Do you deal with social anxiety? This girl does. She asks:
How do you deal with social anxiety? I get so nervous around people sometimes and always feel awkward. I’ve been praying about it, but it’s still bad. I want to witness to others, but I practically have a panic attack when I do!
So for her—and anyone who can relate—here are ten helpful ways I’ve personally found to push past social anxiety.
First, though, a disclaimer: If you’re an introvert, you don’t need to become an extrovert! Think of the following list of suggestions as a few tools for you to take or leave. No one is asking you to get a whole new personality and become the most gregarious person at the party. What we are seeking is to love and welcome others as we have been loved and welcomed by God through Christ.
Hopefully one or more of these suggestions will be helpful to that end.
10 Practical Ways to Push Past Social Anxiety
1.Don’t hide behind your phone. Put it away when you’re with other people. It will help others feel more cared for and will help you engage them more easily. I’m guessing you’re actually better than you know at engaging people when the phone isn’t vying for your attention. You’ve got this!
2. Know that your approval comes not from people but from God. If you are looking to people to tell you what you’re worth, you will fear them instead of love them. Remember that we are all equal, each made in God’s image. If you have surrendered your life to Christ, you now have God’s full approval. And you have been given a mission to love Him with all your heart and to love others as you love yourself. You have to push past social anxiety to love others well.
3. Don’t be afraid to be awkward. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said or done awkward things. But here’s the deal: It’s not a sin to be awkward. It is, however, a violation of God’s law not to love others. In order not to stay perpetually awkward, give yourself permission to be awkward for a while. And if you hurt someone in the process, be sure to seek forgiveness.
4. Ask questions. If you can’t think of questions to ask on the spot, it’s not cheating to have some prepared. For example, when I see someone new at church, I’ll often ask, “How long have you been attending?” followed by “How did you hear about us?” Then I can think of other spontaneous questions to ask them once the conversation is rolling.
5. Listen well. Now that you’ve asked a good question, your job is done, right? Wrong! Don’t let your mind wander. Listen well to how they answer your question. Don’t worry about thinking through your response or your next question—just listen well.
6. If you really want to go the extra mile, jot down notes after you talk to them while the conversation is still fresh in your mind. I often take notes on my phone when I meet someone new whom I think I might bump into again. My notes consist of their name plus an identifying characteristic and maybe something interesting I learned about them. That way, I can always go back and reference my notes later if (okay, when!) I forget their name.
7. Pray. Even though I usually feel like leaving the building right after service on Sundays, I’ve gotten into the habit of asking God, “Who do you want me to talk to today?” I then look for someone to introduce myself to or to say “hi” to. My husband and I are almost always the last to vacate the premises!
8. Practice. Stretch yourself. Try sticking around on Sunday until you’ve found someone to talk to. Practice striking up a conversation with the cashier at the mall. Try smiling at the strangers you pass on the street or in the halls at school. See and engage people wherever you go, just like Jesus did while He lived on earth.
9. Remember that others are insecure, too, and don’t take it personally if they don’t seem interested in talking back. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend, but you should seek to consistently be friendly. Don’t only talk to the friends you’re comfortable with. Seek out new faces, and do your best to make them feel welcome.
10. Focus on becoming a “there you are” person. There are a few blog posts you read and never forget. This one by Jani Ortlund is one of them for me. I hope it’s as helpful to you as it was to me!
What did I forget? Any other tips you’ve found helpful for pushing past social anxiety? Why do you think it’s so important to work on it?
Her situation couldn’t have been much more hopeless.
She had tried it all—filled out endless forms, visited regular doctors, alternative doctors, traveling doctors, wannabe doctors, retired doctors. She’d read, researched, cried, and prayed. She had taken every medical exam known to man.
And still, over a decade later, there were no answers. Just steady decline. She was growing worse.
There were simply no options left. No more reserves to draw from. She’d spent everything she had—as well as borrowing money from every compassionate soul she could think of.
Not that she cared about the money. She just craved normal, human interaction. How long had it been now? Twelve whole years? Her disease—this never-stopping flow of blood—made her “unclean.” According to the Law, if anyone touched her, they would be defiled.
I know women and girls like her. You probably do, too. They may not be dealing with a twelve-year health struggle, but they are all too familiar with diseased desires and relationships. Stuck. Hopeless. At or nearing the end of their rope. Women and girls we are unable to heal.
