I first heard the idea of being a “non-anxious presence” in a counseling class I attended a few years ago. It was in our text book and is the only thing I remember about the whole class except that the professor seemed a bit anxious and tense.
Anxiety has so many faces. It can appear as in control, in charge, conceited and arrogant. It can appear as whining and whimpering and wanting lots of attention and pity.
The ancient Greek word for anxiety is merimnáō. The first half, meri, means parts or pieces; while the second half of the word, mnáō, has to do with memory or thought. That helps me understand anxiety as a dividing up of one’s thoughts into many parts– like having, as we say, to many irons in the fire.
Non-anxious then would have to do with collecting one’s thoughts or regaining composure.
Presence is a vital part of the phrase too. It’s much easier to be non-anxious when one is not present in the chaotic, anxious situation. And it is indeed important that we have those isolated quiet times to strengthen ourselves before entering into the fray.
But the great place of victory and value for our leadership contribution occurs when we are present in that work place or with the person or people who are anxious and even out of control. When we are calm in the midst of those storms we can also be calming. We move into a key position on deck, keep a level head, have our sealegs, and help to save the crew and even the ship!
To be or not to be a non-anxious presence…that is the question.