Monday, November 9, 2015

Fear Is Contagious: How To Avoid Being Infected

My mom used to love to watch Christian television. There was a channel devoted only to Christian programming, and when no one else was watching, that’s what the TV would be tuned to. I remember sitting down when one of the shows was on. I was too lazy to try to find the remote, so I let the show continue on. There was a man with large hair sitting next to a woman with even larger hair, and they were talking about the end of the world. They had these huge smiles on their faces, like they had just won the lottery, or rather that you had just won the lottery and they were eager to steal it from you. They talked about government alliances, red heafers, the pope, beasts with horns, and a lot of other things that I can’t remember. I was too young to know what it all meant, I only knew that they seemed very convinced that the world was going to end. Although they seemed happy about it, the brutal events that they were talking about scared me to death.

In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy there are instruction regarding warfare for the nation of Israel. As I was reading through (not that I’m planning on going to war anytime soon), one of the instructions captured my attention:

“Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own.”1

That verse put into words something I had already experienced and that you probably know as well: fear is contagious.

If you spend a lot of time around fearful people you will become fearful as well. Fear spreads like a virus. Your brain starts to chase down all of the worst case scenarios and all of the bad things that could happen and before long, fear is in the driver’s seat of your mind.

Is your peace of mind being shaken by fear? Here are three things to consider:

Is my fear likely or only possible?

Few people have a daily fear of being struck by a meteor. The reason for that is that it’s extremely unlikely for it to ever happen. It’s possible that it could happen, but the chances are so remote, that there’s no real reason to consider it. It would be like building a home that could withstand incredible blizzards and sub-zero temperatures in Miami Fla. It would be a waste of money to build that home in Miami. It’s also a waste of emotional energy to worry about things that are incredible unlikely. If you made an  honest list of your fears, how likely would they be? Some may be realistic but many are probably not. If there are unrealistic fears that you carry, set them aside. They are gobbling up much needed energy and are doing you no good.

Am I taking action against the fear?

Fear multiples when we refuse to address it. It shrinks when we face it head on. If you’ve ever jumped off of a high diving board at a pool you know what I mean. The first time you edge your toes up to the end of the board, the pool seems to be a million feet below. Once you make your first jump, your fear begins to subside. Pretty soon, your fear is replaced by enjoyment. The more you think about what you fear and dread it, the more the fear will multiply. Facing the fear itself is much less stressful than carrying around the dread of it.

Are you talking about it to the right people?

Silence can be an incubator for fear. The more fear bounces around in your mind, the more it grows. Talking to someone about what you fear allows you to clear the air and get a fresh look at what is worrying you. The release that comes from getting your thoughts out relieves a great deal of stress. Also, it allows someone else to help you sort through your thoughts. Not being alone in your fear can help more than you ever imagined.

If fear is wearing you out and wrecking your life, take some time to think through these questions. While some fear is realistic and healthy, much of what we carry around isn’t. Fear doesn’t have to control you, you can have the peace you desperately want and need.

1 - Deuteronomy 8:20 (English Standard Version)
Photo Courtesy: "AustralianMuseum spider specimen 03" by Toby Hudson - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 au via Wikimedia Commons - you, you are likely more courageous than you’ve given yourself credit for.

No comments:

Post a Comment