Teaching the homeschool choir has been challenging for me, especially learning how to handle the high school girls. One day, attitudes were running wild – one group of girls acting superior to the rest, and another group whispering and glancing snidely toward the first group. I finally had to stop the class and give a little lecture before I felt we could go any further.
During the odd years that I attended Christian school, I must have had the idea that everybody loved me because I was so quick to show off how much I knew. Think about it – that’s the way parents act when they brag about their kids to others or when they look at homework to see how good it is. In high school, I hadn’t realized yet that the rest of the world couldn’t care less. Looking back on it, I actually think everyone despised me. It took me a really long time to start thinking about the world in terms of others instead of myself.
So, I decided to be painfully honest with my choir girls. I told them how I cringe when I think about those days. I told them how I don’t want anything in my life that reminds me of that era. My husband picked out a nice pair of shoes at a shoe store the other day, and I liked them, but I didn’t buy them. Can you guess why? They were in the same style that I would have worn 17 years ago, and I didn’t want to remind myself of my teenage years every time I put them on. I am ashamed of myself for having flaunted my knowledge.
So after I embarrassed myself in front of my class, explaining why they would hate me today if I were their age now, we had a little talk about always striving to make others feel good and comfortable. It isn’t about who’s the smartest, most well-raised homeschooler in the building. If you have been homeschooled, you probably have the self-esteem to handle boosting someone else’s ego (sometimes at the expense of your own). Go out of your way to make the other person feel valued, like his opinion counts for something, instead of always assuming that everyone is interested in what you have to say or how much you know. Homeschoolers get used to needing to prove that they are better than public-schoolers, and we take this attitude into life with us. Not only is this attitude going to make friend-finding difficult for you, it could totally impede your ability to be a successful witness.
Here’s a tip if you are heading off to college: on the first day of class, get to each class early and find a seat. Make eye contact with people as they come through the door and smile. Look for people who look scared, and make an effort to make them feel more comfortable. I once moved my bag closer to myself (freeing up more space at my table in the process) after seeing a woman come through the classroom door, looking for an unintimidating place to sit. She took the gesture as intended, and sat with me for the entire semester. We are still friends on Facebook to this day, even though I haven’t seen her since that semester seven years ago.
In general, nobody else will care about you except for you, at least until you form a relationship with someone. Be one of the few people on this earth to place the comfort of a stranger above that of yourself, and you will find yourself surrounded by friends.