I have another confession to make. I sometimes find group dynamics challenging. There have been times in the past few weeks when I have just wanted to cry or slap someone or scream out loud or perhaps most cowardly of all, slink quietly away so that no one would notice. And this was in a small group of people that I would call my friends. Why?
For the most part, I am a nice person, a quiet person, a patient person. I am not an extrovert and seldom naturally command the attention in a room. In fact, I sometimes feel quite inadequate and invisible when trying to be a leader or when I interact in a group. And yet, I know that who I am and what I have to say or contribute is often very valuable. But I usually will not force my voice to be heard, nor do something to make my presence acknowledged. I prefer it when people willingly listen and engage with me and offer their attention because they want to, not because I demand it. I detest manipulation and coercion and try not to participate in it.
So it is difficult for me to sit back and be ignored in a group when I see others vying for attention - making loud noises and smart comments and being silly and talking about themselves. And it is even more difficult to see the group follow the loud ones, the demanding ones, the forceful and vocal ones, just because they assert themselves and elbow to the front of the attention span queue. I am at a loss in these situations. At first I got annoyed and bitter. Then I thought I should do something instead of just sitting in a corner seething or being hurt, so I threw my voice and antics in with the rest of them. I hated it. I was participating in that which I had no respect for and the reward was empty. So I retreated back to the corner and waited. Sometimes it seems that nice polite girls finish last.
I tried a third tactic and that was telling someone how I felt. I really just wanted to point out unhealthy patterns I saw, but I don't think it was all that helpful because as the words left my mouth, I realised how incredibly judgemental and negative they sounded. So I am now on plan number four. I am simply asking God to help me let it go. I am determined to be myself and to interact with people honestly and lovingly, and to let the rest go. I sat in a group this week and observed someone interrupt my conversation with a friend and then proceed to exclude me from the interaction. I heard people turn the topic of conversation to themselves over and over again and wondered if I ever did that. Probably. And I let it go.
I have decided that I value interaction and attention and relationship and affection and responses of all sorts that are freely given, much more than any I can coerce or manipulate or finagle out of people. I may be ignored more than the loud ones. I may end up last in the attention queue. But I don't necessarily want to be first. There are a lot of things more important than first. I want to be someone who is content with who they are and not have my value fluctuate with how others treat me. I want to have integrity. I want others to know that I can be counted on to be faithful even when it costs me something. I want to become more unselfish. I want the things that last, and most of the time, that means I won't come in first. Because for the most part, good things don't come fast or easy or get flashy attention. And I'm okay with that.
This is a small group of raspberries on my patio table, exhibiting perfect group dynamics.