Definition: A strong emotion due to foreseeing or becoming aware of danger; the reason or cause of such strong emotion. Other words for fear: fright, fraught, feared, frightening, afraid. [ < Old English færan (to terrify, ambush, surprise)]
purpose: self-protection (both an instinct and an awareness of danger or high risk). You become motivated to take action to protect yourself.
problem 1: poorly-evaluated risk (causes excessive reaction, blocks proactive behaviors/plans);
problem 2: counting rank/turf/privilege/identity as part of the 'self' to be protected (which puts life into an "us vs. them" mode);
problem 3: decision paralysis (when your fears stop you from taking action, sometimes even from considering action).
At its best, fear helps you protect yourself. It helps to remind you that you don't have control over everything in your life - and never will. Our biochemistry is wired to produce alarm, to makes us aware of what's around us. Our reactions are never fully controlled. First, they kick in, and then we start wrestling them for enough control for us to keep functioning, sometimes at our highest level. It's a blunt instrument, not a scalpel. It doesn't converse, it yells and screams. It's crude, but it does the job.
At its worst, fear can turn you into a murderous bigot or a quivering coward. A person can create fear in someone else, for vengeance or control. Demagogues tell frightening stories of perilous danger, in order to get their way. They conjure up terrors from the past, or whip up today's little worries into great Godzillas, wrecking the city of your mind. Great leaders get us to reach beyond fear, even beyond mere hope, to a future built on a love that is from beyond just ourselves, far greater than anything that scares. Fear can shrink the soul more than anything else except powerlust. And sometimes it drives powerlust, when you seek power to become safer. Yet the more powerful you are, the more others seek your power, thus you become more afraid.
Jesus is several times recorded as saying,
"Fear not". It's also part of the message of the prophets and the angels. Indeed, one of the most common messages of the entire Bible is to "fear not". Psalm 23 says "I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me". And God, his angels, and his leading followers say this when we most have (what would otherwise be) something to be afraid of. Fears that are turned over to God will be muted, or harnessed, or will go away, or even be overcome. Instead of being afraid of the darkness, seek the light. Go against God, and there is no reason not to be in terror, except perhaps for God's unfathomable mercy.
When you stop trying to be in control and let God be in control, there is no cause for fear, for the One in Control loves you and seeks the best for you. Trust in God's perfect love to cast out fear. When you stop being afraid of your neighbor, it opens you up to the possibility of loving them - but it's not the same thing as actually loving them.
Types of Fear
Other words like fear: afraid/fright, alarm, dread, qualm, worry, panic, horror, scare, phobia, paranoia, and terror)
There are many kinds of fear:
sudden fright (alarm).
strong desire not to do something (dread). (Like, say, dreading homework.)
the dread of doing something against one's conscience or better judgment (qualm). (You might have qualms about eating what's in the office refrigerator.)
fear of unfavorable results (worry). (Worry switches your attention from taking action to thinking about the chance of failure, which in turn heightens the chance of failure.)
brief but strong loss of composure (panic). (Panic leads to sudden, ill-considered actions.)
fright that causes immediate physical reaction (horror, scare). (This is what's sought after at Halloween or in horror movies.)
being scared of one specific thing beyond reason (phobia). (Like phobias of cats, the dark, flying, or political pundits.)
irrational fear that people are out to do you harm (paranoia). (They're not all out to get you. Honest.)
the surrender to extreme fear (terror). (A terrorist is someone who seeks to control a situation by putting other people into terror.)
Old English agrísan ('agrise') was to be so afraid it made you shudder, tremble, or quake.
Quotes That Re-Define Fear
"Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed." Michael Pritchard
"Courage is fear that has said its prayers." Dorothy Bernard
"Fear God, yes, but don't be afraid of Him." J.A. Spender, *The Comments of Bagshot*
"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear." Ambrose Redmoon
"Fear is only as deep as the mind allows." a Japanese saying
"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy." Dale Carnegie
What Is Guilt?
Definition: When you've done something wrong, in the past or present.
Definition: the frame of mind and the emotions which spring from thinking you've done something wrong, whether it is actually so or not.
word origin: Old English gylt (crime, criminality)
There are at least two forms of guilt that affect us:
forensic guilt, like that found in criminal courts. This is based squarely on factual matters: "So-and-so has been shown to be the one who did a certain thing." This is often followed by some form of penalty or censure. Scientific studies have shown that this sense of guilt can sometimes create powerful changes in a person's behavior.
psychological guilt, which is the effect of some action of yours on how you think about yourself. Other related terms are blame, shame, fault, and onus. The churches, over the years, have created this kind of guilt inside of many believers, by treating those who did wrong as if they were without value.
