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.
You have to push past social anxiety to love others well.
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.
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. We’re 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?
“Should I move to the same city where my long-distance boyfriend lives?” That is the question on the table for today. The topic came across my radar when I received this email:
I am currently in a looong-distance relationship (me in Norway, him in the States). Long story short: We are both serious about this relationship heading toward marriage, and what we are looking at is me moving to the States after I finish school. From what I understand you also moved to where your husband lives.
Moving across the world and into a new culture is a huge step of faith for me, considering being away from family, church, and deep friendships on a permanent basis. I’d love to hear your story. Bet it’s a great opportunity to lean hard on the Lord.
(I’m going to assume that this girl is talking about finishing college, not high school.) That said, let’s dive in.
Four Questions to Consider Before You Move Near Your Boyfriend
Dear “I’m considering marriage . . . and moving across the world,”
It sounds wise that you plan on finishing your schooling before you move. Here are just a few questions for you to think through before you take this big step:
Have you visited each other in person?
I would definitely recommend several in-person visits before you make such a big move. Use these times to make sure he’s the same guy you’ve been getting to know online. (Trevor and I took turns visiting each other about once a month.)
Is your boyfriend a fellow believer in Christ alone for salvation? Is he actively pursuing God? Do you trust that he wouldn’t put you in a bad situation?
Have you thought about who you would move in with? Or would you live on your own?
I’d recommend living with someone else rather than on your own for several reasons: You’re going to need help adjusting to a new culture, and it’ll also be helpful to have a place to hang out with your boyfriend with other people around for accountability.
Is your boyfriend involved in a solid church where you’d be able to find friends and community?
Should One of Us Move? (Our Story)
You asked about my story. Before Trevor and I were engaged—but knowing that was coming—we talked and prayed about when it would be appropriate for one of us to move to live near the other. (Near, not with!)
We were older, we knew we were intentionally moving toward marriage, and we wanted some time to observe each other doing life on a daily basis. It just seemed like a good idea to be close enough to see how the other navigated dynamics like family, flat tires, and stress when considering something as serious as marriage.
We talked lots about whether he should move to Michigan or whether I should move to New York. While some would say that the guy should always take the risk and move to the girl, for me and Trevor, it seemed to make the most sense for me to move.
Trevor was committed to his city and church. If we were to marry, I knew we would be living in his city. I understood I would face a ton of change all at once if I married him, so I wanted to get a jumpstart on things like building new friendships, getting involved in his church, and learning my way around a new city. I figured it would be change enough to dive into my brand-new role as a wife a few months later.
Also, Trevor had a good job in New York, and my work place was flexible, allowing me to work off-site. Besides, I’d been living in a small Michigan town for a decade and had been itching for a new adventure for a while.
My Move to New York
In April 2015, Trevor asked me to marry him, and a few days later I trailed the yellow moving truck he was driving to New York in my Toyota Avalon. (I just may have locked my keys in my car at a rest stop somewhere along the way . . . Pennsylvania, maybe? But that’s another story for another day.)
When we finally arrived in New York, we were met with a group of people from his church who unloaded the moving truck and welcomed me to my new home for the next five-and-a-half-months. My roommates consisted of a kind married couple from his church who invited me to stay with them rent-free!, another girl who was engaged to be married three weeks before me, as well as two dog and three cats.
Looking back, I have no regrets. It was the right decision for us.
May the Lord lead you to make the wisest decision for you, your boyfriend, your relationship, and ultimately God’s glory.
Was it risky? Sure. I knew full well going into the move that it was possible something could come up and our engagement could be broken off. It was a risk, though, that I was willing to take, because the benefits outweighed the risks for me.
Hopefully my story will help you as you think through a potential move. Your story will probably look different than mine, and that’s okay. Be sure to be seeking God about such a huge decision and listening well to advice from older, wiser Christians in your life. May the Lord lead you to make the wisest decision for you, your boyfriend, your relationship, and ultimately God’s glory.
My husband and I have been staring death in the face for the past couple of months.
We were first reminded of its presence the afternoon our next-door neighbor told us his wife was going downhill quickly after a two-year battle with brain cancer.
Death called again the day we noticed the medical van in their driveway advertising hospital beds, wheelchairs, and oxygen. Then came the newspaper obituary and the knock on our door: Our neighbor’s wife had died at home on Saturday, surrounded by her family.
A couple weeks after the visitation, death visited again. This time it was our neighbor’s dad who was taken.
And suddenly I can’t escape the cold, hard truth that all of us share this destiny of death. Every time I look at my neighbor’s house, I am reminded of the reality of death. And while none of this is pleasant, I am glad for this sobering reminder. As the teacher says in Ecclesiastes 7:2:
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.
The wise will live with the reality of death ever before them.
Do you remember the motto, YOLO, that gained popularity back in 2012? “You only live once” served as encouragement for reckless living and obscured our destiny of death.
If we had a chance to sit down with the writer of the wisdom book Ecclesiastes, I believe he’d tell us that YOLO had it all wrong. Rather, our mantra for life should be YODO: “You only die once.”
And After Death . . .
Why should we think about our inevitable death while we’re still alive, even though none of us really want to? Because we have a Creator, and we will meet Him face to face on the other side of death. Then we will give account for the way we lived:
It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment (Heb. 9:27).
That’s why, after twelve chapters, the author of Ecclesiastes sums up the teacher’s words this way:
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Eccl. 12:13–14, emphasis added).
So if you want to continue living as if YOLO is your motto, go for it. But don’t say you weren’t warned:
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment (Eccl. 11:9, emphasis added).
The teacher tells us that we are to enjoy good while we live, recognizing that these thing are God’s gifts to us, remnants from life before humanity’s fall into sin.
I wonder, when you examine your life, have you been living as if YOLO were the motto of your life . . . or YODO? Are you living recklessly, mindless of your Creator and Judgment Day where you’ll give account for every thought and deed?
How would living with the reminder of death and judgment ever before you change the way you live each day?