5 Ways You Can Make Life Easier for Peeps with Social Anxiety

I asked the babies, “What should I do if I say something very embarrassing in front of everyone?”

“Run away,” declared the 8-year-old.

“Cry,” from the 6-year-old, with empathy.

“Get very mad and stomp my feet,” stated the 4-year-old, calmly, as if there was no other option.

Hi, my name is Kara, and I have tried all of these response methods during the 15 years I shared my life with social anxiety. None of these have helped me.

What is social anxiety?

“Social anxiety is the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, self-consciousness, embarrassment, humiliation, and depression. If a person usually becomes (irrationally) anxious in social situations, but seems better when they are alone, then “social anxiety” may be the problem.” Thomas A Richards Ph.D.

I was 23 when I finally diagnosed the stronghold in my heart that birthed social anxiety–this petrifying disease. At age 23, Jesus showed me that anxiety was an attack on my destiny, strategically planted in my 8-year-old heart by my enemy, the father of lies. 

I’ve spent years of fierce fighting to win the prize of freedom. Here is what I learned.

Destroying a lie planted in childhood is like trying to excavate an age-old wisteria vine out of your grandmother’s flowerbed. It’s confusing to know where to start. It’s HARD, sweaty work! Your muscles will complain after each go-round.

Every bit of root left in the dirt sprouts a new vine and makes you wonder if you’ll ever get a chance to put the shovel down.

Until one day, you realize it’s been so long since you had to excavate a sneaky sprout, and there are so many other flowers blooming in your grandmother’s flowerbed, that you’ve forgotten there ever was a wisteria vine ruling this area at all.

Social anxiety CAN be 100% overcome. While the battle is ongoing, here are five ways you can help your socially anxious friends feel known.

1. Keep Social Events Chill

Understand that folks who are anxious become more so at fixed events such as meetings or formal dinners where the entire group does the same thing for a space of time determined by the host. It’s not that the event is unpleasant, it’s just the feeling of being ‘trapped’ and/or conspicuous that raises the anxiety trigger. One of my instructors handled this scenario in a classroom setting by inviting the students to get up and walk around the room during class as needed, step outside for a breath of air, or change it up by sitting elsewhere in the room from time to time. Help your socially anxious friends feel comfortable at fixed events by lightening the mood, inviting guests to move about, dimming the lights a bit, or holding the event in a less formal area.

Events that are dimly lit or where the main focus is not on the guests are usually spaces where shy folks feel more relaxed, such as movie night, concerts or a campfire.

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2. Create/Offer Inconspicuous Spaces

It always helps people feel safer when they can choose how ‘seen’ they want to be. If you are a host and know of a guest who is anxious or shy, place them in a less conspicuous area, beside someone they already know well. When possible, try to have more seats available than the number of guests.

If you attending an event with your socially anxious friend, save them a seat beside you or someone else they feel at ease with.

3. Offer A Way Out

Don’t force your friends to participate in speeches or games–designate a less conspicuous role for them if they want it, such as photographer or point-keeper.

4. Intervene

When you are at an event with your socially anxious friend, pay close attention to their body language. Be ready to quickly change the subject if your friend is being bombarded in an uncomfortable conversation. Suggest ‘safe’ topics that you know they are at ease discussing. Lead your friend to interactions with those who have a calm demeanor and/or share similar interests.

5. Speak Life

Encourage your friends by speaking words of blessing over them. Those who struggle with self-worth value words of hope highly, even if it is hard for them to believe the words. Mention obvious realities to help your blessing take root, such as, “I noticed the way you held the door for my grandmother tonight. You really have class!” No one can argue with a real-life event .

BONUS ROUND!

Hey there, possibly-socially-anxious-fellow-human. No matter where you fall on the social continuum, here are a few ways you can help your friends understand you.

Practice Naming Your Emotions/Stress Responses

For example, if you hate a certain activity, try to figure out why you dislike it. Maybe someone close to you can help with this. When you have named the root sources of your fear, write it down. Naming triggers and responses is a big step towards breaking free!

