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Ways we Handle our Fears - Pt.2

    When I am afraid I will trust you. (Psalm 56:3). And Jesus said " Come to me, all you who are...burdened...and learn from me...and you will find rest for your souls". (Matt.11:28,29).

    All of us experience fear - both REAL and IMAGINED. REAL fears are those awful experiences we face when a calamity happens - we lose our job, our partner walks out on us, we are diagnosed with a deadly disease, etc.

    IMAGINED fears are things which might just possibly occur, but usually don't.....we might get struck by lightning, a child may have an accident at school, and so on.

    Both sorts of fears can consume us. Our God encourages us over and over in Scripture to "Fear Not"..........but I do not believe that this means it is wrong to fear. Fear is a vital emotion for humanity, without which we would not survive. We all must have a 'flight' and 'fight' adrenalin rush in certain situations, which at various times impacts all of us. What our Lord is saying is simply "Don't be frightened, for I am with you to support you no matter what happens." God is desiring to comfort and console us with the knowledge of our Maker's presence with us at all times. Our Provider is offering comfort to we fearful little ones - God's children.

    We all handle fear differently. Often we want to deny our fears, like the lady I wrote about in a previous article who tried to 'spiritualize' her Real fear away (not successfully!!). It would be much easier if we could!

    Dawn Rowan, an Australian psychologist, has produced an excellent video series entitled "The Missing Links" in which she presents much insightful material about the ways we handle fear. She explains it this way. All of us are born with four basic human emotions - happiness, sadness, fear and anger. As babies we experience all of these at differing times. We may feel happy when we are cuddled, sad when hungry, fearful when lonely, or angry when we are not given what we want.

    As we grow, our parents reward, usually unknowingly, each of these emotions. By the time we are two years old we have pretty well worked out for ourselves which of these emotions are most acceptable. Virtually all parents reward happy, smiling, contented babies and toddlers, so we do not have a problem expressing happiness.

    The confusing emotion is fear. Parents handle fear very differently. If you happen to be a boy, when you are fearful, you will most frequently be given the mesage that it is not okay to cry or be sad and withdrawn. It is better to bang your toy on the ground, toss the banana you don't want to eat, stamp your foot or even throw a good tantrum! This is a "boyish" way to behave and therefore is acceptable. By the time most boys are two years of age they have learned that to cry and be sad and withdrawn is not likely to get you comforted by Mum and Dad. But if you get angry, you might get laughed at, or picked up and carried, or distracted with some other wonderful activity. So, for boys, generally speaking, when they are frightened they will act aggressively with anger.

    Baby girls experience the exact opposite. When they are frightened, it is highly likely that if they express this with tears, or sadness or become withdrawn, they will be held and rocked, comforted and perhaps given a feed. On the other hand it is usually NOT okay for a little girl to break toys, stamp her feet and throw tantrums. So girls when frightened will generally become sad and tearful, or timid and withdrawn.

    Consequently, as we grow, these ingrained attitudes of behaviour become part of who we are. Women generally suffer more from depression than men, and are more likely to cry when upset. They are actually fearful but express this as sadness. Men are much more likely to become aggressive, expressing anger verbally or non-verbally in many ways. This is a contributing factor in most male aggression.....they are actually fearful for some reason, but do not know how to express it.

    Of course there are many exceptions. There are angry, aggressive women and depressed, sad men. The answer, however, for all of us lies in assertiveness. If we can state exactly what we feel -"I feel fearful because," then other people will be able to understand us much better and help us. Plus we can understand ourselves much better, which is far more important, and then know what we are dealing with in our lives. It is a much more open and honest way to live, and much more self-caring. No-one feels good when they are angry OR depressed.

    The way society has encouraged us to behave is not our real self - it is like a shell we have learned to put around ourselves for protection. Jesus wants us to open up our shell, to find our true identity which God had designed for us. Then we shall live much more fruitful lives, becoming more and more beautifully true and aware and alive to our own nature and God's nature within. We shall live much happier, fruitful and helpful lives.

    Sometimes it is right to be angry, and sometimes it is right to be sad. There is also a time to be afraid. There is a time for everything as the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us. But when we are afraid, let's admit that, too, for what it is. I believe that the One who made us keeps reassuring us about fear in Scripture, because it is the emotion which is so hard to deal with appropriately. The continual reminder is, as the song reminds us so beautifully - "Be not afraid, I go before you always, come, follow me, and I will give you rest". Only as we follow Jesus in honesty and self-awareness, in stillness and humility, will we ever find the rest and peace of mind and heart which will enable us to face our fears. Then, and only then, can we handle fear in a healthy and productive manner.

    © 2004 Christine M. Jones

    Droplets from Life

    Christine Jones is married to David. She has two adult children and precious grandchildren. She has worked for many years as a school teacher/librarian, and written children's material for several years in her 'spare time'. She loves nature, music and the theatre.

    John Mark Ministries