Until recently, I dismissed Social Anxiety as just being humble, or only being comfortable with what is known and familiar. But a recent conversation opened my eyes to see that some people really do experience concern, worry, fear, nervousness and discomfort at meeting new people or being in unfamiliar surroundings. 

Let me see if I can unpack this a bit. 

The eye-opening conversation occurred with a man I have known for about 45 years. Such a person, going into a situation where he will meet new people, is plagued by questions like: 

  • What will I be expected to say? 
  • Who are these new people?  
  • What do they want from me? 
  • What will we do?
  • How long will this last?  
  • Will people talk with me?  
  • If they do talk with me, I won’t know what to say back.
  • If they don’t talk to me, that will trouble me also. 
  • Am I dressed right?  
  • Will I fit in? 

Such people live with fear.  

As missionaries, my wife and I meet new people frequently. We are expected to be out-going and focused on others.  So this Social Anxiety outlook never focused with me until recently. It is so foreign to my attitude that I did not really think anyone was afflicted with such an orientation. 

But then I did some mental calculations.  And it gelled. SA explains why Jeff would never accept our invitations to meet for a thank you meal. He and his wife have sent us a $100 check every month for the last 23 years, but he will not allow us to drive up to see them and take them out for a time of fellowship.  

Carol is the same way.  We were with her around the time that Frank died.  Possibly she was responding to our service toward her when Frank was promoted into God’s presence – that’s about the time she also started sending us $100 per month.  Like Jeff, she simply will not come to a time of fellowship with us.  

Mercedes, a 45-year-old Cuban dentist, is attractive, has two children, and a good husband. They are Christians. When several friends were in Cuba a few years ago, we invited three couples—including Mercedes & Miguel–to meet with us at a nice Cuban restaurant and have dinner together. But as the team talked about it, a quiet woman on the team said, “She may not be comfortable meeting new people.”  My thought was, “A nice meal, a gift of $100 – what’s not to like.”  But my teammate’s comment connected with our experience with Jeff and Carol. It fit.  I believe Mercedes had/has Social Anxiety. 

Such people can be highly gifted. My 45-year-friend has the gift of giving.  Just after he finished college, he sent some money to his then current roomie.  He did so anonymously by having his letter-gift postmarked from another city. He was present with the mail came a few days later and the recipient—a broke seminarian–opened the letter. He said nothing about being the donor. 

Christians who have SA need to appropriate the promises of God as an anecdote to such fear and discomfort.  

  • God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, and power and a sound mind (II Timothy 17).
  • And He has made each of us able ministers (II Corinthians 3:6).  
  • Our sufficiency in life comes from God (II Corinthians 3:5). 
  • God has set us free (Galatians 5:1).

God has something better for His own than SA. 

However, it is obvious God wires some people with SA.  They are the faithful types  in the church pew. God needs a lot of such people.  They serve cheerfully and selflessly.  My 45- year old friend is the most humble man I know. While he has no interest in traveling because it would involve meeting new people, he is so pleasant to be around. Uncritical.  Positive. A prince of a man!