A person who was reading one of our EQUIP books, "When People Are Big and God Is Small," wrote me an email a couple of months ago that was amazing! I wanted to share it with you (with her permission):
I have struggled with some degree of social anxiety disorder since adolescence. (Social Anxiety Disorder takes all the "fear of man" issues discussed in the book, multiplies them to the point of irrationality, and then mixes in some physical/biological responses like nausea, sweaty palms, shallow breathing, fast heart rate; your classic "fight or flight" response.) Secular counselors would tell you that this developed as a response to having had bad (or even abusive) social experiences in the past, and that I just need to learn to believe that I am essentially good and worth liking. This is a lie. These ideas muffle the identification of sin.I began to feel my deepest conviction in this area of sin in my life several years ago when my mother in law (a wonderful Godly woman I look up to) called me one day to tell me (with great emotion) that she felt unwelcome in my home, and it was hurting her. This revelation hit me like a ton of bricks. You see, I had been so fixated on what she would think of the condition of things (dirty dishes in the sink, toys on the floor, kitchen floor un-mopped) and therefore what she would think of me, that I avoided her coming inside. Ever. Of course, I did not discriminate; very few people had been in my home without a week's preparation.
I was hurting someone I care deeply for, only because I so much wanted to avoid being hurt by her. Who did I care for more? Her, or myself? The truth of this question was not easy to swallow, as I realized that this was at the core of my social anxiety.The point was this: rather than asking myself how I could honor God with my home, and how can I best love my mother in law, I was asking myself how can I avoid anyone finding out what a terrible housekeeper I really am? How can I avoid SHAME? So this problem really had two faces. On one hand, I needed to change some habits in order to actually be a better housekeeper; to honor God by being a better steward of what He has charged me with. On the other hand, I really did need to focus more outward on others and concern myself with loving them rather than hiding myself from them to avoid shame. (Adam and Eve hiding in the garden after realizing they were naked has a much deeper meaning for me now!) This realization extended to all social interactions; when the panic attack starts; when the palpitations and fear and desire to avoid shame come, who am I loving most? God and others? Or myself? OUCH.
Have I overcome this struggle? NO WAY. But, I have been learning since then that whatever bad experiences I may have had can not pardon my sin of self-absorption, and that modern psychology merely affirms that sin and puts a positive spin on it to make you feel better. (As described on pgs. 87-88) I am thoroughly enjoying this book because it has deepened my understanding. I know it will become a great tool for continuing to replace my sinful attitudes with correct ones.Thanks for EQUIP class; we have been longing for this kind of learning and growth for some time. 🙂
If you haven't read "When People Are Big and God Is Small" – you really should read it! It could change your life!