I started laughing to myself the other day because someone in my Bible Study shared exactly what I was feeling (and probably everyone else in the group).
She shared how she had been feeling socially awkward lately. She went on to say how she felt like she didn’t even know how to act in public anymore.
It was like an “ah ha“ moment for me. "That’s it!! I am socially awkward!!!"
I have been feeling the same way. I share too much, not enough, the wrong things, I go too deep, and then other times I feel like it’s an outer body experience not knowing what in the world I just said....I think to myself, “That doesn’t even make sense, why did you say that?!?”
I had another “ah ha” moment last night while I was watching The Shawshank Redemption. If you haven’t seen this movie, watch it. It’s one of my favorites. This particular scene was the part where Red (Morgan Freeman) was reflecting on Brooks’ inability to make it out in the real world once he was a free man. Brooks had been incarcerated for 50 years when he was finally released into civilization but he couldn’t make it because he had become, what Red called, “institutionalized.”
Institutionalized is when someone becomes apathetic and dependent after a long period in an institution.
Red said it best in the movie, “These walls are funny. First you hate ’em. Then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.”
Quarantine, isolation, social distancing can all lead to an institutionalized mentality. Especially if you are working from home and the four walls are all you see. For me, I have spent more time than I personally would like to at home. It's not that I don't like my home. I do! I love my home! But my extroverted self is struggling. And now my extroverted self is struggling in a whole new way because anytime my extroverted self finally gets outside these walls I start feeling uncivilized and, well, just plain awkward!
Someone said it is because we have muscle memory and when we no longer do a certain activity, we forget how to function when that activity comes up again.
Although there is truth to muscle memory, the information we retain about repeated activities is actually stored in the brain. The mind is a powerful thing. Your thoughts are a powerful thing. So we need to tend to it.
So here are a few things to help train your brain.
Renew your mind.
There are many verses in the Bible reiterating this command...be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2), have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), set your mind on things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5). Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is any excellence, anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).
There is a battle going on for your mind so be careful with idle time. Anytime Satan gets the chance he will try his hardest to make you feel unworthy and devalued. These are lies from the enemy. See them for what they are and replace them with truth of who God says you are. The world needs you. You have been gifted with talents and gifts that only you can contribute to making this world a better place. Train your brain to identify the lies and replace it with truth!
Rest in Christ.
It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can be changed people. We can not do this on our own nor were we meant to. This is the Good News! Christ came to bring light and life and rest. We don't need to perform. We are fully accepted in Him. And the more we get to know Him the more we want to make much of Him. More of Him in the world and less of me.
Talk! Talk to someone (preferably in person). The only way we will avoid those embarrassing moments is if we are practicing getting out in the world an engaging. This is what we were created for. We are meant to continue what God started by contributing to society and create image-bearers. We can still socialize in a very respectful and safe way. We need each other. Don't give up getting together.
Repetition is key. The more you do it, the more it becomes part of your very nature. A habit is defined as a way of behaving that is repeated so often it no longer involves conscious thought. Let's create healthy spiritual habits of getting into the Word, knowing truth, and then going out into the world and being a light in the darkness.
Don't become institutionalized. This is not God's will for you. Christ came to set you free. Renew, Rest, Re-engage, Repeat!