Dealing With Awkward Greetings!
The first thing she said to me in a rather accusatory tone was, “Well, where is your tan? I thought you were going to the beach?” What a way to start a Sunday morning, right?
Years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to let that awkward greeting go. Instead, I would have had a bit of an internal meltdown. My immediate response would have sounded something like this: “How dare she?” “Who does she think she is?” Truth be told, I might have even wanted to give this retort: “Well, if you weren’t always laying in a tanning bed, you wouldn’t glow golden brown either.” Thankfully, my lips stayed sealed, but I still have to process through those unintentional, yet awkward jabs to this day.
Another greeting that made me squirm for years was when that sweet ‘grandma’ type would pat me on the cheek and say, “Do you feel alright? You look a little tired and pale.” Granted, I may have look tired on some of those Sunday mornings, but it seemed to always be said on the days when I actually felt really good. Lots of energy, a good night’s sleep, no fighting with the kids – or even the husband. Ugh! Over time, I learned to grin and say in the most cheerful way possible: “Actually, I’m feeling pretty good today. Maybe I should have put on more blush!” The moment of confrontation passed, and the caring soul was comforted to know that I was truly OK. I refrained from the temptation to look in the nearest mirror and simply chose to remind myself that I am typically pale. Or, maybe it was just the lighting!
What about those awkward greetings when you are faced with exchanging pleasantries with someone that looks faintly familiar. The customary “Nice to meet you” doesn’t work when you aren’t sure if you’ve met them before or if they just look like someone else you know. I’ve heard some great responses for these circumstances like “You look so familiar. Have we met before?” Or, “My name is __________, but I’m struggling to remember your name.” The conversation may not be the most graceful, but it does hand off the exchange to the other person who hopefully can give a clue to any former connection.
Between weddings, funerals, holidays gatherings and community events it is easy for people to pick you out of a crowd. It’s not that people are talking about the pastor’s wife so much, but there is a curiosity of who the pastor is married to - when he is front and center. With large numbers, it is easy for others to remember you, one person, than you to remember their name out of dozens or even hundreds. Embracing any short-lived attention in these social settings helps in building relationship bridges rather than allowing these brief moments of celebrity to intimidate and overwhelm.
Early in our marriage, my husband failed to introduce me several times at one particular event. As the evening wore on I felt more and more like a shadow rather than his wife. I later confronted him on his lack of social graces, and he was instantly apologetic. He had personally gotten caught up in the continual motion of greeting individuals that knew him – but he had no clue who they were. Talk about awkward. So, after that night we made an agreement. If he knew the individual, but couldn’t recall their name, he would either avoid introducing me (thus, letting me know he was clueless) or he would say, “This is my wife, Annette.” Once again, the pressure of introductions was then either deflected or handed off to the others to respond to.
How about the moments of greeting when you have no clue what is socially acceptable. A handshake, a hug or maybe even offering a cheek for a kiss? When you get thinking about it, greetings can be way too complicated at times - especially for those who are a bit introverted! Thankfully, the churches where we have served have graciously allowed me my personal space. In fact, during the first year at our current church, I was sweetly teased about not being a hugger like my husband. This gentle joking continued for months, so on Christmas Sunday morning it was announced that I had a gift for everyone as they left the church – a Hershey’s Kiss. I don’t remember for sure, but I think I got (and gave) a couple hugs that day as well!
Those uncomfortable moments are long gone now, and I can easily give a hug (or a shoulder if necessary). But, I did cherish hearing someone call my name this past Sunday. Actually, they called rather loudly in the back of the sanctuary before the service began. I walked over to this older gentleman to see what he needed. He just grinned and said, “I just wanted to hug you today!” From there I got a priceless bear hug, and I gave back a loving squeeze. What an unexpected blessing to my morning!
To this day, my tanned skin fades quickly and I am always a bit pale. Thankfully, God has helped me to get some ‘tough skin’ and not take awkward greetings too personally. He’s helped me to go way beyond my cautious nature and has given me the courage and desire to share genuine love with others – even those I may be challenged to simply like some days.
There will always be uncomfortable moments, careless words and times when you leave a social setting whispering to your husband, “Who was that?” We’re all on a crazy and unpredictable journey of learning how to love each other with a gracious and Godly love. Part of that love is finding ways to connect with people that will speak to their heart. Learning ways to let them know you care and allowing them into your personal space and heart really is worth the risk - and any anxious or uncomfortable moments.
Paul encourages us to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." Is there a grudge that needs to be forgiven? Who are you running from, and is it time you embraced them as a child of God? What barrier is God asking you to remove so that you can more effectively greet others with His love and grace? "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Romans 12:10-11
PS If only I could greet you today, I'd give you a hug and a Hershey Kiss. Know today, that you are loved!