As long as we wish for safety we will have difficulty pursuing what matters. – Peter Block
I just read an article that in our relatively safe environment and amazing country (USA)…people are more worried and stressed than ever. There could be many reasons why the polling results reflect more anxiety in what most would consider one of the safest and wealthiest countries in the world. No one can generalize for any one person because all of us have our own unique worries and fears. However, we are all held in a common bondage of a propensity to be “fearful”. What or who is on your list of fear makers is as varied as the people you interview. Let’s step back to some broader distinctions that might help at least with perspective.
Full of fear for ________. (Here’s my big list, you can add your more detailed list personal worries.)
- The Future – This one is broad, but its quite interesting because of its ambiguity. The obvious answer for this is we fear the unknown. None of us are promised a tomorrow. We aren’t promised the next moment really and there in lies a real problem. So we use “worry” to combat an unknown future that really may or may not happen. Worry is one of the worst things a person can do for their health. I have personally seen completely healthy people get cancer from severe stress/worry. In the New Testament of the Bible, in Matthew’s gospel he speaks of worry. Chapter 6:25-34 basically lays out the case that worrying 1) adds nothing to your life in the aspects of length of life, 2) Worrying about food and clothing is not necessary because God takes care of little sparrows and he will take care of you., 3) Solomon who is arguably the richest and wisest man to ever live on this earth (yes wealthier in modern day perspective than Bill Gates) had no control over his tomorrow and none of his smarts or wealth did him any good in the long run. And Matt sums up that…”Today has enough to warrant your attention and work. Take it one day at a time”.
- The Past – I would venture it would be a most rare individual that really had “no regrets” for something they did or didn’t do in their yesterdays. It’s so severe at times that we use the word “haunt” to describe our past. As if it had the personage of some spirit that can control our future and ruin our lives regardless of our hopes and dreams. Make no mistake about our mistakes, they do have consequences and they can scar us deeply. But scars are signs of healing and learning. Open wounds are past items that have been left to fester and stink up our lives. We also don’t need to wallow in our own self-pity to escape our fears. It’s why so many of us that choose to follow Jesus Christ can move on, because he clearly relates to our sin (missing the mark) as something he has conquered and we don’t need to stink like festering wounds. He has a future for us that is not encumbered by “old dead flesh or decaying people”. He came so that we could have life and not just that, but an abundant one. Which has nothing to do with the monetary gain or prosperity gospel garbage. Abundance is only found in our spiritual well being and not in the balance of our savings accounts or number of vacation homes/toys. AND if you have these toys and things in your life…it doesn’t mean you are wrong. They just can’t be the reason for happiness and many folks find out that, indeed they are not. Only a relationship can make us whole. If you believe in Christ’s promise, from my experience that is THE one relationship that will heal your past, give you a future and challenge you to live in…Seek him out if even if you are skeptical.
- The Present – This concept is surprisingly vague and hard for many to grasp or experience. Yet its where we all live. All any of us have is the present moment. There is nothing else or no other place that we can be except right here, right now. This is where we can choose something different than being a drug addict, a victim, a bully, an unfaithful spouse, a self centered/serving co-worker, or simply…a worrier. In the present moment we can choose…simply sometimes to stop or sometimes to move ahead. Being present also has its challenges because our “present moment” is not always the choice we would make in life. We may have cancer, a rotten relationship, poor finances, and several others. To get really present with our current level of unhappiness or short comings in life’s big continuum…well that’s a bit scary and too real. So then, what to do? We choose to not accept, live in the past, or jump ahead to the future. The future and past exist only in our mind, in the sense that what is real is what you experience with someone right now. If you are reading this you may be getting “present” with the article, your thoughts about yourself in these ideas, and you may be becoming more aware that you don’t allow yourself to be or get present. Why? Because it is where we are vulnerable, challenged, held accountable, hated or loved, supported or abandoned, and confronted with ourselves. We are faced with owning our happiness, sadness, and madness.
In summary, these 3 concepts or realities offer us the necessary perspective to choose to not worry. When we worry we should first notice that we are indeed…worrying. Then we should take a short timeout or make a journal note if you can, to look into what caused the worry and what is the reward for you in worrying. We transact with ourselves and we choose worry instead of getting present with ourselves . Letting go always happens before we can take on something better, new, or more powerful. Lastly, don’t let you or anyone else make you wrong for worrying or having anxiety. It’s natural and expected. In fact, Peter Koestenbaum (a wise man on leadership characteristics and qualities) stated clearly that there can be no leadership without anxiety. That anxiety is a necessary crucible within which we all can grow our development as individual leaders. You could call it facing our fears, but I think its more than just facing them. We must embrace them as our own and take responsibility for how we respond. We can choose worry or we can begin to wonder what else could be possible for me…I wonder what you will choose.
Don’t play it safe and don’t be foolish. Be certain that there are many people willing to share and help you overcome. Ultimately you have to choose everyday to live in the present moment and take responsibility for the choices you make in the present moment to worry or win.