I don't like crowds much. If I find myself in a large group of people, say at a Conference like the one I'm going to attend in April, that is one thing. The expectations are straightfoward. I'm going there to hear the speakers, and if I happen to chat with someone else attending, then that is nice. One thing that is wonderful about the Body of Christ is that I can meet someone at such an event and instantly know we have something in common, and we can chat like we've known each other forever, because we are united in Christ, and what we believe about Him. So, those kind of crowds, I'm okay with.
However, the other kind of crowd is found in the venue of a "ladies meeting," especially when I have to enter a room and find a spot at a table (I don't think I've gotten over the fear of approaching the high school cafeteria table, hoping that I'm welcome to sit down), I'm always apprehensive. I have thought of this over the years, and it has occurred to me why.
I like to get to know people. I like to find out lots of things about them; their childhood, significant moments in their lives, likes and dislikes, how they feel about this and that. In short, I find it easier to know a few people well than a whole host of people on a less deep level. So, if I walk into a room of forty women, I'm immediately overwhelmed, because I know that there is no way I can get to know all of those women on a personal level, and I must stick to small talk.
I thought about that scenario when I read this passage from C.J. Mahaney's book Humility. He discusses how encouraging others can build humility in us. Because we focus on others and encourage them, we think less upon ourselevs. This encouragement, though, needs to be informed:
To effectively encourage or edify a person I must know something about that individual, which comes through studying that person, asking questions, and carefully listening. That's what we'll do if we're trying to truly serve others with our words and not simply impress them. From what we learn about others, we're able to answer this question: What do they need now? Is it counsel? Exhortation? Warning? Comfort? Forgiveness? All of the above?
I agree with that. I know from my own experience that sometimes, my well-meaning and wise husband will offer exhortation when at that moment I need comfort. I think that's a man thing, though. Sometimes women are heavy on the comfort and too light on the exhortation. But learning to know the difference is something that takes time. We have to be willing to take time with people, and that may mean taking down boundaries. But even in that activity of lowering our boundaries, we can foster humility.