Is fear of awkwardness holding you back from forming cross-cultural friendships? If so, you’re not alone.
My friend Ryan quips that people (20-somethings and younger especially) seem to fear awkwardness more than anything else! I think this is true from what I’ve observed, and I know I often fear it in my own interactions!
But I think God loves awkwardness.
Well, when things get awkward (and I mean not because anyone has done something wrong, but just because neither of you exactly know what you’re doing), that means you are on the brink of greater closeness than before. And God works has chosen to do His transformational work in the context of close friendships!
When things get awkward, you’re pushed off balance, and in that moment you can choose to catch yourselves by stepping forward towards each other, or by stepping away.
Learn to love this feeling. It’s the feeling of anticipation—things are about to change, and depending on what you do in that moment, they can change for the better! Awkwardness means that you’re taking a risk. It means you’re engaging and connecting.
You know how to avoid awkwardness? Just avoid people, especially people who are different than you. Seal yourself off from them, and you’ll never feel awkward! But that is no way to live.
There have been many moments when I’m getting to know a new immigrant friend when an awkward silence will descend. “Oh, no!” I always think. “This is so awkward!” But I’ve learned to take a deep breath in that moment and allow the silence. What comes next is usually my new friend saying something at a deeper level than they’ve expressed before, or asking me a question with real meaning. Allowing a pause allows for deepening and for thoughtfulness. Leaving silent spaces allows the friendship room to grow.
Sometimes a new immigrant friend and I will misunderstand each other. My face turns red and I stammer and my heart races as I think, “Oh, no! Awkward!” But then we laugh and then we move on and now we share an embarrassing story together in our memories. Shared memories (even awkward ones) are what friendships are made of.
So I’m praying that you and I will press into our fear of awkwardness and learn to love awkward moments like God loves them. Because remember: awkwardness is an off-balance opportunity for you and your immigrant friend to take a one step closer to each other.