Monday, February 8, 2016

Anxiety - the Noble Sin

Sarah Mackenzie says that "rest is the virtue between negligence and anxiety".  In the companion journal to Teaching from Rest she asks the reader to consider whether she tends more towards negligence or anxiety.  Mentally I answered quickly "I tend more towards anxiety!"

On the face of it, who would ever wish to be anxiety-prone?  Who wants to be thought of (or to think of themselves as) stressed out?  However (now be honest with me, or at least with yourself) if given the choice, would you rather be thought of as anxious ... or as negligent?

We live in a society that values productivity and efficiency.  Being stressed is a sign of drive and industry.  Being negligent is just plain unattractive.

When we first moved into our current home and people would come over to visit, I would give them a tour.  Matt came to refer to it as the "apology tour".  I didn't want anyone to think that I lacked vision or purpose, so my comments about every room involved making definite statements about what I didn't like about the room and how I planned to change it.  If I couldn't show off what I had actually done, at least I could let everybody know that I was constantly thinking about what I should be doing.  What was missing was a simple contentment with and gratitude for what the Lord had provided.

I've carried over the same attitude to my mothering.  If my kids aren't where I think they should be, if I haven't included everything in our schedule that I feel we should, if other people are accomplishing things that I'm not, at least I can communicate to people that I am constantly tied up in knots about what I'm not doing.  Doesn't that seem more noble than falling short and being OK with it?  Or, put another way, if I criticize myself first, I preempt any chance for someone else to do it for me.

Of course, I wouldn't describe myself (out loud, at least) as anxiety-prone.  I have much more attractive ways of framing my condition.  I care deeply about my children's upbringing.  I take this job very seriously.  I accept my personal responsibility for these decisions and practices.  After all, who could fault me for caring too much?

So, not only did I have to honestly admit that I am more prone to anxiety, I am actually willing to believe that anxiety is the anecdote to negligence.  Let me rephrase that: I am convinced that describing myself as anxious is the anecdote to being perceived as negligent.  After all, if you aren't stressing over something, you must not care too much about it, right?  Truth be told, I think I somehow manage to be both negligent and anxious at the same time!

Another time I'd like to do a follow-up post to share some insights on anxiety from Sarah Mackenzie's interview with Andrew Kern (another one of the items in the Teaching from Rest Companion files).


  1. I had never heard that quote at top, and am one of the few who tend towards negligence. Which I dress up as "laid back" or "fostering independence from a young age in my kids" I need restraints on my heart and crazy things like the stomach flu to curb my laziness sometimes. Both negligent and anxious parents can rejoice that God is sovereign over our children!
    Our sinful hearts need so much grace in both spectrums!

  2. Yes, Rebekah, so true. In fact, I think for me that is the source of the anxiety - not resting in his sovereignty and not trusting his grace! Sarah Mackenzie, author of that quote and of Teaching from Rest would identify herself on the same side of the spectrum as you. :-)