The Christian Introvert: Putting Off Social Anxiety, Putting On Serving Others

Many Christians struggle with introversion and/or social anxiety. What do they do about it? In many cases they simply give into those anxious feelings and thoughts and wallow in the old self.  But this is not what the Lord Jesus would have His people do.  The Apostle Paul gave specific instructions: “Put off your old self…” and “put on the new self…”  Author, speaker and blogger Michelle Lesley breaks down what it looks like for the believer to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  This is not a recommendation, brethren; all believers are to follow Paul’s admonition.  In the following piece, Michelle explains how those who struggle with social anxiety can get there. She writes:

 

A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them this, but I’m kind of an introvert. On Sundays, after Sunday School, church, then Sunday dinner with my extended family, I usually go home and get straight in the bed for some quiet time and a nap, often with muscles aching from stress. I love my church, my family, and spending time with people, but for some reason, social interaction can be a bit draining for me after several hours.

And interacting with people I don’t know very well? Don’t get me started on all the different levels of anxiety that, for me, go hand-in-hand with introversion. My gut-level reaction to walking into a room full of strangers is to turn around and run as far away as possible.

But all of this sort of thinking is very self-centered. When I entertain those anxious thoughts and feelings, I’m focusing on me. My fear of manMy worries about what others will think of me. My discomfort and desire to be somewhere else. Me. Me. Me.

So how do we handle introversion and/or social anxiety in a godly way? Ephesians 4:21-24 gets right to the point:

assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

We’re to put off our old, corrupt self, renew our minds, and put on the new, godly self.

First, we “put off”, or stop giving in, to those feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of anxiety:

“There are plenty of people talking to that person who’s visiting our church this morning. She doesn’t need to meet me. I’ll pass.”

“I need to go to that meeting, but I really don’t want to, so I’m going to stay home.”

“Nobody at this fellowship would be interested in talking to me, so I’ll hang out in the kitchen and ‘help’.”

Next, we “renew our minds” with what Scripture says about how we’re to regard ourselves and how we’re to regard others.

Giving in to me-centered fears and anxieties is the exact opposite of God’s instruction to Christians. We are to be about the business of putting others first. Dying to selfServing others. Encouraging others. Loving and focusing on otherswith the intensity of the love and focus we lavish on ourselves. Philippians 2:3-4 puts it this way:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Continue reading

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