Honestly, I wish this was something that I was better at. I am pretty much afraid of everything. When Alayna and I first started dating I was afraid of commitment… I was also afraid that if I didn’t commit I’d lose her… and I was afraid that I’d commit only to find out that she wasn’t committing… and I was… I think you get the point. Right now I’m afraid that I’m being too domineering of a husband, and I afraid that I don’t confront things in Alayna that I should confront, and I’m afraid that I confront the wrong things, and I’m afraid that I’m not consistent enough in my own example, etc, etc. I’m afraid that I don’t work hard enough, that I put too much pressure on her to have a solid income, and that I work too hard and that she overworks herself trying to keep up with me. With the prospect of our first child I’m afraid that I’ll get the wrong books, say or do the wrong things, not be involved enough, be too involved and micromanage his life, give an example of bad priorities, or try to be a perfect example and thus present him with hypocrisy. I’m afraid that my work isn’t good enough, or that its very good, but not what people want to hear, or that I just don’t choose the right topics, or the right journals to which to submit. In other words: I spend a lot of my time either being afraid, trying not to be afraid, or being afraid to be afraid.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt is famous for saying, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” Overall, this is a fairly good saying (though perhaps dangerous if taken too literally). Fear often controls us, drives us to do things that we really shouldn’t do, and keeps us from pursuing things that we really should pursue. All too often, we give ourselves over to fear, calling it wisdom or prudence, and put our trust in ourselves, as though we could control the course of comets hurtling through space or the quasar/solar flare/blackhole/etc that will eventually obliterate our planet and every single thing on it. However, when we let fear control our actions we inevitably do stupid things, like those moms who put their 4th graders on leashes and walk them around the mall, that hurt ourselves and others.
We often think that the antidote to fear is courage, and to some degree this is probably true. Plato defined courage as ‘knowing what is worthy of fear and what is not worthy of fear, and acting accordingly.’ However, even this falls somewhat short because there are things that are legitimately worthy of fear (like the quasar/solar flare/blackhole of imminent planetary destruction that I mentioned above) over which we have absolutely no control, and which could very easily consume our lives and livelihoods (say, devoted to building detection equipment so that at least you’ll know that an the unstoppable galactic phenomenon is about to annihilate everything you’ve ever loved). However, this kind of fear simply destroys the joy or purpose of living. If our days are spent consumed with fear over things that we cannot change, then we never actually do the things that are really worth doing.
So, I argue that the antidote to fear is trust. A reliance on some outside force (which we will call God because I believe that the God of the Christian bible is this outside force) that does control such things. If there is a God, and he is perfectly good, and he cares about us, then we can trust him to do what is actually good. However, here, again, we tend to run into our own wall of fear: what if I don’t think that what God thinks is actually good is good? For instance, can I trust God to give my daughter cancer? What if I trust God and my daughter gets cancer? That’s obviously not good, right? NO! NEIN! NIET! IE! BU! ME GENOINTO! LO! I don’t get to decide what is or is not good. I simply don’t, and as long as you and I continue to hold on to the idea that we get to define what is or is not good, the longer we hold on to our fear. Instead, we need to accept that sometimes we don’t know what is good and what is bad. Sometimes, what we’ve decided is good is the worst thing that could possibly happen to us, and sometimes the thing that we are so thoroughly terrified of is exactly what we need. So, instead of trying to define good and bad for ourselves, and fearing things that are out of our control, we should submit to the one who can actually define good and bad, and who has ultimate control. Just a thought.