Unmasking fear

Inaction never conquers fear.

Staying in place and waiting for things to change never sets you free. I can’t sit cowering in the corner simply hoping that fear will go away. I have to learn to take action and confront it WHILE feeling it.

I was on a suspension bridge 500 feet above the canyon.  And while it looked cool in Indiana Jones, I reached up and felt tears running down my cheeks.  I had suspected I would struggle with this – being afraid of heights. But I also knew my boys would love the thrill of the zip lines and the 3 suspension bridges.  I just hadn’t expected the fear to grip me as strongly as it did.  

I couldn’t breathe.  I froze.  The only thing moving were the tears trickling down my cheeks and I hated myself for them but couldn’t help it.

Why is fear so powerful in our lives?

The only other force as influential as fear on us humans is the motivating power of love.

And love CASTS OUT FEAR – so we know that ultimately love is more powerful.

But the question is – which one are we listening to?

It’s the old Indian tale of the wolves.  You know it: the inner battle that rages every day.  The good wolf fighting the bad wolf inside of us. One full of anger, rage, fear and selfishness.  The other is full of faith, kindness, peace and hope. The one that wins, of course, is the one that we FEED the most.  

That is OUR part when it comes to fear. 

That is the action we need to take.

We can’t help that there are conflicting emotions inside of us. We can’t control every circumstance we find ourselves in.  

But we DO have control over what we choose to put in our minds over and over again.

Eating is a REGULAR thing.  It is a NECESSARY thing. It is an ACTIVE thing.  But depending on what we are feeding ourselves the outcome produced may be either health and vitality or chronic disease.  Our physical state is directly linked to the nature and quality of that nourishment. The principal is the same whether it be our body or our mind.

If I feed myself a steady diet of doom and gloom – then my stress level rises and I become irritable, tense, easily overwhelmed and incapable of keeping a positive perspective on the situation.

But if I willingly say NO to the “junk food” of the mind and instead snack all day on thoughts of hope, prayers, beautiful acts of kindness that I see around me (things you have to look for, it can take effort, it’s not fast food) then I find that I live my day out of a sense of peace and joy that cannot be shaken.  I am centered and healthy and stable, having filled my soul with nourishment that brings out the best in me. It’s what I was made to feed my mind and soul.

But my inbox, my social feed, my TV – they all offer quick and juicy morsels of stress inducing snacks. Just like I choose to not bring chips and soda in the house – I can choose to limit their influence over my thoughts by relegating them to certain times and places.  I don’t have to let them invade my every minute.  

But back to fear…

So we agree that inaction will never get you beyond fear.  

I couldn’t stay frozen, swaying at 500 feet in the air.  Adding to my fear was watching my boys, ahead of me, sit and dangle their legs over the edge.  

Even writing about it – my palms get sweaty again.

I couldn’t stay there.  I had to feel the fear and still MOVE despite it, BEYOND IT.

You must actively weaken fear and fight it off through a steady intake of truths about yourself, God, and the reality of whatever situation is trying to gain control and freak you out.

The reality – truth – was that I was attached to a super strong cable above my head, the bridge had been crossed by many, so it was stable, and the guide was 3 feet away gently coaxing me to advance to “safety”… which was really just another platform way up high off of which I had to zip line 600 ft … but I decided that thought was not helpful.  Focus on the one that does.

I was safe.  I was secured from above. I decided to move.

And the good news is that with any fear – while we may not have the power to single-handedly end a pandemic (or even find rubbing alcohol)-  we have the ability to take that action. That step forward and beyond the fear.

Your victory in the fight with fear is to unmask it.  It is more bark than bite. In fact it doesn’t even exist.  The only power it has is the degree to which you believe it.  The degree to which you pay attention to it.  

The thought that paralyzed me was shouting:  YOU ARE GOING TO FALL!!! YOUR KIDS ARE GOING TO FALL!!!  I had to unmask that lie.

Now some fear is healthy.  After all it has an important job to do.  It surfaces as a warning, an alarm that something is off.  

But when fear meets up with uncertainty – when we are facing something for which we have no precedent, no frame of reference, no past experience – like, say, a pandemic – we can become infected with fear’s useless brother: anxiety.

Day after day we become obsessed with things we cannot control, and the obsession pushes us to seek out other “infected” people who understand our new new found “fear” habit. 

But this type of anxiety will only serve to take years off of your life, steal the present moment and cause you to make bad decisions.  The prefrontal cortex (smart you) gets dimmed out when anxiety takes the wheel.

Chronic anxiety is a very serious problem, robbing people of the ability to fully live, to enjoy their life, to thrive.