Be Honest With Your Friends

Educate your close friends about what social anxiety feels like. You can just say something simple to start with, such as, “I can’t relax in large groups.” As you learn to name your feelings, you’ll be able to share more specific things with your friends, such as, “When people look at me, it feels like they are taking something I can’t control and can’t get back.” or “I place a high value on people’s words about me, and find it nearly impossible to risk being laughed at.”

Speak honestly about what activities you truly do enjoy.

Hold on to What is More Deeply True Than Feelings

The world is built on the unchangeable, because our Creator is unchangeable. Study the voice of your Creator. Memorize it. Declare what is true about yourself every time anxiety attacks. 

The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds.

2 Corinthians 10, PHILLIPS

We are at war.

Together, we will win.

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Inheritance

This was written as Jesus speaking Psalm 23 to his Father. Later, I looked at the words through my heritage as a child of God and had a wow moment: this is MY inheritance too! What an incredible gift!


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Father, I am your choice possession. I know I am valuable to you–full heir and one with you–there is nothing more I could ask for!

I trust you to completely provide for my energy and needs–not just provide, Father, but showcase your glory by crafting miraculous and beautiful provision for me that will make others stare in amazement, and be drawn to you because they long for access to the same feasting grounds!

You know how deeply I care for our people. You back me up by upgrading my heart again and again with energy, vision, determination, selfless love and every other resource I need. You know that my heart is for all these ones I love to follow in your path of righteousness. Won’t it be spectacular for us to celebrate this victory together? I can’t wait for your holy name to be broadcasted in every nation, to every tribe and people!

There is so much victory for us to achieve, together!

I know it is your plan to bring about complete restoration of all our enemy has stolen. I accept my part in this plan fearlessly! I walk confidently ahead, knowing you travel with me, timing all events perfectly, dealing justice to my attackers and restoration to the fallen and the lost. Your justice and your wise counsel are my constant companions, because you are always with me!

Yes! We will feast on all the joy that the enemy thought was his! What a day! Because I am your child, your appointed messenger and the spotless Lamb, I dance in celebration when I think about how nothing can steal this victory away from us! We will love and be loved, and have fellowship, just the way things were always meant to be. I can hardly contain this joy overload!

My place by your side? It is beyond question! I know that my place, authority and purpose does not change no matter where I go. All of your resources are mine, Father; I am 100% confident in this. I know that no matter where you send me, I will always be safe and secure inside your house–right where I belong.

 

Don’t You Give Up On A Miracle

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Little Green Journal Entry

“I dreamed last night that I was apprehended by a tall teenage thug, built and styled like a wrestler. I was walking down a stairwell in New York City, and he opened the street door, about to climb up. We stood face to face. My heart was pounding. I don’t remember exactly what kind of struggle we had in my dream, but I remember feeling a clear urgency that my life was in danger. In our struggle, my body stood tense and alert, but my spirit was never scared.

After a long struggle, he gave up fighting and sadly drew off his shirt to show me inch-wide, two-foot whip scars across his back. “Satan did this to me.” he said, eyes downcast. Before he could say more, three of his thug friends came, and all four pushed past me, ran up the stairs and slammed the door. I heard music pound and I knew something dark was going on up there that I could not go against alone. 

I stood at the bottom of the stairs, deeply sad, thinking about those awful scars. Why would he run up the stairs towards an enchanter who whipped him?

The next scene of my dream showed my parents, Ben, Arthur and me in the prayer room of our church, interceding together. 

My eyes shot open after this scene. My breath puffed white in the moonlight, but inside my sleeping bag, my skin was damp and clammy. I fumbled for my watch and pushed the button. 2:55 a.m.

My heart was still racing–every nerve on full alert. I switched my headlamp on red and reached for my tiny Bible, asking God to give me clarity about what my dream meant through his Word.

The first words I set eyes on were these, from Mark:

‘And he went into all the 10 towns, telling everyone he met what God had done for him.’ 

I backtracked. This was the deliverance story of Legion, a man possessed by demons, who everyone else had given up on. Who Jesus set 100% free!

I prayed for a long time in my tent, and drifted back into a calm sleep. 