"Mothers, food, love, and career: the four major guilt groups."
Cathy Guisewite, cartoonist of "Cathy"
"There's no problem so awful that you can't add some guilt to it and make it even worse." Bill Watterson, *The Complete Calvin and Hobbes*
You're allowed to feel guilty enough to check the dictionary on
'guilt'. But remember to eat your vegetables.
On the one hand, there is no way to turn away from wrongs or to reconcile without realizing that it was wrong, that doing wrong actually matters in some way, that it is your responsibility, and feeling enough of the wrongness of it to want to turn away from it and make up for it somehow. At its best, guilt could lead you to repentance, which needs to be expressed. One way of doing this is by the practice of confession.
On the other hand:
Having psychological guilt doesn't always lead to a turning away from your wrongs. Sometimes it leads to defensiveness, excuses, and evasions in order to escape the consequences of your wrongs. This happens when you either greatly worry about the consequences, or value yourself so greatly that you think you ought to be able to operate above having any consequences from it. Even more than in the past, butt-cover is a major concern.
Psychological guilt can turn into shame, which in turn can weigh you down, get you depressed, and cause you to hold yourself back from life's challenges. The difference is that guilt is about one's actions, while shame is about one's value. Guilt is about the deed; shame is about the doer. But they are not separate things. The two run on a continuum: the more often someone does things which produce unaddressed guilty feelings, the less that person will think they're worthy to anyone. (Guilt leads to shame through the idea that someone who does a lot of bad things must really be bad.)
When there are strong feelings that affect behavior, it's likely that someone else may be manipulating you. Which, when discovered, makes you feel more guilt. There might be someone in your life who tries to change your behavior through guilt by constantly nagging you. Nagging often works, but at the price of making a shriveled self-image.
Guilt is often an excuse for not allowing yourself to be forgiven, an excuse for punishing yourself instead of fixing yourself, or for keeping one's distance instead of reconciling. The actions we're guilty of may really be acts of self-sabotage.
That's where what Jesus did can give such release: "neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more." Since God does not condemn you, you're free to enjoy what God has given you. You're free from having to let guilt or shame nag you or weigh you down. You're free to start again. You no longer need to be self-protective, or self-destructive, or full of shame. You were created good, and you are treasured by God so you have very high value. You can move ahead to more valuable deeds and clearer thoughts.
What Is Anger?
Definition: strong negative emotion.
word-forms: Adjective/adverb: 'angry'.
other words for anger or angry: blow up, huff, ire, miff, rage, wrath, outrage, mad, fury, p^*$#d off, apoplectic, resentment, dander (up), reethship (arch.), fierceness, acrimony, and indignation. (As is usually true of the English language, each related word represents a slightly different form or degree of anger.)
word origin: Old Norse angr (bitterness, sorrow). The root of the word 'anger' is found in anxiety, angst, angina, and perhaps even hangnail.
You can direct anger at yourself, someone or something or some circumstance, or just a generalized grrrrr at everything. Anger and the conniptions that come from it have many causes: loss, injustice, jealousy, loss of control, lack of hope, sleeplessness, fear, chemical imbalances, and physical pain. Anger can sometimes be a good thing that shows you something's not going right. That 'not-rightness' may be from an injustice someone else is doing, or some action that's aimed at you. Your anger may be a signal that it's your time to start taking action. It would be wise not to act while your anger still has the upper hand in you. Raging anger can lead to behaviors which will harm others and make you feel shame.
You can do something about your anger in moments when you find yourself going into a rage. You can:
immediately halt whatever angry action you may already be doing;
concentrate on your breathing, by taking deep, deliberate breaths, focusing on the in and out motions of breathing. This is a good time for praying a 'breath prayer'.
choose another course of action, one that is not rooted in your anger. It may be an action that diverts or vents the anger (like using your fist on a table instead of a face). A better choice, when it's available, is to take an action which reaches out to resolve the matter.
figure out why you're having an angry reaction, so you can
heal it within yourself.
That way, anger doesn't feed on itself to rob your joy and that of those around you.
If you have depression-related anger or are in an especially stressful time, you may find it helpful to take depression medication, do some form of yoga or controlled body movement, get more sleep, control your blood sugar levels, and (most important) establish a regular pattern of exercise. If anger is a common part of your life, you need to address it for your own good and for those around you.