When Anxiety Causes Judgment


I’ve been attending a new church for about a year now. The journey my husband and I have taken to plug into the church has sent us to many Sunday school classes and groups. During a recent group the lesson brought up the issue of judgment. The specific topic was bearing burdens, but over the course of the discussion, anxiety came front and center. The lesson leader was trying to explain how she deals with social anxiety and why its hard for her to share herself with others. I was slowly nodding my head in agreement to everything she said. Silent as usual.But not everyone wanted to remain silent.

One of the other women in the group started firing questions at her until, finally, they stumbled upon something that really hit a nerve.

I’m just trying to understand. So you’re saying that you don’t open up to people because you assume that they’ll judge you, or they’re already judging you…so aren’t you doing the exact thing that you’re accusing the of? Aren’t you always judging others?

The speaker paused. I saw several pairs of eyes around the room double in size.  I imagine mine did as well, and then there was a collective exhale. “Yeah, I guess, yeah. I do judge people.” I felt that her admission was echoed silently by a half dozen other people. It certainly stole the breath right out of my lungs. I know social anxiety intimately, and I know the feeling they were talking about. But I always chose to describe it with other words: suspicion, paranoia. Not good thoughts to have, but only weaknesses.

With that one simple question, suddenly all of my excuses flew out of my mind. I saw so much judgement in myself, a form of sin that needs to be addressed. The Bible verses Matthew 7: 1- 4 came to mind:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

I’m talking about myself, of course, but I wonder how many other people have this problem. How do you address it? How do you address that your anxiety may be causing judgment? I would say day by day, with a lot of prayer and growing self-restraint…and if you’re like me, those first prayers might be followed by an evaluation of every single moment that you might have reacted to others with judgement through your anxiety. Once you confess your “anxiety” about those past moment, put them behind you. Easier said than done, I know, but well worth the struggle.

I pray that the same God who gives us the discernment in moments such as these keep us from stumbling over our mistakes, but give us the strength and the grace to keep growing and keep moving forward.