As an anxious person by nature and someone who has spent thousands of hours worrying about anything and everything, I understand the mind of a worrier. I have suffered from panic attacks, digestive issues, heart palpitations and sleepless nights. By the grace of God, however, my worrying is under control and I have spent the past seven years helping others break free from the worry habit.
Through my full time speaking and writing ministry, I have been blessed to share with people around the world what the Lord has done in my life. I am not a therapist and have no training in psychology or psychiatry. Rather, I am a “recovering” worrier who has discovered the healing power of Jesus Christ. I am not qualified to give professional advice, but I can (and will) tell you about what Jesus has done for me and what he can do for you.
I also consider myself extremely qualified to offer advice on things you should never say to someone who struggles with worry. I have been on the receiving end of each of these comments and they only made matters worse. With that in mind, here are…
5 Things You Should Never Say To A Worrier:
1. “Don’t Worry So Much”
I have never met a person who wanted to worry. You may have good intentions, but this only makes the situation worse. Some of us have a tendency to be anxious. When we hear this comment, we feel even worse about our inability to stop worrying.
2. “You Need To Pray More”
While it’s true that worry often indicates a lack of trust in God’s providence, telling someone they lack faith is not a good idea. Some people suffer from clinical anxiety, which should be addressed through therapy and/or medication. In my case, I didn’t trust God and the statement was absolutely true. Telling me that I needed to pray more, however, only gave another thing to worry about.
3. “Sometimes Worrying Is Good”I hear this statement often and it is completely false. It results from confusion between worry and concern. Worry is when we allow our mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles. It is a complete waste of time because it is not productive. Concern, on the other hand, involves exploring solutions to a problem. It can lead us to pray or take action to solve a problem. Concern is useful, worry is not.
4. “Relax…Everyone Worries”
Not true. Everyone experiences fear and everyone knows what it’s like to be concerned, but not everybody worries. If so, Jesus would be asking us to do the impossible when he said:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear.” (Matthew 6:25)
It is possible to stop worrying and that hope is what often draws people to Jesus. Telling someone that worrying is a normal part of life, even to make them feel better, is misleading and unfair.
5. “What’s The Worst That Could Happen?”
Preparing for the worst is an age old strategy for combating anxiety, but it’s not necessarily a good one. Suggesting that someone prepare for the worst possible outcome sets them up to experience a flood of negative emotions with no accompanying grace. Since God doesn’t give us the grace to deal with imaginary problems, dwelling on “what if” scenarios such as the death of your spouse, job loss or serious illness is guaranteed to rob us of peace. Very rarely does the worst case scenario actually play out in our lives. Why spend time ruminating on it?
Knowing what not to say to the worriers in your life is a good first step. In a future blog, I’ll address what we should say. By the way, EMAIL ME if you have any suggestions for what should be on that list (or what was missing on this list). I’d love to hear from you!