ABOUT BEING UNFRIENDLY
Proverbs 18: An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends… That’s the NIV, and the ESV says….”Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” I don’t think this is a condemnation of people who think of themselves as introverts, only those who use their introversion as an excuse to be selfish. Extroverts who are selfish are selfish in extroverted ways.
When I was a teen-ager one of the Elders in my church gave me a small part time job in his retail men’s clothing store. One day they even allowed me to serve on the floor and wait on customers. Now, I had met mean people before, had some street smarts from living in Newark, NJ, and had been in enough fights to have a certain wariness. I had never been mistreated, that I remember, by people I was trying to help. I sympathize with people in retail, because on that particular day my ignorance in being able to respond accurately and quickly to a customer got me cussed out royally, by the customer.
All of my senses told me to get ready to fight, but I am sure the customer thought it his right to verbally abuse me. I was supposed to be there to serve him and I wasn’t doing it well because I just didn’t know the answers to all of his questions. I still didn’t like it, and it is obvious I still remember it.
As a pastor most people are nice to me, at least once they find out I am a pastor, and then of course once my identity is revealed I have to be nice to them too. We both know they have to be nice to me or else they will be struck by lightning. Well, not really, but sometimes I like to think that would or should be the case.
God has spent years training me about my selfishness, and the Holy Spirit has worked many hours, days, and years on my tendency toward resentment, bitterness, and desire for revenge. Sometimes my unfriendliness is a symptom of my moodiness, as in, I am in a bad mood and therefore justified in being brusk, officious, silent, and giving off an aura of latent hostility. Mess with me at your peril!
Evidently God feels free to mess with me, he never seems to get intimidated by my surliness, and actually seems to take pleasure in humiliating me in just those moments. At the moment of my impending violence, the moments of my revenge fantasies playing out in my mind are often complicated by an inept ability to walk, talk, think, drive, eat, put on clothes, fix mechanical objects, use tools, or remember where I put my keys and wallet, et cetera. People are more forgiving of a clutz who is friendly than one who seems threatening, for him there is only mocking laughter and disdain.
Unfriendliness is related to being selfish. I am too busy for you, don’t take up my time, don’t interrupt me, don’t delay me, and please don’t need me. I hate it when people need me, I only want them to be consistently available when I need them, and I expect them to be able to actually do something about my need, not just sympathize. I don’t really empathize with other people, I have to work hard at faking sympathy, but God made me a pastor so what else can I do?
He must have done this because He knows how selfish I am. It is apparent that He thought marriage would expose a lot of my selfishness, and having children really smacked the truth of my selfishness in my face. No one really told me I would have to share things with my kids. Is it wrong to eat ice cream in the pantry so they won’t see it, since there isn’t enough for everyone? My wife thought so, who is the evil exposer of much of my selfishness.
Upon joining a gym I found out that some people use gyms because they don’t really like people, but sort of pretend they are sociable by working out in proximity to others. Some men walk around butt naked in the locker room without a trace of vulnerabilty. These are the kind of guys who, when you say, “good morning!” They say, “what’s good about it?” Guys who when you try to start a conversation look right through you as if you were something they just rubbed off their shoe.
“Man,” I think, “he is pretty unfriendly and selfish.” One day when riding an exercise bike beside one particular man who was probably one of the sourest people I have ever been around just blurted out how he wished he were dead. I realized how deep the saddness went inside a man that seemed a hollow shell and I realized my own self-protectiveness prevented me from seeing his pain.
Hard exteriors and crusty shells, unfriendly and selfish attitudes, often hide a moaning heart. Sinful yes, as my selfishness has been. Crafted by pride, mortared by spite, sustained by defensiveness, and explained and justified to ourselves by our fears. We break out against all sound judgment.
Friendliness in itself is not holiness, it is sometimes a mask for hidden agendas and a palliative for a conscience that hides other iniquities. “I may be a monster, but at least I am nice to strangers and puppies,” the hedonist and serial killer might say. However, in the kingdom of Christ selfishness is not allowed, it is a sin. Unfriendliness as an expression of that selfishness is anti-Christ, it is a putting off of people not a welcome to them. It is a symptom of a wretched and nasty heart. It is an embarrassing thing to realize that if Jesus treated us as we treat others, at times, he would never have heard our desperate cry for mercy, for forgiveness, for love. He has always listened, always stops on his way to somewhere else to heal the blind, the deaf, the cripple, and the broken when they cry. As he listens now, for those of us who cry to be rescued from our selfish and unfriendly hearts and ways.