Hopeless No More
Just when hope appeared to have run out, someone told this woman about a man like no other: Jesus. Maybe it was a friend of a friend who relayed what Jesus had taught down by the lake one afternoon. Maybe someone in her family knew a neighbor miraculously healed by Him. No matter . . . someone told her about Him.
And that was all it took. She heard with ears of faith. At least enough faith to do a crazy, daring, courageous thing—she elbowed her way to the front of that noisy, jostling crowd to get to Him. To touch Him. She knew she was out of line, but sometimes desperate women have to take desperate measures.
The instant she touched Him, she knew. She was whole. Healed.
She . . . came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease (Mark 5:27–29).
Jesus’ words to her confirmed it:
“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mark 5:34).
She didn’t know it yet, but this Jesus was going to bleed for her. In anticipation of what He was going to do for her on the cross, Jesus declared her whole.
And still He heals and makes whole.
How to Help Your Hopeless Friends
The question for you and me today is have we come to Jesus in faith to be healed of our sin disease? And are we pointing our classmates, friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors to Him so they, too, can experience true healing?
Responding to our friends’ problems with positive thinking or self-help advice is not enough. They need to experience the healing that only Jesus can bring. What broken girl or woman can you point toward Him today?
I was moving fast when my friend texted me her grievances against another. Company was due to arrive within the hour, and everything seemed to be happening at once. Between combining the liquid mixture for the corn muffins and texting my hubby about what I needed him to pick up from the store, I texted some hard truth to my friend in response to her message.
Then, with messy hands, I forwarded my response to three people who were aware of the situation and who were praying for my friend. I wrote, “Just sent this to our friend. Please pray. Her heart is so hard.”
Only I accidentally included my friend in the group text. Ugh, ugh, double ugh.
Yes, I had been growing increasingly concerned for her, but after this incident, I realized it would have been best to share my concern with just her and God. Instead, I hurt her deeply. Where did I go wrong?
I was moving too fast. Proverbs 19:2 makes clear, “Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”
I assumed the role of savior, which only belongs to God. How much better to pray for my friend, “[I] do not know what to do, but [my] eyes are on you [God]” (2 Chron. 20:12).
I forwarded a text, which reeked of gossip. Paul warned of those who “learn to be . . . gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not” (1 Tim. 5:13).
I shared a prayer request about someone else without her permission to do so. As Proverbs 25:9 says, “Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret.”
Three Resolutions for Becoming a More Trustworthy Friend
As I asked God to change my heart and make me a more trustworthy friend, I set a few boundaries in place.
1. I resolved not to share prayer requests about anyone other than myself, unless I’ve explicitly asked their permission.
Proverbs 11:13 says, “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.”
Someone who reveals another’s secrets is a slanderer, according to the Bible. The King James calls such a person a “talebearer.” We probably don’t think of prayer requests as “bearing tales,” but if we dropped the “Please pray for so-and-so,” would it look any different than talebearing? Let’s not use prayer as a way to gossip through the back door.
2. I resolve not to forward other’s messages to me (or my responses) without permission.
It’s way too easy in our connected world to share other people’s struggles with others. It often feels necessary, as we believe in the power of prayer. The more people praying, the better, right?
But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe, just maybe, you and I are using prayer as a thin guise for gossip, fear, frustration, and support.
3. I resolve to wait to share hard truth with others until I can talk in person or on the phone.
This requires slowing down. It requires not freaking out in the moment and thinking that a problem’s resolution depends on you and you alone. It requires boldness to address a problem without the protective wall of electronic text between you. And it requires crying out in deep dependence to the one and only Savior, rather than trying to do His work for Him, as if He’s on vacation.
Six Questions to Ask to Prevent Subtle Gossip
What if we asked ourselves the following questions before sharing someone else’s business with others?
Has my friend given me permission to share this “prayer request” with others? Am I considering my friend before myself (Phil. 2:3)?
How much time has passed between the time I learned of this need and the time I’m sharing it with others? Am I sharing it impulsively?
If not a lot of time has passed, am I sharing this in a panic? Am I trusting in the Lord to act (Ps. 37:5), or am I trusting in myself to be the savior?
How seriously have I prayed about this issue myself before reaching out to others? Have I knelt in prayer? How long did I pray over it?
Do I believe that the earnest prayer of a single righteous person avails much (James 5:16)? Or do I think my prayers are not enough to move the heart of God?
Could I be embarrassed at some point that I sent this text or email? (If so, I probably shouldn’t send it.)
