I have been far removed from being a teenager for some time (I won’t share how long); yet, recently I was reminded of the subtle cruelties found within the circles of seemingly good girls in cliques and the fragrant spikes they wrap around themselves like velvet-covered barbed wire for anyone who dares to try to enter their groups. We label this time as a phase, blaming hormones and growing pains; oftentimes not realizing this pain can grow well into womanhood, affecting a person’s sense of self.
I witnessed a pair of girls, not being outright rude to their peer, but not being kind either. Their indifference was a clear pain to the young lady who walked up to the pair and asked about their summer thus far. The young lady was blown off. They answered the young lady with little eye contact and with mumbling a one word answer before the pair went about taking selfies, even moving out of the way so the young lady would not be in the picture. I could tell by the wounded expression of the young lady that this was not the first time she had been disregarded and slighted. I wanted to walk up to the pair and rattle their senses… to ask them, “How hard would it be for you to show kindness?”
I ended up behind the young lady in line as we were getting ice cream. I couldn’t help but ask her, “I am sorry those girls were so mean. Are they always like that?”
“They are not mean. They just are not nice to me,” she said with a shrug. I could tell she was trying to be strong, but her eyes told me not to ask her another question or she might cry.
The young lady’s words stayed with me all afternoon. “They are not mean. They just are not nice to me.” Having been in ministry, I heard this similar comment from folks who had enough courage to step into church, but they were not made to feel welcome once inside the doors. One man confided in me on his way out, “More strangers welcomed me at the local bar last night than these stuffed shirts did this morning. This place isn’t for me.” In the regulars’ defense, with so many people coming and going (and with different service times), they often don’t know who is new and who has been attending for years. So, folks just became accustomed to being in their own space and cliques. They were not mean… and they are not overly nice.
Jesus calls us to serve. Jesus calls us to be disciples. (Matthew 28:19-20, John 14:15, Philippians 2:4.)
I have visited many churches. Some welcome folks better than others. I was on staff at one church where they encouraged members to sit in different spots each week so we would have the privilege of meeting new people and have conversations with folks we typically didn’t converse with during the week. Oftentimes we get in a rut, where we think that pew is “our pew,” much like the seat around our kitchen table is “our chair.” This is not kingdom building thinking; rather, this is closed door thinking.
Some churches have congregation members wearing nametags (paper tags for guests / laminated tags kept on a board for members), some churches have a dedicated moment in the service to turn and greet one another; other services take a moment for attendees to find someone they don’t know and introduce themselves. There are many ideas, these are just a few I have witnessed which work well for these congregations. I overheard a gentleman once say, “Hi, my name is Gerald. I may have already met you before, and if so, I apologize. And you may have been attending here for years. Even so, I just wanted to introduce myself because I am horrible with names.” Perfect. This includes everyone and excludes no one.
As Believers, we are called to take our Christian discipleship beyond of the solid walls of our church building and into the mission field of our hurting world… into the ice cream stores and down the halls of our workplaces: Everywhere we go we are called to take Jesus and His message with us; to “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
I wonder sometimes if Jesus doesn’t want to rattle our senses… to ask us, “How hard would it be for you to show kindness?” We can sure come across as selective, snotty Christians if we are not careful… not mean, but not nice. Those who search for Jesus will not draw nearer to Him by being nearer to us if we do not become more generous with kindness… with getting out of our cliques and comfort zones… with moving beyond ourselves and truly seeing and reaching out to others in Christ-like love. Every day, in everyday situations.
As 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
SGLY, dear readers.
(Smile, God Loves You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. You can find her newly released books, “H.E.R.O. Faith” and “Bad Disciples” on Amazon. To submit feedback on SGLY, please contact news@ amtrib. com. Follow Chartier on Facebook: facebook. com/ tiffanychartier and Twitter: @tiffanychartier