When he was a boy and was sent away to boarding school, the famous Clive Staples Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia, etc.) was miserable. Realizing that he was too shy for it, his father took him out of the school.
He sent him to live in the country with a private tutor, Willam T. Kirkpatrick. Lewis was happy there, and Kirkpatrick quickly realized that he was training a literary genius. When they were finished, Kirkpatrick warned Lewis’s father that Clive was unsuited for business or public life, that he probably wouldn’t be able to cope with anything but a literary or scholarly career.
When I read this story in The Narnian, a biography of Lewis by Alan Jacobs, this rescue of an acutely shy boy from the non-shy world was heartwarming. But, then another voice inside me spoke.
“Wait a minute,” it said, “what about us?”
Yes, what about the rest of us – all those whose parents may have cared about what we we’re suffering (my parents did), but couldn’t afford to take us out of school, hire special tutors, and didn’t have the connections who could help direct us into a more protected corner of society? What about those suffering right now whose parents are unable to do anything about it?
In fact, many children in rich families probably don’t get such protection. Society seems so universally convinced that shyness is nothing but weakness that I’m sure many wealthy parents don’t appreciate the suffering of their shy children.
In my own case, my father died when I was only 5 years old, so he couldn’t help me in any way. With only a single working mother for a parent, I had no one to coach me, and nowhere to hide. Somehow I survived, but it was mostly by trial and painful error.
When I became an adult, I sometimes tried to help younger shy people, and I thought about their problems a lot. Finally, I wrote The Shyness Guide. I wrote it for all shy people, rich and poor, those like me and the Narnians too.