From my 2013 Journal. I sprained my pinkie finger this week and had to tape it to the next finger to keep it stable and from feeling shooting pain anytime I bumped it. As I stood in church yesterday during a clapping song, I was conscious of how I had to restrict my hand motions in order to compensate.
All I could think about was what people would think if I just stood there and didn’t participate. Later I began to reflect:
#1 Why do I even think people are looking at me?
#2 If they are looking, are they judging me?
#3 Do they even care? Do I?
First of all, I suspect most people are doing the same thing I am—thinking more about themselves and what others are thinking of them if they act a certain way. And, yes, I think they’re judging—because I do it—judge people for their actions, that is. But so what if they judge or not? If they care or not?
More than feeling self-conscious, however, I think about my motive to set a good example. If I don’t clap, am I giving someone else permission not to participate in group worship? Do I hear a “should” in there somewhere? I want people to know why I’m not clapping. I can’t just stand there and not do it! Why not?
Claire Fontaine in Have Mother, Will Travel says,
Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind, don’t matter.
How profound! It’s past time to let this one go. My worship must be God-centered rather than others-focused.
As you well know, I’m a backrow Baptist. I will tell you that I witnessed said song to which clapping was done, and a very small minority participated. Neither did it occur to me to think a negative or positive thought. I enjoyed it, but didn’t participate. No reason…I just didn’t. Nor do I stand for the approximately 30 minutes of “worship” by music. I do fine for a while, but then I plop down. I’m not any less reverent because I sit. Should I be concerned what others think? I think not. Whatever others do is of no concern because there is usually a reason for their choices. I cannot get into their heads so it’s not a hill I wish to die on.
You know that I love you, and I share this as a loving friend. I’ve only heard wonderful comments about you and your extraordinary gift of hospitality and compassion. Maybe less are interested in your actions or lack of actions than you think. And if they are, I’m sure they are all positive thoughts.
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And yet … we were taught to think of others before ourselves, to always be careful what we said or did because someone else was watching, and they might not support our parents’ ministry and Africans would go to hell because of it (Lies everywhere there, but it’s what was said!). So, yeah, we were raised to be self-conscious, to fit in and do what others did. I love clappy and dancy worship songs, so I’ll be right in there moving with the beat (I’m so African!)
But I certainly won’t judge you for not joining in, because everyone worships in a different way. The Lord meets us when we’re dancing or clapping, or just sitting quietly with our hands in our laps. It’s all good.
One of the best things I’ve learned is that I don’t care what anyone else thinks of me. They aren’t the boss of me, only the Lord is, and that gives me freedom to be what He wants me to be. It gives me the freedom to just be me, and you know how good that feels! So yes, from time to time I stop and wonder if my actions are over the top for others, and then realize it doesn’t matter. They can judge and it’s their issue.
I have come a long way, Baby!
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Well said, Karen. I’ve had many of those thoughts through the years… I remember a quote I first heard from a friend here in Michigan years ago:
“we live our lives for an audience of One.”