Some people seem to specialize in passing on their anxiety to others.
Years ago, my dad had a heart attack and was admitted to Baylor Hospital in Dallas. His doctor did a coronary angioplasty on his heart, which is a procedure used to open blocked coronary (heart) arteries. The procedure greatly improves blood flow to the heart. The procedure had been done that morning. That evening, about 6 pm, a friend of his came into the hospital room. My mom and I were in the room. This friend was from their church and evidently had come by to encourage my dad.
The friend leaned up against the wall. He was talking to my dad, who looked rather weak after having had surgery that morning. The guy then said, “Oh I see you had the balloon surgery. Well I sure hope yours goes better than my brother-in-law’s did.” My dad said, “What happened to him?” The friend replied, “Oh his procedure didn’t hold. He’s DEAD!” My dad looked pale as he lay in the bed. At that point, the guy said, “Well I had better go.” He then left the room.
What a visit!
Encouragement? Not really. In fact, this friend dumped a load of anxiety in that hospital room and then walked away. Some people are like that. They have a way of leaving their anxiety behind.
- Perhaps it is the minister who is always upset about something in the church. Yet this minister never goes to the person involved in order to deal with these issues. The minister typically goes to the office and bad mouths the church member.
- Perhaps it is the mother who is always complaining to her best friend about her teenage daughter’s behavior. Yet, she never deals directly with this daughter.
- Maybe it is the husband who is frustrated with his wife over her spending habits. Yet, he never deals with his wife. Instead, he constantly and anxiously talks to anyone who will listen about how little money they have.
Meanwhile, some people dump a load of their anxiety on those nearby, other people have a way of magnifying even the smallest anxiety. Perhaps you know these people. Maybe there is a discussion in a group or in a meeting. They have a way of magnifying and exaggerating the smallest anxiety, until it becomes huge. Consequently, they typically bring anxiety to a group instead of calmness.
The following has helped me with these kinds of people (those who pass on the anxiety and those who magnify it):
1. I have chosen to limit time with those who regularly want to dump their anxiety as well as those who seem to magnify and exaggerate anxiety. It just wears me out to hear someone go on and on about some person (not present in the room) and then gripe for a while about someone else. I can’t spend a lot of time with someone who has a way of blowing up the smallest anxiety into something large and overwhelming. Suppose someone makes a comment in a meeting. Later, a person who was in that meeting begins to rant and rave about how stupid the remark was. He tells the story again and again. Every time he tells the story, you can just see the anxiety in the faces of others.
I choose to limit my time with such a person. Yes, I want to love the individual and will spend some time with that person. However, I choose to not spend an extended amount of time with someone like this. When I have been around this kind of person too much, I become anxious and begin to process life through the same kind of filter as that person.
2. I have chosen to focus on managing myself. I want to bring to any group a sense of calmness and focus. For me, this means that I try to prepare myself early in the morning (See “Learning to Dodge the Anxiety Traps.“) This calmness is important in one-to-one conversations, meetings, and even in preaching. A long time preacher heard a person preach on the grace of God one evening. He said that by the time the sermon was over, he was a nervous wreck. Why? The preacher’s manner was so anxious. In fact, my friend said that he felt as if the preacher was looking for a fight. Yet, he was preaching on the grace of God.
I can’t overstate the importance of managing myself because to not do so, impacts not only myself but others as well.
Do you have someone in your life who tends to dump their anxiety? Do you know someone who magnifies their anxiety? What helps you in dealing with such people?