Fear /fir/ Noun: The unpleasant experience of threat, danger or concern there may be immanent harm.
Boo! Scared you? We surely hope not. Yet everyone is afraid, now and again. It’s part of being human. And some of us are more afraid of different things than others. We polled the office very unscientifically and came up with our own top ten.
What do you think? Are we close to yours?
- Snakes and Other Creepy Crawlies – They’ve plagued us since the beginning, and they top the list of American fears in a recent Gallup poll. Bugs, especially spiders, and vermin that bite or live in filth are universally disliked, and often feared beyond their actual ability to do us harm.
- Public Speaking (and other social phobias with people) – While some folks take their energy from a room of new people, others wither. Public speaking, in particular, means standing up and standing out, separating ourselves out and having the spotlight shine on us. That’s hard for most everyone. For many of our team, it sat atop the list. In a recent Gallup poll, it came in second in a list of top American fears.
- Isolation (and other social phobias without people involving loneliness, abandonment, othering, and rejection) – It’s a difficult fear, because we all want to fit in. It feels as if our very survival can depend on it, and sometimes it really can. Advertisers sell us products based on these very insecurities, and newscasters play to these fears as well.
- Death – It’s a transition that’s scary. No matter what we believe, we all know that death involves a significant change, and an ending of a life on earth. Our culture is very death averse. We sanitize it away, until the only time we see it is in echoes, at Halloween. Even for those who do not hold to the pervasive materialistic viewpoint, the process of death and dying can be difficult and painful.
- Aging – This may be simply a mix of fears – such as fear of death, pain, disease, lack, loss of control, and isolation – all rolled in one. Growing old sometimes – not always – bring such challenges. It also brings a beauty and wisdom all its own. To everything there is a season.
- Spaces – Open Spaces (Agoraphobia), Closed Spaces (Claustrophobia, e.g., elevators), High Places, Airplanes (Aviophobia), Cars, Bridges, and so on.
- Weather (e.g., thunder and lightning, earthquake). Some folks experience paralyzing fear of such “Acts of God.”
- Animals (Dogs, Horses, etc.) – There are many people who have an extreme fear of dogs. Others fear horses, or cats, especially black cats. Sometimes, but not always, the fear is based on life experience: “once bitten, twice shy.”
- Pain – Whether experienced as physical pain, mental suffering, disappointment, injections at the doctor’s office, or even the pain of hunger, the fear of pain looms large. The imagined potential for pain may be why between 10 and 20% of Americans say they avoid the dentist.
- Contagion – the fear of disease (and doctors, and medical offices) is so common it’s probably instinctive. Disease can bring on other things we fear, such as painful injections and treatment, social stigma and isolation, and even, ultimately death itself.
Halloween gives us a chance to playfully act out our fears, engaging with them in a safe way where nobody gets hurt. We do the same thing when we indulge in roller coaster rides, visit the “haunted mansion” or watch dystopian, apocalyptic, or horror films. When we work out our fears, together, we bond with each other. Perhaps that’s part of what’s happening with groups of Americans who panic about distant and unlikely pandemics. They may simply be saying to each other, “Do you feel fear right now? So do I!” And that’s not an entirely bad or unhealthy thing to do, sometimes.
Okay, we’ve named ten fears. Now, let’s disarm them in three “easy” steps.
- Step 1 – Get Educated – Starting with Knowing Ourselves. Looking at our fears, that is, examining the specific thing we fear, can help us understand ourselves better. For example, if I experience fear of public speaking, I could ask myself what underlies that fear? Is it fear of ridicule and rejection? Of disappointment in ourselves or the reaction of others? Or is it fear of shining? Gaining greater knowledge can disarm your fear. For example, knowing the risks are very low can reduce panic. Some things, like public speaking, improve with practice. Visit our vocal tips page for tips that will help you stand strong.
- Step 2 – Trust on God’s Goodness. As much as we can grow to know the nature of God as loving, as the “Our Father” who loves us as we are and is still not finished with us, we can remember that, although we’re unable to fully understand, we can trust we’re never alone, never rejected, never abandoned, and death has lost its sting. It’s hard, sometimes, to remember that we’re beloved children of God, when the world gives us such intensely different messages. Yet, as much as we can look to God rather than humans for acceptance, we can let go of the fear of ridicule or rejection. And, as much as we allow the Holy Spirit to flow through us, we needn’t be afraid to let it shine… after all, it’s all to the glory of God.
- Step 3 – Walk In Loving Kindness. We’re social animals, and at our roots we understand that when we live in kinship with each other and the earth, we’re well and whole. The more we practice acts and thoughts of loving kindness, the closer we are to God, and the more distant we grow, from our own fears. The Bible says it perfectly: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear (1 John 4:18).
What are WebDefs?
WebDefs – simple definitions of key terms relating to ministry and healing arts – are a regular feature of NHM Ministrants. Offered (where applicable) in conjunction with select key scriptural passages and analysis, WebDefs can be a useful starting place for exploring a topic of interest. See our other WebDefs entries.