Social Anxiety? This is the time of Year!

So here we a time when it seems that all social occasions  (all right, slight exaggeration) are squeezed into, at best, a four week space...your spouse's office Christmas party, the kids' school programs and parties, neighborhood open houses, family in-law, and what may be worse, "out-law" gatherings, and what did I miss? But you get the picture.

And all of this on top of our own preparations of cleaning, decorating, cooking, shopping, wrapping...

And did I mention the heart preparation of Advent, peace on earth, joy in the Lord, scripture, song, prayer?

Let's take a breath and just look at what can help tremendously with the "social anxiety" of it all!

Years ago, when I was raising a young family, I used to listen religiously to Christian radio, especially Focus on the Family (Dr Dobson), Insight for Living (Chuck Swindoll), and Midday Connection (Moody Radio).

One day on one of those programs, there was a speaker (I wish I had noted who) talking on this very topic of the social situations we find ourselves in.

Here is the heart of what the speaker said that day which has stayed with me all these years.  And I find that when I keep these simple truths in mind when I enter almost any situation involving people, everything changes in my mind and heart.  When I don't, it all can crash and burn really fast!

Here's the gist of what was shared that day (with some slight tweaking on my part):

Most people, when they enter a social situation, say (in their attitude),

"Here I am!  Pay attention to ME!  Ask about ME!"

(or I might add, if you are an introvert, you may be saying, "Here I am! Don't pay attention to ME! Don't ask about ME! let ME hide somewhere!").

Notice where the focus is -- on ME, either way.

Rather, better to enter a social situation, saying,

"There YOU are!  Let me pay attention to YOU! Let me ask about YOU!"

Why not try this the next time you are with people...which for most of us, is every day of our lives?

Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you to shift focus off of yourself onto the other person, present in the moment right then.

I think Jesus lived that way, present to the people right there before Him...especially the "invisible people" -- those whom the crowd (a.k.a the beautiful, acceptable people) around Him never "saw," or tried not to see...the handicapped, the "insane," the outcasts, the un-religious, the "sinners."

Who is "invisible" to you and your "crowd" today, where you are?  Why not say to one of them the next time,

"There YOU are! Let me pay attention to YOU! Let me ask about YOU!"

Maybe...just and I can be Christ's instruments to reach out to those around us this Christmas season.

After all, HE is the indwelling, loving Christ, the greatest gift of all to be sharing with all the others we encounter each day.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
[a prayer from my childhood, the prayer of St Francis of Assisi]