Failing as a Southerner

Failing as a Southerner

I concede. My friends who were shocked by my choice of the South as a place to settle were right. The first year and a half that I lived here – unemployed, doing freelance writing from home, building connections in my community (with nothing more taxing than meeting people for coffee at The Grind), unleashing my long-suppressed gift of interior decorating – it all worked for me. I was nice. I was polite. People liked me.

Then I got a job. With it came the pressure of deadlines. My latent commandant tendencies, like a sleeping cat, ready to awaken at any moment and pounce with claws extended, came alive. Action beckoned.

Unencumbered by the typical Southern desire to please people, I quickly put an end to my officemate’s reponses:  “You’re fine. True, Graduation is in two days and the printer did suggest last week as the deadline, but if you want to send in your information tomorrow, that’s OK. I’m more than happy to stay up all night typing it for you and I’m sure the printer wouldn’t mind missing a couple nights of sleep either.”

My mild-mannered garb thrown aside, I turned into that person I try my whole life to squelch – the Field Marshal. I set deadlines. I moved deadlines up a week for the chronically late. I hounded people. And I got everything to the printer exactly on schedule.

But what was the fallout? For sure, my secret identity has been revealed and there’s no hiding anymore. I could interpret the looks. “Well, bless her heart. She can’t help it. She’s from the . . .  (voice turning to whisper and eyes cast aside) . . . North.”

But did I hurt anyone’s feelings?

One of my lifelong challenges is how to express my gifts and let them shine without steamrolling over people. In other words, how do I be who God created me to be in the power of the Holy Spirit? Have you figured that out or do you struggle along with me?

Sometimes, it’s the other person’s problem. I mean, callously disregarding deadlines is sort of (gasp!) inconsiderate, isn’t it? But more often than not, it’s me who needs to change. Impatience turns into rudeness, which calls for me to confess and ask forgiveness.

I moved to the South hoping that some of the Southern niceness will rub off on me. I feel like I’ve failed. My sweet Southern friends, with their cultural bent toward extending grace, will try to assure me that I haven’t. They may even say that they need someone like me. I’m not so sure.

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