Here’s one fear we don’t have to be afraid of

Spiritual Reading

“Then he said to his disciples, ‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Think of the ravens. They do not sow or reap; they have no storehouses and no barns; yet God feeds them. And how much more you are worth than the birds! Can any of you, however much you worry, add a single cubit to your span of life? If a very small thing is beyond your powers, why worry about the rest?” (Luke 12: 22-26)

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

Allocutio

I am a very anxious person. I worry a lot. I have many fears. I was assigned to give today’s allocutio. This task made me afraid.

Fear is a survival instinct. For us humans, fear serves as “a basic survival mechanism that signals our bodies to respond to danger with a fight or flight response.” It is an emotion that prepares us to react.

What are you afraid of? Think back to the last time you felt fear.

Your heart raced faster as it pumped more blood to your muscles to allow you to run faster. Your body increased the flow of hormones to your brain to allow you to focus on the threat you are facing, and store that in your memory.

This cognitive process allows us to remember dangerous situations from the past and be prepared, if needed. For example, a child remembers the day a dog attacked him. He heard the dog bark, he looked back, and saw a dog approaching, its mouth wide open.

But it is also the same cognitive process that triggers fear when the child hears a dog bark, even if it is a different dog this time, or a dog from a movie, or a ring tone, or a friend mimicking his favorite pet.

So while fear is a survival mechanism in the short run, it can be harmful in the long run.

Living in constant fear, studies found, weakens the immune system, decreases fertility, damages internal organs, and can damage certain parts of the brain. It hinders important brain functions, such as regulating emotions and ethical decision-making.

One thing that I do often, which is closely related to fear, is worry. Being the paranoid person that I am, I worry about almost everything. I worry about my safety. I worry about my work. I worry about what other people think of me. Why is my friend not responding on Skype? Why did my colleague sit at the far end of the table, away from me? Why are my superiors calling me for a meeting?

Worrying is very stressful. And just like fear, it has physical manifestations.

I still clearly remember one time I was on a bus, rushing for a press conference I needed to attend as a newspaper reporter, and as I was worrying about missing the event, the stoplight changed into red. The bus screeched into a full stop as pain stretched from my stomach to my throat. As a reporter, who was constantly worried about everything, I had developed an awful case of gastric reflux.

Worrying is “an emotion tied into the ‘fight or flight’ sympathetic nervous system,” very much just like fear. But unlike fear, it is “triggered by anticipation of things that may cause emotional or physical stress.”

Fearful of this task to deliver today’s allocutio, I turned to the Bible. What does the Bible say about fear and worrying?

I am a media researcher, and to some extent, what we see in the media contributes to our worries. We see images of war, disasters, accidents, injustice, and corruption.

We fear for our safety, for our lives, for our loved ones. We purchase insurance premiums, sturdy locks and alarm systems, and others even arm themselves.

But this fear, these worries, arises from putting too much faith on people, too much value on things, instead of putting our trust in the Lord.

There is one kind of fear that is quite different, something that is positive, and that is the fear of God.

In an article, Father Raniero Cantalamessa said that fearing God is different from being afraid.

He said: “It is a component of faith: It is born from knowledge of who God is. It is the same sentiment that we feel before some great spectacle of nature. It is feeling small before something that is immense; it is stupor,marvel mixed with admiration.”

It is the absence of this fear, the fear of God, the “beginning of all wisdom,” that allows fears, worries, and anxiety to clog our hearts and preoccupy our minds.

So what did I do to control my fear of my assignment for today?

First, I decided to not waste my energy on worrying, and instead channeled my focus into actually preparing. I read the handbook to understand what the Allocutio is for.

In our spiritual reading, the Lord told his disciples: ‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”

My assignment today is not to impress you, not to make sure I don’t stutter or mispronounce words. My assignment is beyond that.

Second, I prepared by trusting the Lord, knowing that my fear of Him is bigger than any fear, or worry, or anxiety. I decided to confront my worries and my fear. I stopped making excuses and embraced this task.

In Philippians 4:6-7, it is said: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Finally, I messaged some friends on Whatsapp, and their kind words helped extinguish my fear. Proverbs 12:25 says: “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”

So, the next time we feel afraid, let’s just read Psalm 34:4. For it says: “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

By Edson C. Tandoc Jr.

References

Becker-Schutte, Ann. 2014. Fear vs. worry. Help at the Intersection of Physical & Mental Health, http://www.drannbeckerschutte.com/2014/05/fear-vs-worry/.

Buhr, Kristin, and Michel J. Dugas. 2009. The role of fear of anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty in worry: An experimental manipulation. Behaviour Research and Therapy 47 (3):215-223.

Cantalamessa, Raniero. 2008. Pope’s Preacher: ‘Have Fear But Do Not Be Afraid’. Catholic Online, http://www.catholic.org/news/international/europe/story.php?id=28326.

Towey, Sue. 2013. Impact of Fear and Anxiety. Taking charge of your health and wellbeing, http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/security/facing-fear/impact-fear.

Facebook can lead to depression, but only if it triggers envy

Browsing Facebook has become a daily activity for hundreds of millions of people. Because so many people engage with the website daily, researchers are interested in how emotionally involved Facebook users can be with the social networking site and how regular use can affect their mental health. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri and Nanyang Technological University have found that Facebook use can lead to symptoms of depression if the social networking site triggers feelings of envy among its users.

Led by Edson Tandoc Jr., a former doctoral student at MU and now an assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, the study surveyed young Facebook users and found that some of those who engage in “surveillance use” of Facebook also experience symptoms of depression while those who use the site simply to stay connected do not suffer negative effects.

Surveillance use of Facebook occurs when users browse the website to see how their friends are doing compared with their own lives. The researchers found that Facebook postings about things such as expensive vacations, new houses or cars, or happy relationships can evoke feelings of envy among surveillance users. They say that these feelings of envy can then lead to Facebook users experiencing symptoms of depression.

Margaret Duffy, a professor and chair of strategic communication at the MU School of Journalism, says that how Facebook users use the site makes a difference in how they respond to it.

“Facebook can be a fun and healthy activity if users take advantage of the site to stay connected with family and old friends and to share interesting and important aspects of their lives,” Duffy said. “However, if Facebook is used to see how well an acquaintance is doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship—things that cause envy among users—use of the site can lead to feelings of depression.”

“We found that if Facebook users experience envy of the activities and lifestyles of their friends on Facebook, they are much more likely to report feelings of depression,” Duffy said. “Facebook can be a very positive resource for many people, but if it is used as a way to size up one’s own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect. It is important for Facebook users to be aware of these risks so they can avoid this kind of behavior when using Facebook.”

“Social media literacy is important,” Tandoc said. “Based on our study, as well as on what others have previously found, using Facebook can exert positive effects on well-being. But when it triggers envy among users, that’s a different story. Users should be self-aware that positive self-presentation is an important motivation in using social media, so it is to be expected that many users would only post positive things about themselves. This self-awareness, hopefully, can lessen feelings of envy.”

Patrick Ferrucci, a former doctoral student at the MU School of Journalism and currently an assistant professor at Bradley University, also co-authored the study. This study, based on a survey of more than 700 college students, was published in Computers in Human Behavior.

This press release is adapted from the University of Missouri News Bureau. It has since been published in several publications, such as in Huffington Post, HLN TV, and NPR.