 

It is incredibly uncommon for me to dream, much less remember it vividly.

This was not a dream.

This was a prophetic vision about Precious One, a real person who my heart had been crying for. I needed to hold on to this prophecy in the days to come, when Precious One verbally agreed with Satan’s lies, when I replayed the sad, sad scene of Precious One trying to destroy their own life.

“And he went into all the 10 towns, telling everyone he met what God had done for him.”

COMPLETE RESTORATION.

Yes! This will be true for Precious One, and soon!


From Luke 4, TPT

When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been raised, he went into the synagogue, as he always did on the Sabbath day. When he came to the front to read the Scriptures, they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus unrolled the scroll and read where it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to be hope for the poor, freedom for the brokenhearted, and new eyes for the blind, and to preach to prisoners, ‘You are set free!’ I have come to share the message of Jubilee, for the time of God’s great acceptance has begun.”

After he read this he rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the minister, and sat down. Everyone stared at Jesus, wondering what he was about to say.  Then he added, “These Scriptures came true today in front of you.”


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BELIEVE what your eyes have seen, child. Believe what your eyes will one day see. Our God is a god of miracles.

Greater things are still to come. 

 

Canoe Lake, and War

It was 1 p.m. on a reckless fall day, and a thunderstorm was brewing in the west. Charcoal clouds piled ever darker and higher above the forest, and the wind pushed my canoe away from the cloud, vigorously, as did the waves. “Get away! Go back into the wilderness, back to where you came from. You are not a part of this lake. You don’t belong here,” scolded the smack of the waves.

The sun agreed, boring down on our bare arms and faces, cracking our lips.

Jenny didn’t look up. She was kneeling in the bow of the canoe, curls flying, shoulders bent, face set south-west. Rythmically, she pulled, never stopping, never changing position. I could see her arm and shoulder muscles rippling and knew they were shouting just as loudly as mine, “Rest! We have nothing left! Do you mean to kill is all, human?”

We’d been paddling Canoe Lake for over three hours now–just this same two-mile lake.

There were docks along the way, little stillnesses in the churning wet, that belonged to swanky vacation cottages on the mainland. I stared at one of these as we struggled to pass it. Our progress was so faint, it seemed we were sitting still.

I wrestled with my paddle at the stern, straining to keep the canoe pointed into the waves instead of sideways between them.

I couldn’t always do it.

“Switch!” I called, and Jenny’s momentum instantly joined mine. “You’re rocking this,” she shouted back. “You too!”

You know, in the middle of a pitching lake, life choices are pretty simple. It’s, ‘Keep the canoe from capsizing and make it across the lake.’ or ‘Stop trying and wash up at the shore you started from.’ That’s it. No other options.

We had no anchor, no pause button.

We believed that the showers, food, and ride back to the USA, all waiting for us at the south end of Canoe Lake, were worth fighting for, so we didn’t stop until we got there.

And by hook or by crook, we made it.

Our enemy in the war for man’s soul is like this lake, in some ways.

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War cannot be paused part way thru. A pause sweeps you right back to where you started.

What are you fighting for?

Do you actually believe it will be worth all the pain and struggle you’ve invested? Do you believe in the goal, enough that you refuse to quit until you touch it?

Would it help us win if we believed and acted in agreement with God’s promises before they feel true, and just simply because they ARE?

In Which I Say a Bad Word

“!?&#! Hold my hand, baby!” My niece stretched her hand towards me agreeably and I boosted her up the rock slab, farther away from the precipice. She was tilting her face, totally oblivious to my racing heart or my visions of her receiving (not her first) broken bone. “Holy craft? What holy craft?”

I tried to keep my mouth very, very straight.

Pride: decapitated.

Using low-class language around children is something I cannot stand, so I was feeling about as important as an inchworm at that moment. A brown inchworm, at that, not even a cool lime-green one.

Time to apologise.

But then I lost my cool again, when the three exhausted little mountain climbers didn’t know how to manage their melting Italian ice. I waged a war with shame and sorrow for days, because of the impatient moments I had with those precious babies.

 

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I’m a messed-up person.

