Friday, June 13, 2008

Overdoing It..

Of any of the things that I've seen, heard, visited, tasted, felt, toured, explored, or otherwise experienced since moving here, the best -- by a country mile -- is Community Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational church that I started going to this past Easter.

I don't consider myself a born-again Christian, but I definitely was a *latent* Christian for years. I explored a few churches in Massachusetts (go-around number 1), New Jersey (while waiting to start OCS), Pensacola, Arlington, and then Virginia Beach but in each case wound up getting discouraged somehow and sort of backsliding away. The reasons range from the dullness of services to the attitudes of parishioners (believe me, I've seen churches in the South where what you're wearing seems to matter more than what you're feeling inside your left ribcage). I checked out a few others here before coming to CCF, where, almost from the first minute, I knew. The whole place just has a very genuine warmth and a very down-to-earth feel. The dress code ranges from torn jeans and cut-off t-shirts all the way to suits and ties, and no one cares. This place is all about The Message, and I love it.

One of the best friends I've made there is a guy named DS (actually, his whole family, who has been going there for 25 years, sort of took me in under their wing). One term DS introduced me to a while ago -- one I'd never heard before but have since sort of tacked on to the mental lexicon -- is overwelcome.

"We want to be careful not to overwelcome you," he told me early on, and explained how the church had made that mistake in the past and had driven away newly-arrived prospective members.

The term begged no further explanation. It wasn't done to me, I *got* what he meant and I've been careful not to do it to people even newer than myself at CCF.

I know the term seems a little bit counterintuitive (after all, welcoming tends to be a good thing) but it makes sense when you think about how it might overwhelm someone when they're just trying to blend into the scenery and soak it all in at first before making a rather big decision.

I was thinking about the term the other day when in a retail sort of situation where I saw someone being overhelpful to the point of annoyance. I'm sure this has happened to you before -- you go into a store or other such establishment, and someone with presumably good intentions insists on *helping* you even despite your mild but repeated protestations of, "It's okay, I'm good" or "We're just browsing here."

It doesn't have to be limited to retail situations. For instance, 9 times out of 10, when I stop and ask a stranger for directions, I just want to keep it super-general. Maybe I just have a short attention span, but by the time you get to the 9th intersection where, "It's a right, it's a left, but a right at the next one," you've already lost me. Really, I just want you to point me towards my destination and we're good.

And while on the topic of over-words, I want to conclude the thought by talking about overbearing, which may be my single-biggest pet peeve in social situations. If you would define (as I would) social skills as simply "the ability to make others feel comfortable around you" the first place to start, I believe, is on not being overbearing. To the extent that I can, I always try this -- always offering someone an 'out' if they're not interested in what's going on, suggesting something once but not going overboard with it if it doesn't seem to gain traction, and just generally leaving well-enough alone when it's appropriate.

From an early age, I've noticed, but not understood, people who fail to heed this. It's like, will your life be any qualitatively different if I do or don't go to said event? If I do or don't go in for another round when I'm tired and ready to leave? If I feel like going to the bar to watch the fight?

Trust me, it won't.

So when I put things out to people, I try, at least, to always do it in a very neutral way, as in "Hey, we're going to head over to this festival, it'd be great if you can make it, but if not, no big deal, we'll talk later."

Because just going off of a quick application of the Golden Rule, which seems to apply to nearly all major and minor religions, it's a good idea not to badger or annoy.

In other words, don't overdo it.

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