Tag Archives: anxiety

What We Have Is a “Failure to Communicate”

A language problem.

We have a language problem, writes geriatric psychiatrist Dr. Marc Agronin in the Wall Street Journal, which is “Why It’s So Hard to Talk to Your Parents About the Coronavirus.”

We don’t want hard times, struggles, and suffering. But one thing they do for us is bring to the surface truths that we already deeply or instinctively knew were lurking just barely underwater. Then we wonder why we didn’t see that hidden, but real, fact all along. This generational “linguistic” truth is real.

Plenty of other reasons make knowing how to feel about this mess difficult already. Even “keep your tail section at home” terms in the same language are confusing. “Stay at home,” “safer at home,” and “shelter in place” are not the same. (Google it.) The first two are close. The second is what we’re doing where I live. Almost nobody is truly doing the third in its strict “don’t budge at all until the bullets quit flying” sense, though New York is close.

New York is close for good reason. The situation there is different than in my town. (For that matter, the situation 70 miles to the east in Lubbock is also different.) The Dallas mayor was frustrated that the Texas governor hasn’t completely shut down the whole state, but the governor is wise enough to know that Dallas County with several thousand confirmed cases is not the same as Bailey County with zero. We need to do some of the same things, but we’d be fools to do all of the same things.

Ah, but then we discover that, even living in the same area, folks of different ages are, as Dr. Agronin says, speaking different languages. They’re speaking “forty-ish” (if they’re 30-50), “sixty-ish” (40-60), and “eighty-ish” (70-90).

Forty-ish speakers figure they’re mostly safe, unless they have “underlying issues,” even if they catch Covid-19. But then they figure out that their parents, speakers of sixty-ish, aren’t scared enough and need their wings clipped and their keys hidden. “You went where!?” Forty-ish speakers have shifted roles from “occasional drop-by driver, porter, or tech support” to “protectors.”

But their protectees are unruly and not accustomed to feeling the need to be protected or managed. Sixty-ish speakers are most recently accustomed to taking care of both the generations ahead of them and behind them. They’re not totally cut up that the younger generation might get a chance to worry a little (about time, donchathink!), but they think of themselves as being still in their prime. Caregivers not care-receivers. Vulnerable?! Since when? It feels like an insult or a demotion and a lie all at the same time. And, worse, what if . . . it’s . . . true? When did that happen!?

And the eighty-ish speakers? Most are far sharper, Dr. Agronin writes, than we realize. Their “healthy aging minds are neither depressed nor disabled.” They are less impulsive than younger folks, less “reactive.” They know that time and relationships are precious and that routines are comforting. “Social distancing” negatively impacts all of those things. Eighty-ish speakers are tough and “surprisingly resilient.” They’ve met “crises” before and don’t plan to panic. (No accident that “key leaders” like Dr. Fauci are from this bunch.) Most are much more worried about “loss of connection” than getting sick.

So how do we talk to each other? Dr. Agronin says that we listen, and then try to hear what’s really being said. A forty-ish speaker saying, “You went where?!” means, “I love you, and I’m worried about you” even if a sixty-ish speaker hears, “You’re older and more vulnerable than you think.”

I’m thankful we all have a Father who is, in all respects, the King of all ages. He understands and loves us all. Completely.



     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.



Tweet Quote: “The Coronavirus Panic Is Dumb”

Oops! I doubt he cares, but it looks like a billionaire toy maker for cool kids just got himself into a bit of a bind. (He makes high-priced and over-hyped electric cars—he can keep those, as far as I’m concerned—and some seriously cool rocket ships.)

All Tesla CEO Elon Musk did to generate knee-jerk howls was to tweet elegantly and articulately, “The coronavirus panic is dumb.”

Not everybody disagreed. I’m told that he got a million “likes” almost immediately. Make that a million and one because, for what it’s worth, I agree with him. I won’t be “tweeting” any responses, though, because, whatever the evidence that the sky is falling because of the coronavirus, a boatload of evidence points to the fact that Twitter is for twits.

Oh, my good friend Elon (just kidding) and I would, I’m sure, agree that health authorities, and the rest of us, certainly need to exercise some wisdom and take precautions. It might not usher in world peace, but it would certainly be a better world if more of us would wash our hands a good deal more often, try not to sneeze on other people, stay home when we’re sniffing and snorting, and just generally try to keep our mucus to ourselves.

All of that would help some, surely, with the coronavirus. It might slow down cold viruses a bit, too. And getting a flu shot won’t help with the coronavirus, but if the present media hyperventilation reminds and motivates folks to get the shot, well, I suppose that flu numbers might go down even as big-bad-bugaboo numbers go up. If Elon and I are wrong and panic is indeed called for, I’m sure I’d rather have only one virus at a time.