It Takes More Than Good Intentions
Oh, I know it’s easy to think our intentions are good. I thought that originally, too. But maybe we should distrust our intentions a bit more than we do. Even if our base intentions are good, we should always be on guard of having mixed motives. Love can often attach itself with the sinful desire to know other people’s stuff, to be “in the know,” or to feel puffed up that our lives aren’t so messy.
In my case, regardless of my original motives, I broke trust, and at that point, the only fitting response for me was one of repentance.
So that’s what I did. That evening after our company left, I called my friend and left a voicemail asking for forgiveness. I gave her space to call me when she was ready to talk. Eventually, she graciously forgave me, but because of the trust I damaged by sharing what was not mine to share, it will take time for her to be able to regard me as the fully faithful friend that I desire to be, with God’s help.
How about you? Will you strive to love faithfulness more than the pleasure of gossip? Will you join me in resolving to be oh-so-careful before we share about others?
Let us strive to be like the women recommended in 1 Timothy 3:11: “Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.”
After all, we serve and represent the most trustworthy, faithful Friend of all.
At some point this school year you may bump into a girl who outshines you: on the basketball court, in science class, on the piano . . . or maybe with how well she is liked by others and how beautiful she is.
If and when you start noticing that you’re:
comparing yourself with her
criticizing her (if only in your thoughts)
being ungrateful for the gifts God has given you
minimizing the gifts God has given her
feeling hatred toward her . . .
. . . you can be glad.
Why? Because this girl’s success is shining the spotlight on the sin of envy in your life. That is a good thing because all sin is a disease that will kill you if left unchecked. Envy will destroy you . . . unless you ask for God’s help to destroy it!
How can you fight back against envy? The key lies in 1 Peter 2:1–3:
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
First, when envy pops up, you and I need to “put it away.” Wage war against it. Confess it as sin to God. Turn away from it and have nothing more to do with it.
Envy will destroy you . . . unless you ask for God’s help to destroy it!
Second, instead of miserably focusing on others’ successes, you and I need to take the “medicine” of the pure spiritual milk of God’s goodness toward us.
Jonathan Edwards does just that in this paragraph (read slowly so you don’t miss these rich thoughts that he wrote way back in the 1700s):
Christ came into the world to deliver us from the fruits of Satan’s envy towards us. The devil being miserable himself, envied mankind that happiness which they had, and could not bear to see our first parents in their happy state in Eden, and therefore exerted himself to the utmost to ruin them, and accomplished it. The gospel teaches how Christ came into the world to destroy the works of the devil, and deliver us from that misery into which his envy had brought us.
When Jesus came into the world, He humbled Himself beyond what we can imagine and gave everything for us. And He did it joyfully. I love how Ed Welch points to Luke 12:32 (“Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom”) and says, “Fathers can give begrudgingly and kings can give simply because they made an oath, but God gives out of his pleasure and delight.”
Jonathan Edwards says it like this,
The doctrines of the gospel teach us how far Jesus Christ was from grudging us anything which he could do for or give to us. He did not grudge us a life spent in labor and suffering; he did not grudge us his own precious blood; he hath not grudged us a sitting with him on his throne in heaven, and being partakers with him of that heavenly kingdom and glory which the Father hath given him.
Congrats! You’ve worked so hard, and now commencement is over. I was cheering big as you walked across the stage, and I’m praying for you as you make this transition out of college. I remember well the conflicting emotions: mourning all the goodbyes, anticipating all the adventures just ahead.
Speaking of adventures just ahead . . . let’s talk about that, because if your experience is anything like mine, reality won’t quite meet your expectations.
Let’s Talk About . . . Your Friends
Your circle of peers is likely going to decrease. Significantly. You’ll no longer have a built-in community to play intramural basketball or to go out with for ice cream.
You’ll need to work to find new friends. You might look right past them at first, because some will be older than you, others younger, and most not much like you at all. And while that might not feel okay, it really is. They have a lot to offer you, and you have a lot to offer them. Befriend newly-married couples. Befriend preteens. Befriend families with kids. Befriend senior citizens.
Let’s Talk About . . . Your Local Church
Where can you find all these new friends? The best place to look is at a local, Christ-centered, Bible-teaching church. Of course, that’s not the only reason you’re attending, but as you spend time with these brothers and sisters in Christ week after week—hopefully in smaller settings throughout the week
as well as in corporate worship on Sundays—you will begin to feel and receive true affection for and from them.
