I had a friend and mentor say to me many years ago, “The hardest door to get through is my own.” That surprised me because he seemed to have more readiness to engage strangers than I ever imagined I could have.
Now I am him. Others think I find it easy to talk to new people. For me, it is easier than it was but the hardest door to get through is still my own.
I remember the conversation in my basement office with my friend back in the 1980s. He went on to say, “I marvel at the work of grace the Lord has done in me on that.” Now I get it. Me too.
I have several things I learned along the way.
I Am Not Afraid
It is in the wording. Fear does not define me. I have fear but I am not afraid. I still feel fear when I approach a stranger to talk. But I often do it anyway because I am not afraid, I just feel fear until I get started. The fear goes away instantly until the next time.
It never helps me to marinate in the fear of anticipation. It does help me to set fear aside for a few brief moments and pick up the phone or walk across the room. I have never realized my worst fears yet. So what is that about? It isn’t like being afraid of all dogs because one bit me once. Actually, I have had two dog bites from random dogs over my lifetime and I still love dogs. I am yet to have my first human bite. I still like humans so why should I experience fear about talking to one?
New Friends Are Not Strangers
One of our sons inherited my fear gene. We put a poster on his door with a picture of a little boy staring in the face of a big toad on the ground. The caption said, “A stranger is only a new friend you haven’t met yet.” Perhaps I learned more from his poster than he did but few would think either of us are afraid of new friends now.
New friends don’t bite. I could count on one hand the times I have experienced disrespect when approaching a potential new friend. Sometimes I get ignored but I have never suffered a broken nose from a slammed door.
I had a young Fuller Brush man (remember them?) tell me that when someone closed the door on him he yelped out, “Ow Ow! My foot my foot. You hurt my foot!” And sometimes the lady would re-open the door to apologize and he would go on with his sales pitch. Tricky. Not advisable.
Another friend, when confronted by a closed door, was taught to say, “Package!” Then when the door opened he was to replace his last name with “Package” and say, “Hi! I’m Joe Package.” Really? Why bother with tricks that probably will get you a broken nose?
I am neither for or against door-to-door contacting. It is a much better way to meet new friends than sitting at home doing nothing. My focus is not the door but the conversation. I saturate the conversation I intend to have with good will.
If the person I approach in the lobby of the church won’t carry on a conversation, that is their choice to turn away from my good will. If the person I approach on the street or in the check out line doesn’t return my greeting and initial attempt to start a conversation I have lost nothing.
I will only multiply my good conversations if I start them. Others have as much reticence as me and I do them a favour by speaking first.
Count Conversations Before Conversions
I learned a key point from a famous preacher a long time ago. He was the genesis of thousands of converts. He said that the number of people that came to Christ under his influence was directly proportional to the number of people he talked to. Others counted the conversions; he counted the conversations. What a life changing concept!
It is unlikely that you or I will ever get as many positive responses as we wish. But the more we hurry through the negative responses the closer we are to finding the positive ones.
Think of it like searching for Easter eggs. The kid who searches faster gets more eggs. The eggs are there but if the child thinks she won’t find any she won’t look hard enough.
When a conversation doesn’t start after you initiate contact, try about three times with your best smile then simply move on if nothing starts up. Find someone else. Don’t ever go sit in the corner and mope.
Proverbs 18:24 has different possible renderings. I like the concept in this one from the NKJV, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” And the time honoured Golden Rule from Matthew 7:12, “… do to others what you would have them do to you …” only works if you are the doer — not the other person.
It is like a game of tag. Nothing happens until you agree that you are “It!”