But there’s that operative word: panic. It’s not “reasonable measures” or “wise precautions” or “good public health responses” that are dumb; it’s panic. And that’s why I find it hard to disagree with my bosom buddy’s five-word tweet. (Coronavirus is one word. No hyphen. Panic is no good excuse for improper spelling and punctuation.)

Ah, but here’s the problem, and this is why the tweet prompted some howling. When Joe Blow goes on un-sneezingly to work, listens to reasonable advice, but changes channels and watches re-runs while talking heads are unable to talk about anything but Covid-19, well, no one gets too upset with him if he shrugs his shoulders a little and just soldiers on.

But when a billionaire with easy access to the best doctors and healthcare and, should the need arise for such, the poshest quarantine quarters, seems to lecture commoners on “coronavirus panic,” it doesn’t come off very well—even if he’s correct.

Time will tell who’s right, I suppose. I figure vindication will come for those of us who just choose to wash our hands more and hyperventilate less.

I do know this: When the King of the universe wanted to take miraculous measures against the “virus” of sin, he didn’t tweet from on high, he sent his Son right down amongst us, completely able to “empathize with our weaknesses” and “tempted in every way, just as we are,” yet “without sin.” Why? “So that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4).



      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Control Freaks, Prepare to be Controlled”



Control freaks, beware! A “controlling” approach to life is fraught with danger and tears.

We all fall into that mode from time to time, thinking that if we can just “get it right” and force (we’d say “encourage”) others (spouses, children, coworkers) to  “get it right” by submitting to the improvement plan we create, we can fashion for ourselves and others a perfectly ordered, smoothly running, incredibly efficient existence. As long as we’re in charge, masters of the situation, all will be well, right?

Life doesn’t work that way, and, ironically, people who have a deep need to be masters end up as slaves continually dealing with fires that they rarely realize they’ve set or stoked themselves by their own sick need. And they are not the only ones who end up wrecked and broken, resentful and resented.

In a fine article in Christianity Today entitled, “Justify Yourself,” David Zahl writes that 500 years after Martin Luther helped the world rediscover the truth of the gospel, that salvation is by grace through faith and not by law through works, we still need to be reminded—and in very practical ways.

Zahl points to a university task force exploring reasons for a “spate” of suicides on its campus. Seriously contributing to the problem was the pressure many students felt to push for perfection in “every academic, co-curricular, and social endeavor.” The result? Serious anxiety and/or depression.

Jesus told us, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7). But what if the fingers gripping your throat are tentacles of your own perfectionism? As you choke for air, the neurotic need you refuse to recognize is also throttling your spouse, kids, and coworkers.

It’s a sad symmetry. Failing to feel mercy and grace, or admit we need it, we become unable to extend it. Even if we can’t see the reality, all of our relationships become conditional and sick: “You’ll be okay with me IF . . .” That is poison.

When Luther grappled with Scripture, the Apostle Paul’s words both assailed and freed him: we are truly saved only by grace through faith; law through works will only condemn us. But that’s just religion, right? Wrong!

As Zahl points out, that truth is as practical as hyper-driven students and suicide rates, women who’ll never be thin enough or successful enough, business folks who’ll never get enough work done and get shaky if they ever turn off their cell phone, kids with headaches and tummy aches and no virus but adult-sized stress, spouses whose marriages are more based on performance review than on unconditional love . . . Resentment flourishes. No one ever feels that he/she has done enough. Worse, no one feels that he/she IS enough. “If only I can do, get, achieve . . .” “If only I can get YOU—spouse, child, coworker—to do, get, achieve . . .” then my own life and existence will be justified. But what’s enough? When will I reach it? The answer? Never.

The fruit of a law-based life? Bitterness, resentment, anger. “The sad irony of our lives,” Zahl writes, “is that our desire to be in control almost always ends up controlling us.”

The good news of the gospel is that we don’t have to justify ourselves; it’s already been done. We’re completely loved, forgiven, and free. If we know that, let’s pass it on. If we don’t? Well, control freaks, prepare to be controlled.


       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!


Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“Hi, I’m Curtis, and I’m a Worry-holic”

worry 01

“Hi, I’m Curtis, and I’m a worry-holic.”

That’s the way I’d introduce myself at a Twelve Step program for worriers and anxiety addicts. And maybe there are some. Programs for worriers, I mean. I should check on this.

But come to think of it, I’m already involved in one. It’s called the church. Not everyone there is a worrier, but more than a few fit the bill. People just like me who wage a daily battle with worry and are as prone to reach for it as an alcoholic is to reach for a bottle when the stress piles up. Or when the sun comes up.

