If FDR was right about “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” it seems that we might have every reason to be fearful right now. This possibility became evident to me a few days ago after a seniors exercise session.
One of the participants wanted to tell a few of us how the rioting and looting of recent months had convinced her that total chaos would come after the November election. I could hear the quaver in her voice as she recounted previously fearful experiences in Venezuela. This usually reasonable woman displayed the kind of unreasoned fear that can replace other mindsets with the destructive power of panic or dread.
I’ve been through enough fearful times in my life to recognize how this ever-present emotion might affect my brain and body, and also my relationships. Maybe even my faith. Those cautionary memories help me name my present fears, while I also work to keep them from becoming true..
Diminishing fear is difficult—my brain wants only to fight, flee or freeze. This task gets harder when fearful others and fearsome stimuli are constantly present. No matter how much praying and devotional reading I do, fear is not going to wither away just because of more/better thoughts and words. I need to do something more.
What diminishes fear is love—a verb that shows itself in actions. So pushing aside fear also means practicing love, kindness, empathy and appreciation as often and as strongly as I can.
In that way, I will depend on the truth proclaimed in the biblical axiom, *“Perfect love casts out fear.” And I can rely on the Spirit’s power to make that true anywhere I go, with whomever I meet.
Including fearful older adult exercisers!
*See 1 John 4:18.