Last year a group of moms in our church had a weekly meeting where we could get together with our kids and let them play at our feet while we did a Bible study. We discussed the fruits of the Spirit over the course of the year:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
On the day we discussed self-control, we considered whether it maybe meant not just controlling in the sense of holding back, but in the sense of taking action as well. People often talk, for example, of having self-control over what they eat - which generally means restraint. Or self-control in the sense of not hitting someone when you're angry. But maybe, it was suggested, it means forcing ourselves to do things we don't necessarily want to do, rather than just not doing things we do want to do. Maybe, for example, it would include forcing ourselves to talk with people and carry a conversation despite this not being something we're generally comfortable with.
I've thought about that a lot since then. I think I've come a long way over the past two or three years. I still have a long way to go - I always will, in some area or another - but I've discovered a sense of self-confidence that was most definitely lacking in prior years. I've become better at initiating and carrying conversation. I've become less easily intimidated, less sensitive, more calm, okay with the fact that not everyone is going to like me. So maybe I'm less likely to be thought of as being stuck-up now (or maybe I'm more likely - eek!), but I've little doubt that other perceptions have risen up to take its place.
With that in mind, I find myself wondering - does it matter what others think of us? I grew up hearing that it doesn't - forget what they say, you know yourself, just ignore them, they're wrong about you, it doesn't matter what other people think.
But why do they think those things about us? And if that's the perception we're giving off - regardless of how true it is - shouldn't we care? Shouldn't we do something to change the way we come off? Why are we generally thought of as being [fill in the blank] - selfish, spoiled, hypocritical, self-righteous, callous, uncaring, stuck-up, whatever - despite not seeing those things in ourself? Maybe we should care what others think after all.
Forgive the rambliness and lack of clarity of these thoughts...I'm not sure where exactly I'm going with them. They're just some thoughts I've been pondering over the past few months. Now, to figure out what to do with them...the hardest part being, I suppose, figuring out just what others' perceptions of me are in the first place.