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.

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