Fear Not

Reading or listening to the news these days is to tune in to a litany of uncertainties. From the inability to buy certain products to rising costs of necessities to potential food shortages to nasty division/hate. Truth is, “the news” seems to relish crisis, be it Covid, shortages of essentials, or war in Ukraine.

Although I’ve already touched on some potentially hot button political subjects, that’s not what this post is about. And I’m certainly not trying to exacerbate any angst you might be feeling concerning these issues (quite the opposite, actually).

In uncertain times, the human psyche leans toward the negative and it’s easy to become enamored with the downer message of the day. That said, when we focus on the negative news of the day, we feel pressured by national or world-scale external factors like inflation, potential shortages, and rumors of war. This creates a sense of fear and anxiety in most people.

If at the same time we’re faced with internal concerns like the children being sick, job status, healthy food that’s affordable, or home-schooling the kids, the level of concern is compounded, and can easily morph into a chronic state of fear and anxiety.

Most of society alive today—at least in the western world—has been subjected to some form of externally induced concern or fear during the past two years. Whether it was the virus, economic upheaval, our children’s education, or job security, we’ve been concerned about these things. Perhaps more than one or two of them at any given time.

Fear is not wrong. It’s actually a survival instinct urging us to act in self-preservation. But prolonged fear is very negative, and we’re not designed to sustain it for an extended period of time. Therefore, we must strive against it. To say that may sound glib or callous—which is not what I intend. As you know, there’s always people in our lives urging us to not worry about it. Or those who pretend to be above fear or concern in all circumstances (which I question).

Rather, I suggest that we must face our fears, analyze them, and seek out the reasons behind them. We must recognize that there’s rational fear and there’s irrational fear. Irrational fear worries and stews over an issue until it’s out of proportion or all-consuming, with no solution. Irrational fear is often stoked by being exposed to only one side of the issue—especially if the opposing side is suppressed or hard to find. Irrational fear, by and large, is paralyzing and destructive.

Rational fear, on the other hand, is typically easier to overcome because it seeks to mitigate fear by facing the thing we fear and taking action. For example, let’s say we fear economic upheaval or collapse. While that in itself may be out of our control, rational fear gives urgent motivation to action. Be it making connections with people in your community to collaborate with for essentials, or learning a skill to become more self-sufficient, such as producing and/or preserving food or other essentials, rational fear produces action.

We also do ourselves a favor by seeking to recognize what it is that we fear. For example, the majority of folks fear speaking in a public forum. But by and large, it’s not speaking that folks fear, it’s the fear of social judgement or disapproval—social claustrophobia. Or perhaps we’d like to have a backyard chicken flock, but are afraid of failure. It’s not raising chickens we fear, it’s fear of not knowing how.

Let’s go through a list of truths surrounding fear. BTW, most of these are universal to all people.

  • Fear of death is only rivaled by the fear of social disapproval. The latter could be stronger. This is a profound quote, and I’ve thought about it a lot. I believe it’s spot on.
  • At the root of many of our fears is fear of discomfort. This is increasingly so as greater portions of society enjoy a cushy life in terms of daily necessities. In this sense, comfort becomes a cage where anything and everything outside of the cage stokes fear and concern. Reminder; there is growth just outside your comfort zone. I know this because I’ve been there several times, and while it’s definitely uncomfortable, it’s also exhilarating when you realize that the thing you fear is at worst manageable and at best exciting.
  • Fearful people are very easily manipulated and taken advantage of. Nobody thinks clearly when they’re under the influence of fear. We have all seen prime examples of this in the past two years, which is why it’s so important to rationalize our fears to some extent. Raw fear is not conducive with sound decision making or rational thought. In my life I’ve been in situations a few times where panic took the upper hand, and in retrospect it always clearer that our panic-stricken thoughts and actions were not the best ones.
  • When sufficiently frightened, most people will not only accept authoritarianism, but demand it. Again, we’re seeing this play out in real life—especially in recent history. Need I say more?
  • Another quote; We do not fear the unknown. We fear what we think we know about the unknown. I don’t think this quote is saying our fears are baseless, rather that many of the things we fear are things we know almost nothing about and therefore feel disempowered by them. Important; analyze your fears in order to learn what it is you really fear. Many of our fears are driven by ignorance on the subject.
  • Faith is an effective means of managing fear. Scripture is filled with instruction to not fear, and solace for those who are anxious, such as; For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind – 2 Timothy 1:7. This was key during the pandemic, in several ways.
    • 1) studies show that the faith community was considerably less fearful during Covid.
    • 2) while faith in a supreme power or God plays a major part, I believe being surrounded by a like-minded community also mitigates fear.
    • 3) for whatever reason, people of faith have demonstrated over the course of centuries to have heightened critical thinking.
    • 4) is this the result of being exposed to eternal truth (scripture) over time, which in turn causes questioning the narrative of the day? In other words, are faithful people, being exposed to truth, more likely to seek truth in the world around them, therefore being less susceptible to the propaganda of the day?

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about fear is that it always compounds. Fear always allows more fear. That said, we must recognize it as a powerful force—especially when the mainstream media repeats the current day crisis in lockstep. As Dennis Prager says, irrational fear is not only more powerful than love and hate, for most people it is also more powerful than reason. And when it is, it is far more destructive—to the individual and to society—than rational fear.

With that, I will leave you with Proverbs 3:25, where we are instructed to; Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. And that, is The View from the Country.