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  • Pastor Nancy Switzler

Everything Isn't Terrible! Chapter 1

This week I am sharing some highlights from chapter one, titled, “Focusing on Yourself.”


Before getting to what Dr. Smith wrote, my initial comment is to highlight something that some of you may have experienced. That is, the idea that focusing on yourself is selfish. I think we (at least where I grew up) vacillate from the idea of being radically independent to the opposing idea that, to be accepted, we need to make people around us happy. Both of these extremes are wrong. Both can hinder our relationships. Both can lead to anxiety.


In this first chapter Dr. Smith defines anxiety as “your response to a real or imagined threat.”


Sometimes this real or imagined threat comes in the form of another person.


What do we do when we feel threatened? We focus a lot (over focus even) on the person (or issue) that unnerves us. Sound familiar?


I agree with Dr. Smith when she writes, “Much of the world today is caught in a state of other focus.”


Can you think of a time you were over-focused on a person? How did it feel?


Here is a list of what “focusing on another person can look like:


giving them excessive advice;

trying to motivate them;

worrying about them;

complaining about them;

stalking them on social media;

guessing what they’re thinking;

going out of your way to avoid them;

doing things for them they can do for themselves.”


The thing about the items on this list is that we’ve all done them. But if we think about it, our focusing on another person doesn’t usually make us feel better.


Often this over focus makes us feel worse because all those things we are trying to do are not working!


Instead, the invitation is to focus more on our own reactions and responses.


When we are in conflict (and church conflict) we are tempted to focus our attention on who we think is causing the problem (it’s never us!).


The hard truth is that we cannot change another person and trying to do so results in frustration.

The best, and least anxious, and most productive course of action is to focus on ourselves. This is not always easy!


Here’s some great advice from a wise elderly woman. Her name was Shirley, and she was a participant in a senior bible study that I led many years ago. She shared with the group that her daughter was worried about her grandson. The daughter didn’t like the choices the son was making and wanted Shirley to help intervene (this is triangulation! I’ll write about that later!).


Shirley said that she laughed and told her daughter, “Why would you take away his opportunity to learn from his mistakes?”


I think Shirley had great advice for her daughter. How do you receive that advice? It’s certainly something to contemplate! And so, I will leave you to it…


Peace in Christ,

Pastor Nancy

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