Let’s Talk About . . . Your Relationship with God
It’s not enough to just hear about God. You need to hear from God through His Word.
Attending a local church is important, but it’s not your only connection to God. And while the Christian life is not meant to be an individual affair, it is deeply personal. It’s not enough to just hear about God. You need to hear from God through His Word, as that’s the way He’s chosen to reveal more about
Are you aware of and in tune with His presence as you go about your day?
Are you regularly spending time studying His Word?
Are you talking to Him about everything, as He is your Father, your Counselor, your Lord, and your Shepherd?
Are you praising Him with songs—even if you have a terrible voice or you’re feeling depressed? (That’s the best time to sing, actually!)
Let’s Talk About . . . Your Career
It’s rare that you’ll get your dream job right out of college. Don’t be discouraged if your first job seems . . . beneath you. Mine sure felt like that. But I had a ton to learn about blessing my employer rather than making a name for myself.
Learn, learn, learn. Grow, grow, grow. Give more than you take.
So be patient. It’s not likely that your first job will end up being your lifelong career. Learn, learn, learn. Grow, grow, grow. Give more than you take.
Trust God and know that a) He doesn’t waste anything, b) He is still writing your story, and c) He is where satisfaction is found. True contentment is found in Him, not in a dream job.
Let’s Talk About . . . Your Ultimate Purpose
True happiness and peace come from knowing, enjoying, and seeking to make much of Him, not much of ourselves.
Life is not about us; it’s all about God. They won’t tell you this in your business classes, but that doesn’t make it any less true. We were created by God and for Him. True happiness and peace come from knowing, enjoying, and seeking to make much of Him, not much of ourselves.
I’d love to hear back from you. What are your expectations for friends? Do you plan to commit to a local church? What’s your plan for pursuing God daily? What are your career dreams? And what do you consider to be your ultimate purpose?
Correction does much, but encouragement does more. ~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
It sounded catchy, but it’s not necessarily biblical. Check out 2 Timothy 3:16–17 to see what I mean:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
I realize that correcting a Christian isn’t popular in our culture that screams, “Don’t judge!” But that’s not how God’s Word looks at it.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted (Gal. 6:1).
Obviously if someone’s not a Christian, we don’t expect them to obey God. They’re dead in their sins. But if someone is a believer, here’s how God tells us to respond to them:
If anyone does not obey . . . warn him as a brother (2 Thess. 3:14–15).
And then in 2 Timothy 4:2:
Be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
It’s scary, I know. As I write this, I think I need to have a conversation with at least one sister in Christ who’s making some foolish, dangerous decisions. I’m afraid I might lose her friendship. But will I fear her or God more?
Is there a believer you need to gently but boldly warn as well? I’d love to hear about it.
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19–20).
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm (Prov. 13:20).
I’ll never forget the fifth grade talent show. Samantha Gilman offered to turn the pages while I played a difficult classical piano piece. But I was ashamed to sit next to her. She was a Christian; she was a friend. But she wasn’t cool, and she didn’t fit in at school.
Truth was, I wasn’t all that cool, so I didn’t want to be associated with her. I wanted to become more cool, not less! So I told Samantha no, I’d be just fine.
And fine I was—for a few measures. But then, just as I was turning the page, my book crashed down on the keys, interrupting my performance with a jarring bang. So much for my cool factor.
The notes swam as I finished the rest of the piece through my tears. Why oh why hadn’t I gratefully accepted Samantha’s help? Oh yeah . . . I was concerned about how she would make me look.
Instead of girls like Samantha, I wanted the “cool” kids as friends. Only problem was, the “cool” kids were also what the Bible calls . . . “fools.” They didn’t fear God, and they weren’t looking out for my best interests.
One “friend” convinced me to date a non-Christian guy behind my parents’ backs. Another “cool fool” sneaked a pair of short shorts to school for me to wear without my parents knowing about it.
How to Spot a Cool Fool
Here are just a few ways you can spot a “cool fool.”
Whether you realize it or not, your friends are taking you somewhere. They’re either leading you closer to God or further away from Him. So which direction are you headed? What do you look for in your friends?
Take it from me: Don’t think more highly of yourself than you should. Receive help from the “Samanthas” in your life, and steer clear of the cool fools.
I’d planned a special day out for my mom’s birthday. We’d tour the Billy Graham Museum, bike the Prairie Path, and sample the food at Manhattan’s.