Are you messed up too? Do you ever think, “Self, how could you do that? How? You are a monster, and that’s a fact.”

Impatient moments are like indicators on a dashboard. A gift from God actually, like a dashboard warning light is a gift to those of us who don’t take time for routine car maintenance.

Low oil level! Time to visit the mechanic shop!

Low river-of-life levels! Time to stop flying solo! Time to go to Jesus and repent, learn, rest and receive.

“Ugh, bad timing. I have no time for a shop visit, Jesus.” I whined.

“If you want to have time for one, you do.”

So I didn’t do laundry, didn’t deposit my checks, didn’t go shopping, didn’t make dinner for my neighbor (I found out later her refrigerator was already packed. Thanks, Jesus!), didn’t clean, didn’t weed, didn’t trim the yard, didn’t shave my legs… Basically, didn’t do all the good things nice, responsible women Must Always Do.

Scandalous!

But…

I had time to feast. And I was starving.

Listen to these words the Lord gave his kiddos after miraculously making them a free nation:

I have removed your backbreaking burdens
   and have freed your hands from the hard labor and toil.
You called out to me in your time of trouble and I rescued you.
   I came down from the realm of the secret place of thunder,
   where mysteries hide.
   I came down to save you.
   I tested your hearts at the place where there was no water to drink,
   the place of your bitter argument with me.


Listen to me, my dear people.
   For I’m warning you, and you’d better listen well!
   For I hold something against you.

Don’t ever be guilty of worshiping any other god but me.
I am your only God, the living God.
   Wasn’t I the one who broke the strongholds over you
   and raised you up out of bondage?
   Open your mouth with a mighty decree;
   I will fulfill it now, you’ll see!
   The words that you speak, so shall it be!

 

But my people still wouldn’t listen;
   my princely people would not yield to me.
So I lifted my grace from off of their lives and I surrendered them
   to the stubbornness of their hearts.
   For they were living according to their own selfish fantasies.
O that my people would once and for all listen to me
   and walk faithfully in my footsteps, following my ways.
Then and only then will I conquer your every foe
   and tell every one of them, ‘You must go!’
Those who hate my ways will cringe before me
   and their punishment will be eternal.
But I will feed you with my spiritual bread.
   You will feast and be satisfied with me,
   feeding on my revelation-truth like honey
   dripping from the cliffs of the high place.”

You are not meant to single-handedly save the day, friend! You are designed to be a partner. A helper. You might not like the sound of this one, but you are meant to be a follower.

You know Esther, that 10/10 who married an unrighteous king and risked her head for her people? She followed her uncle’s advice. She was backed up by an entire nation’s prayers. She walked after God, in faith.

Deborah, that warrior-prophetess? She spoke God’s words. “The Eternal God of Israel commands you…” “The Eternal has decreed…”

Don’t be guilty of worshipping the gods of I Was Made For Hard Work So Grrr, Let’s Do This

or of I Have Got To Hustle My Act Together Before All Is Lost, heaven-warrior. Approval traps have 100 names, but they’re all bent on robbing your joy and sanity. You’ll find your heart saying far worse things than ‘holy craft’.

Truth is, Jesus has got what it takes to save the day without your help. Right now, he just wants to be with you. “Come to me!”- that’s what he is always saying.

You’ve got to be with Jesus if you want him to feed you. After you eat your fill, you’ll have the courage to follow his unpredictable ways. He’s not from this kingdom, so his reasoning takes some getting used to. But if you are his follower… then follow!

If he leads you away from your Good & Proper Things and towards his heart, just go with it.

The world will remember your words of life far longer than your 24-hour stubble.

Night

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When the mountains have tucked the sun snugly to bed under a thick wool coverlet of blackest black, the moon rises, and takes matters into her own hands.

First one star joins her, then another, and as their band grows they sing a silent song of rest, and safety.

The frogs hear the song, and take part with their deepest and best bass, the crickets tune their fiddles and join in, the coyotes sing the bridge, and at that signal, laughing squads of lightning bugs take flight, dancing out and out and out until the meadow matches the sky.

