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Daily Meditations

The Beauty of Shyness

July 11th, 2012

The Beauty of Shyness

There is something beautiful about shyness, even though in our culture shyness is not considered a virtue. On the contrary, we are encouraged to be direct, look people straight in the eyes, tell them what is on our minds, and share our stories without a blush.

But this unflinching soul-baring, confessional attitude quickly becomes boring. It is like trees without shadows. Shy people have long shadows, where they keep much of their beauty hidden from intruders’ eyes. Shy people remind us of the mystery of life that cannot be simply explained or expressed. They invite us to reverent and respectful friendships and to a wordless being together in love.

Deeply Rooted in God

Trees that grow tall have deep roots. Great height without great depth is dangerous. The great leaders of this world—such as St. Francis, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.,—were all people who could live with public notoriety, influence, and power in a humble way because of their deep spiritual rootedness.

Without deep roots we easily let others determine who we are. But as we cling to our popularity, we may lose our true sense of self. Our clinging to the opinions of others reveals how superficial we are. We have little to stand on. We have to be kept alive by adulation and praise. Those who are deeply rooted in the love of God can enjoy human praise without being attached to it.

Being Humble and Confident

As we look at the stars and let our minds wander into the many galaxies, we come to feel so small and insignificant that anything we do, say, or think seems completely useless. But if we look into our souls and let our minds wander into the endless galaxies of our interior lives, we become so tall and significant that everything we do, say, or think appears to be of great importance.

We have to keep looking both ways to remain humble and confident, humorous and serious, playful and responsible. Yes, the human being is very small arid very tall. It is the tension between the two that keeps us spiritually awake.

Friends as Reminders of Our Truth

Sometimes our sorrow overwhelms us so much that we no longer can believe in joy. Life just seems a cup filled to the brim with war, violence, rejection, loneliness, and endless disappointments.

At times like this we need our friends to remind us that crushed grapes can produce delicious wine. It might be hard for us to trust that any joy can come from our sorrow, but when we start taking steps in the direction of our friends’ advice, even when we are not yet able to feel the truth of what they say, the joy that seemed to be lost may be found again and our sorrow may become livable.

~From Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey:  A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith