Thursday, November 21, 2013

Worrying About Worrying

“I have had many problems in my life – most of which have never happened.”  So said that great observer and commentator on the human condition, Mark Twain.  With spot-on accuracy.

Like many other human traits, worrying in moderation can be a helpful human exercise.  A small dose of worry can cause us to pause and consider the many potential outcomes of our actions or the events that affect us.  It can give us time to properly strategize our actions, and have alternative plans on the ready should problems arise.  But when worry crosses a very real boundary, when we spend too much time worrying about too many potential negative circumstances, when worry prevents us from moving forward with the business of our lives and our own fulfillment, then our worry has become unhealthy for us.

Everything we do in life carries unforeseen risks.  Using a little bit of worry to identify and reduce the number of those unknowns can give us forward-moving confidence.  But when excessive worry morphs dreams into “that’s impractical” and therefore are not pursued, our worry has exceeded its benefit and needs to be suspended to another time.

We worry about our children and whether they will be safe.  Our country and whether it will survive the tensions within.  The health of our family and friends and whether they will avoid sickness or death.  Losing our job, or our house being damaged by a storm, or our car going kaput one dark night on a lonely stretch of highway.  Whether gremlins lie in wait for us underneath our beds.

Worry is simply another manifestation of our fears.  Fear is a difficult emotion for most of us to admit – to ourselves and to others.  So we give our fear the more acceptable label of “worry.”  And if we so choose, we can martyr ourselves by spinning our worry all the way around to be a supposed testament to our strength of character, not a flaw of our weakness.

We call our fear the more socially-acceptable action of “worrying.”  Thereby, we disguise and paper over that underlying fear.  And we claim for ourselves an undue moral superiority that our worry about others supposedly demonstrates our concern for the welfare of humanity.  But what the worry in fact exemplifies is a lack of Faith, an absence of Trust.  We lack Faith that there is a greater Universal force surrounding ourselves that is consistently leading us to that other place where we need to be – leading us through recurring bouts of upheaval by bouncing us off the bumper guards of Life.  We lack Trust that most of what we fear will in fact not happen to us; the sky is really not preparing to fall upon us.  And if it should, that in the broader scheme of things we will ultimately wind up in a far better place, however difficult may be the journey to that place.  A place which our worst-case worry will never envision or take us to.

When our worry arises, we need to ask ourselves five questions: What is my underlying fear from which this worry comes?  What is the realistic probability that it will actually happen?  What is the worst real permanent damage that could befall me that I cannot handle?  What would be the potential good to me should this actually happen (and there is always a potential good!)?  Therefore, in which right place should I put my constructive energy?

As the Serenity Prayer says, change what you can, accept what you cannot, and know which is which.  In the face of Faith and Trust, worry dissolves into confidence about our future within Life’s Purpose.  And what I do know in my heart is that while some outcomes of our worry may prove difficult, those outcomes are always within our capacity to manage.  Of that, I have no serious worry.

©2013   Randy Bell

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