged and perfected in proportion as humanity gains the true conception of man and God'' (p. 258). That's what happened to Moses, who became a very inspired speaker in all kinds of situations.
This can happen to us too. First, we can trust God to help us know what to say. But we can also adopt something Christ Jesus taught, which is that besides loving God, we also need to love each other. One way to do this is to look for one specific thing about each individual that you can love. Perhaps someone is joyful or has a good sense of humor or likes animals. You can take that and build your appreciation for the person on it, gradually broadening your view until you can see him or her with genuine love.
Since we are all children of God, there's no real reason for us not to get along. We all belong to the same family of God! When we see the people we meet in social settings in this light, we have no reason to be scared of them.
I should probably tell you how things worked out for me as I prayed in this way. It didn't happen overnight, but gradually I began to feel more and more comfortable with people. I also became good at public speaking and even appeared on television. I don't know if I'll ever be as eloquent as Moses or Christ Jesus, but I know for sure that I'm not tongue-tied with people anymore!