I once heard stress described as an inner fire alarm, it goes off to alert you that there is danger, that something is off.  And they described a person who has an anxiety disorder as someone who’s fire alarm is broken and is constantly going off.  It no longer serves the purpose of alerting us to danger because it incorrectly senses danger everywhere. The stress response system is stuck on because of some past trauma that activated it and has never been dealt with.  Usually something from childhood.  Iagine living with a fire alarm blaring in your ear? Hunt down those lies and make it stop!

So the action that needs to be taken when fear shows up is to immediately take control of my thoughts.  INTENTIONALLY begin with feeding myself a steady diet of TRUTH, HOPE, FORGIVENESS and LOVE. I need to ground myself.  Weed out the lies. Focus on the facts. Focus on the good.

And find the love.

There is no fear in love. It cannot exist there.

So after I made it past the three bridges and came to the longest and highest zip line – I decided to focus on love.  I have always wanted to fly. I decided to let go and delight in the experience. I shut down the fear by focusing on love.

And it was magical.

Fear will fight to take control – but it’s like letting a five year old drive the car.  It won’t end well.

Love does not need to control – it is connected to the One who is in control and it TRUSTS implicitly in the goodness of the Giver.  It can let go and enjoy the ride.

There are many practical ways to tame fear when it is not serving a purpose.

First step is ridding yourself of useless anxiety by calming your nervous system (breathing deeply) and then going on an active “mind diet” – stop listening to, reading, watching and hanging around the things that make you anxious!  

If the news is a trigger (as it is for many, watching event after disastrous event unfold which we cannot control) then stop watching it 24 hours a day.  If reading about diseases only feeds your anxiety about your symptoms then take a step back. If hearing about the latest kidnapping, trafficking ring, pedophile, scam or corporate layoff is causing you to lay awake at night – STOP FEEDING YOUR MIND THAT DIET!

The Word (a very wise collection of teachings) tells us to think and meditate on things that feed the peaceful wolf. Bear with the longer translation – I think it is worth it:

“Whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, THINK ON and WEIGH and TAKE ACCOUNT of those things [FIX YOUR MINDS ON THEM].”

It is not a coincidence that this passage follows the verse where we are told to NOT BE ANXIOUS for anything.  This is how we do it.

Our THOUGHTS, controlling where they go and what they feed on – is the KEY.

Fear is battling to take over our mind first – then it can control our actions.

Approaches like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), meditation, group therapy, and cultivating a strong support group of healthy relationships can also make a huge difference.  Technology can be helpful through Apps like Unwinding anxiety and Calm. There are medications for those who experience a debilitating amount of fear. And for me faith in God has made a huge difference.  

I am the type of person who sees risk everywhere.  I try to mitigate it at every turn. I am hyper vigilant, and beat myself up if I didn’t foresee a preventable disaster (like running out of hand-sanitizer!).

So for me it has taken a lot of work to gain control over my frantic mind. I have had to learn to make God bigger than anyone or anything else in my life.  

He is my anchor, my number one healthy, safe and loving relationship.  

Once I realized how much I was loved, provided for and sustained by Him, my fears got smaller.  They were placed back into a healthy perspective. I was able to face myself, my life and my circumstances with renewed courage and hope.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still days when I feel like I want to curl into a ball and never leave the house.  

But on those days I feed on truth and MAKE myself move beyond  (remember how inaction never conquers fear?) and sure enough, the fear dissipates as I go through my day holding hands with the force that enables me to stand.

I can cross that crazy high bridge, one step at a time.

As we face a time of uncertainty, when our routines, our lives as we know it have been altered and put on hold, I wanted to share with you some of the gems that help to speak peace to my soul.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. 

Isaiah 41:10

Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or terrified of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. 

Deuteronomy 31:6

For I hold you by your right hand— I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.’ 

Isaiah 41:13

I could go on and on… There are so many beautiful promises of help and strength and protection to be found in scripture!  

He is an ever-present help in danger.  He is a constant companion and burden bearer for us.  He is a shield, a hedge around us. And He is all powerful and able to deliver on the promises He makes.

Hold Him to do it. Ask Him to BE for you what He says He is!

You CAN win against fear – because it is a battle of the mind and YOU control what stays there.  No matter how small or insignificant they may seem to others – your battles matter to God.  He has equipped you to win this one.

Inaction will not do. Not in times like this when anxiety is taking control of so many.

Unmask the fear – see it for the lie that it is.  

Take the step today of focusing your mind on the truth, on the help, on the hope offered to you.

Let the peaceful wolf be the one you feed.

And he will win every time.

5 thoughts on “Unmasking fear

    1. I agree – and now more than ever! (especially when many of us are stuck at home with our thoughts all day!) Stay safe and healthy…in body and mind! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. When our Good Shepherd is the all-powerful and all-good creator of the universe, we’re in good hands, even “in the face of our enemies.” Thanks for the reminder of His truth, peace and presence in the midst of some genuinely scary things.

    Liked by 1 person

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