A mischievous paradox links hands with the quiet air, brushing my face with warm  swaths of day-old grasses that had just begun to ferment under the sun, and snuffs of dizzily sweet locust, and surprising shiver swirls wherever my skin is bare to remind me of why the mountain creatures are tucked down warm into their nests.

“Be at peace, and sleep,” sings the night song. No response can be expected from the mountains, for the rise of the stars has buried them even more deeply under their inky coverlet.

“Come away with us, and dance!” cry the lovesick fireflies.

“Follow me,” whispers a moonbeam, twinkling distractingly on silent paths of white, “I will show you things no one else shall see.”

A bat zooms by, feasting. An owl shouts for his wife but she doesn’t hear him because she is busy shouting for someone else. Baby whitetail flicks his tail, and nudges his mother’s belly. Mr. Opposum sneaks out of his oak tree and takes a back way, hoping his neighbor will not follow him to the stawberry bed, because he wants all the strawberries AND all the grubs for himself.

The stars sing on. The crickets play on.  Fireflies dance on.

Night.

How can anyone leave this scene, and go to sleep?

Something About Heaven Vision

Sometimes folks give me really great compliments. Compliments like, “I’ve learned a lot from you.” And they are more than twice my age.

Sometimes I do really stupid things. Like promising things I actually can’t follow through on, or getting annoyed because someone is wasting my time.

Sometimes I stare at the trees for a bit, trying to decide if I am a wonderful person, or a monster.

Jesus sent some words to me one of these times. He said, “I have given you these treasures in an earthen vessel.” 

It’s amazing how he explains things so well to me. It made perfect sense, with just that simple explanation.

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This priceless treasure we hold, so to speak, in a common earthenware jar—to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us. We are handicapped on all sides, but we are never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but we never have to stand it alone: we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out! Every day we experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus, so that we may also know the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours.

We Don’t Get To Be Here Long

Bu-BUMP, bu-BUMP, goes the blood in my jugular vein, as if my blood vessels are a track and the blood cells are thoroughbreds, surging towards the finish line. I stomp the accelerator and turn the wheel into the mat of blackberry vines, very aware that my body is being forced back into the seat as we climb. A grumble of mud and stones, a scrape, and we slide gracefully on to the mossy space below the yellow beeches. It is 23° but my cheeks are hot. “Thank you, Jesus!” I squeak, and Harley pants and yawns loudly, as she does every time we live through a moment of terror.

Fear stomps on my lungs every time I think of driving up that lane. Some of you will shake your heads and sigh, and some of you will understand.

The only reason I began driving to the top of my dirt lane at all is because my father showed me how and then said, “It’s your turn.” I hate being wimpy in front of him after he shows me how to do something. It’s like saying, “You are a liar, Dad.”

The only reason I made it to the top of my dirt lane the second time, and the 202nd time, was because once you start going up, you can’t stop. Stopping is actually dangerous. Driving up just feels dangerous.

Once I had to jump start my car in a black parking lot, all alone. Slump-backed in the rain, I shivered and prayed for 32 minutes before finally connecting the clamps. My hand would go towards the battery, and then jerk away.

I’ve learned recently that dream-chasers fall into two categories: Tryers and Doers.

Tryers have options. They can say, “I am trying for my lifeguard certification. I’m training 14 hours a week, but I honestly doubt I will pass the test.” They never sign up for the test, because they don’t think they will pass it. Reasons, reasons, reasons…. all very valid and unable to be explained away.

Doers do not have options. They say, “I will refuse to be comfortable until I have set up a new way of life. By hook or by crook, I will get there, and no delay.”

The thing with trying, is that you are never truly a failure. If you set out to TRY, you can rationalize success either way. You will stand in the parking lot, in the dark rain, wasting time because you are trying to jump the car but you must first evaluate all the dangers.

If you set out to DO, there is only one way to win. You will put your foot to the accelerator, knowing once you begin you will not be ‘safe’ until you reach the goal.

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You do the thing, and no delay, because you refuse to say, “You are a liar, Dad.”

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

I know I am.

 

 

What If He Asks You To Remove Your Shoes?