Only problem was I’d been sick for weeks now, and this past weekend was no exception.
Mom called the morning of her birthday outing to encourage me to stay home and get better. That’s right, the birthday girl—on the day of her party—encouraged me to do what was best for me, not her!
Over the years Mom has modeled that love always chooses what’s best for the other—and not just with words but with her life. It’s 1 Corinthians 13:5 lived out before my very eyes:
[Love] does not insist on its own way.
A couple of days later, I did make it home, still under the weather. Mom met me at the door with a hug, put on a pot of soup, and told me she’d had my brother get the VCR all ready so I could watch The Jungle Book.
How had she remembered? I’d mentioned in passing, months ago, that I wanted to watch this movie again.
Over the years, Mom has demonstrated that love remembers the little things. It’s 1 Corinthians 13:4 in action:
[Love] is kind.
These aren’t a couple of isolated incidents. I could tell you the same story with slightly different details over and over again, because this is the pattern of my mom’s life.
I guess you could call her my “love coach.” I’m watching her, learning from her, making clumsy attempts to love others the way she loves me. The way Jesus loves me.
‘Cause while mom is my “love coach,” I know the One loving me through her is really Jesus. Without Him, she couldn’t love like she does.
But because my mom has first been loved by Jesus, she is now free to love without requiring anything in return.
Because Jesus’ Spirit lives in my mom, she now has the power to choose what’s best for others rather than for herself.
And because Jesus laid down His life for my mom, His is the model she seeks to follow.
For His love, and for her love, I couldn’t be more grateful.
Happy birthday, Momma! I want to be like you when I grow up.
Who’s your love coach? How have they modeled Jesus’ way of love to you? I’d love to hear.
And if you don’t mind, I think I’ll stretch out and watch The Jungle Book while I’m waiting for your reply . . .
I’m a crummy friend. I didn’t even realize it until last Friday, when Revive Our Hearts asked their employees to spend four hours on an exercise called the Personal Vitality Plan. We were to look at twelve areas of our life and evaluate what’s been going well, what’s been being neglected, and what some achievable steps are to replenish that area.
It didn’t take long to realize what was anemic. My relationships. Specifically, my friendships.
Until now, my idea of a good friend has been one whom I don’t have to spend a lot of time with, but when I do, we pick up right where we left off. But now I wonder if my definition of friendship has simply been a sorry excuse for neglect and selfishness on my part.
Oh, I haven’t painted it that way. I’ve chosen the busyness of “ministry” above friendships, investing more time in those who are “needy” while my iron-sharpening-iron friendships have simmered on the back burner.
As spiritual as that has seemed, I wonder if it has had more to do with pride and fear than love and compassion. There’s something self-inflating about being the one people always look to for help and answers. But since when are friendships one-sided?
When I look at Scripture I see friendship described with words like:
talking face to face (Ex. 33:11)
your friend who is as your own soul (Deut. 13:6)
loyalty (2 Sam 16:16)
kindness (Job 6:14)
trust (Ps. 41:9)
celebrating together (Luke 15:29)
grieving together (Ps. 35:14)
Now I see that I’ve been treating my closest friends as if they’re optional. But Jesus tells me in John 15:12–17 that friendship isn’t optional (and in the process, He calls me His friend!):
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. . . . These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
It took me less than the allotted four hours to realize that I was a crummy friend, so I spent the remaining time sending emails and setting up specific plans.
I asked one friend if she’d be willing to spend time together regularly. I don’t want to get spread so thin maintaining all kinds of relationships that no one really knows what’s going on deep in my heart. I asked her to meet with me regularly for several reasons:
She loves and cares about me.
She already knows me well and runs in my circles.
She’s not afraid to ask me hard questions. You know, the kind that make you squirm.
Once that was taken care of, I began making plans to choose people over pixels: scheduling a party for artists in April, inviting neighbors over to roast marshmallows in the fireplace before spring arrives in full vigor, exploring the possibility of a getaway with two other about-to-turn-thirty-year-olds.
Since Friday, I’ve attended a birthday party, two movie nights, and am headed to the Art Institute in Chicago with the girls in my family this Saturday. Oh, and I’m asking God to teach me how to be a good friend. To learn to love . . . and be loved.
How about you? What do you tend to value more than friendship? What’s your excuse for letting your friendships simmer on the back burner? And if you’re the one feeling undervalued in a friendship, how can you continue to extend grace and reach out to that busy friend?