Q: Dear Pastor,
I struggle with anxiety and self-control during the holidays more than any other time. Why is this?
A: The term “social anxiety” has become a common complaint of folks under 50. It’s the new word for “shy,” yet I believe it’s different. We now have generations of people who, by the nature of cultural change, have been removed from face-to-face interaction via our electronic emails, cell phones and Facebook profiles. We’ve been sentenced to a socially awkward society at best... crippled and possibly disabled, the younger we are and more dependent upon our electronic communications.
Social anxiety is inflamed by holiday pressures; lending itself to nervous eating, impulse drinking and idle chatter as we try to navigate the seasonal obligations of being charming, conversational, fun and socially acceptable at our numerous, in-person, holiday events. Further, self-control is under siege at holiday time. We medicate our anxiety with our vices. You are not alone!
Yet there is a deeper problem which hides under our layers of nerve-wracking, holiday expectations, too: we give ourselves permission to be bad. “I only have this once a year,” we say, reaching for the fifth cookie and the third glass of spirits. “Heck, it’s Christmas... I can pay off the debt later,” we rationalize, as we purchase another gift that child doesn’t need. Self-control is hurled out the window, splats on the ground and gets run over by our free-wheeling attitude that says, “It’s okay to indulge. It’s Christmas!”
Not so fast. In the same way we cling to our Christ-carved selves during the storms of life, we must also acknowledge that the Christmas season may be a type of storm beating down our doors of common sense and personal governance. Sobriety is challenged as recovered addicts of food and drink stare down the sumptuous buffets and bar-carts which proudly take center-stage everywhere. Compulsive shopping becomes a rite of passage as Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays scream from every newspaper ad, radio spot and television commercial. Yet our wise-advisor of the Bible, King Solomon, wrote: “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked. It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory. Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Proverbs 25:26-28, NASB). Solomon was also the richest person alive when he wrote that, and he knew a thing or two about indulging one’s festive appetites. As a matter of fact, if we study the sad ending of King Solomon, his penchant for women led to his unraveling of moral control and ultimately his death in shame and in contradiction to his wise counsel on every subject. If he were alive today he would warn us, “Even though we’re given opportunities to indulge, we must stick to our morals, personal integrity and wisdom.”
We all love our nostalgic traditions, holiday recipes and special events - we adore the Christmas atmosphere of selfless shopping and joyful giving. Our God is a giver, too, and he loves abundance just like we do. Yet he is asking that we keep an eye on him as we journey through this season. Our anxiety gives way to peace when we continue to keep Jesus in the center.
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Ask Pastor Adrienne: Anxiety kills me at Christmas
Q: Dear Pastor,