Have you ever raced across hot sand? I have, and what’s more, something prickly shared its bounty with me. To remove all the thorns from my foot was a significant challenge.

Imagine strolling into work one day and then stopping dead in your tracks because your tools are totally engulfed in fire. They aren’t being burned up, mind you, just surrounded by crackling flames.

Now imagine that you hear your name being called, but you see no one. So you move closer. And then you realize it is God talking, and he starts explaining your life mission to you.

My friend, Zvek, and I sometimes discuss our life missions. We are both nearing 30, so we say we have just a few more years to complete our training and get our acts together. Jesus started his ministry at 30, and we are high achievers.

So Moses–that slave baby turned prince turned fugative–do you know about him? Well, he thought he had his act together when he reached middle age. He was still a fugative, sure, but he had a family and a job. Life was as steady and predictable as it had ever been. But one day he drove his herds near the mountain of God. That was the day it all went down.

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Moses sees a bush on fire, right there at the foot of the mountain of God. Weird, right? Fire in a desert is abnormal, that’s a fact, so Moses has to take a closer look. A voice calls his name, and he recognises it as God’s voice. “Moses!” God says, “Take off your shoes. This is a holy place.”

Now, reader, please remember that Moses wasn’t standing on a wave-smoothed beach. He was in the middle of a dry, rocky, thorny, burning hot (110°) climate. Scorpions and venomous snakes live here. Would you like to walk across this terrain barefoot?

Moses wants to know what God is up to more than he wants to preserve the lifespan of his feet. He tosses his shoes, follows God’s voice, and finds out his life mission, right there by a bush that is in flames… but not a bit damaged!

That bush, reader, let’s think about that bush for a minute. It was ON FIRE, the quickest death–the worst danger a bush could know–and yet, safe. Untouched. A humble bush, used for something incredible, a living picture of the language of a world close at hand, now, but also very far away. Let’s think about this for a bit. What could it mean?

Getting back to Moses before he vanishes from sight, let’s go over the steps he’s taken today.

1. He chose to travel to the mountain of God. Proximity to holy places.

2. He saw something near the mountain of God that was unusual. It reminded him of one of God’s names: Consuming Fire, and he went towards it, thinking, “Could it be that God is on the move?” Curiosity. Eyes wide open. Understanding of God’s attributes. Action.

3. God called Moses’ name, and he said, “Here I am.” Choosing relationship over being a spectator.

4. Barefoot on burning, thorn-studded sand. A walk past the snake and the scorpion’s dens. “I’d rather be in pain and near you than whole and far away”. Speaking “I will” instead of “I need”.

A refiner’s fire NEVER consumes the gold, reader. Believe it.

Know who God is. Walk in faith.

Always be curious.

My Best Reads of 2017

To Kill a Mockingbird  and its sequel, Go Set A Watchman, by Harper Lee

Adventure, laughs, suspense, history and characters whose beliefs will walk with you the rest of your life. Read these when you need a reminder that there once were and probably still are folks with deep-rooted manners and even deeper-rooted morals.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

A nail-biter, with humor and warmth. I can’t say much about this short story, because the plot is too well-crafted to risk spoiling.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

A gory and thought-provoking prediction of the future, published in 1932. Deeply depressing.

Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

A timid, wounded girl fights her enemies under the teaching of two silent companions. Best listened to when night hiking through bear-infested woods.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Miracles and heartbreak; a narrative of one of the Sudan’s Lost Boys. Read this when you need incentive to re-evaluate your life values.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

A suspense story full of unforgettable quotes. Read this when you need financial inspiration.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin

A good read when your brain feels consistently overloaded.

The Paradigm by Jonathan Cahn

A biblical scholar’s view of recent USA history. A good companion when your brain needs to get up and go for a brisk run.

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce D. Perry

Case studies by a child psychiatrist. An atheistic explanation of the medical and scientific effect specific trauma cases have engraved into young lives. Read when your mind is strong enough to process and filter gritty subjects.

Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

An entertaining and inspiring approach to etiquette–if you believe polite behavior starts in the mind and heart, then you will love the angle of this book.