We read the Apostle Paul’s command, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6), but we botch it so often that we’re tempted to despair. We worry about worrying.

For some of us, it would be real progress if we could say with Charlie Brown, “I’ve adopted a new philosophy: I only dread one day at a time.”

Like many alcoholics, I seem every now and then to make a good stab at success. For a few days (or minutes), I can almost follow that divine injunction: “Have no anxiety about anything . . . .” I’m best at it when I’m asleep, or, this works for me, when I’m singing.

Sometimes I think it might even be more than half true to say that, as I’m getting older, maybe in some areas I’m learning, by God’s grace, to deal with worry at least a little better than I once did. Maybe I’m seeing a little improvement. (But count the “maybe’s.”)

Then too often I seem to wake up wallowing in worry, and any idea of slight progress melts like morning dew. It was mostly an illusion. And, yet again, I can’t believe what a poor showing I’ve made, that once again I’m a casualty in the war with worry.

Pick any front in the war. Satan can lob anxiety missiles our way from any number of directions.

Finances. Groceries and gas, your “out-go,” are going up at a rate steadily ahead of your income.

Marriage. Mars and Venus sometimes wobble in their orbits. Collisions, almost cosmic for some folks, can happen.

Work. Can’t live with it. Can’t live without it. You love it. You hate it. You . . . worry about it.

Parenthood. Count on it: the anxieties popping up in this most fertile field for worry are perennials.

Health. The doc says you must de-stress, a prescription guaranteed to immediately add significantly to your stress.

But Jesus seems serious about it when he says, “Do not worry about your life” (Matt. 6:24a).

The Apostle Paul not only commands, “Don’t be anxious,” he says, “Pray!” And he adds a great promise: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

God’s promised peace, the real thing and not our feeble attempts at calm, is exactly the strong “guard” lots of us need in the battle. Each day. Each moment.


         You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Brock Bronson and the Russian Attack on Goliad


russian bomberOne day when I was just a small lad growing up at 125 N. Goliad Street in Amarillo, Texas, Brock Bronson scared the bejabbers out of me. Until that moment, I’d never even seen a bejabber. Maybe you’ve never laid eyes on one, either. You don’t want to, let me tell you.

Hmm. Until recently, I hadn’t thought of that guy in years.

Brock Bronson. Now there’s a name that means business. Especially if it’s attached to a teenaged bully sort of guy. Especially if you’ve barely broken into double digits age-wise yourself. Especially if the teenaged Bronson lives just three doors down the street from you. (I’ve changed the name to protect the guilty—and to keep the innocent from being sued—but it was exactly that kind of name.)

I barely remember Brock, His Teenaged Highness, ever lowering himself to speak a word to me, which may have made the words he spoke on that fateful day all the scarier.

In his defense (which is crazy—a guy named Brock Bronson doesn’t need any defense), he may not have been that much of a bully. He may have been just a pretty normal teenage boy which meant then, just like it probably does now, that he had a higher opinion than the facts would support regarding his own intelligence, invincibility, immortality, and skill behind the wheel of an automobile. Maybe his parents didn’t share those views, but I will testify, the pre-teen boys on his block were pretty sure that teenage guys like Brock were either one notch below deity or in very close contact with the Devil. Either way, they were not to be trifled with.

Which might explain to some extent why my little brother and I believed him when Brock and his companions (I don’t remember if he had companions, but this is the kind of brainstorm teenage boys usually have in pairs) roared to a brief stop in front of our house, stopped my little brother and me in our innocent tracks as we were riding bikes or trikes on our sloping driveway, and informed us that a Russian attack had been launched against these United States in general and Goliad Street in particular. He led us to believe that we didn’t have time enough even to run inside the house but that if we’d crawl way in under the juniper bushes that bracketed our driveway, maybe the Russians wouldn’t see us, and we might have some slim hope of survival.

I suppose we thought Brock was headed to the Front. All we knew for sure was that he was headed away. Jim and I ended up way under a big juniper waiting for Soviet bombers to appear. I don’t know how long we waited, but it seemed like hours, and, later, it seemed like days before I quit itching. (Have you tried crawling around under junipers recently?)

I suppose we were waiting for Brock to stop by and give the “All Clear.” It never came. Neither did he. But neither did the Russians or their bombers.

Ah, worrying about a Russian attack on Goliad Street was world-class dumb. But I hate to think how much time I’ve wasted in the years since then worrying about stuff which, from Heaven’s point of view, must be even dumber. Worry. Anxiety. It’s dumb and dumber.

Faith. Now that’s where wisdom comes in. On Goliad Street or anywhere else.


       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!


Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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