I was just having a conversation with my wife, Vicky, the other day, in which she noted that everyone just seems to be anxious lately. No one is relaxed and we all seem to be “on edge” much more than normal.
I had another friend say that same thing about a year ago, but he used the phrase “free floating anxiety.” Meaning, there are wide ranging, pervasive issues that we all feel or are dealing with and they play themselves out in unique or specific ways in each of our lives.
I will use one word to describe what I believe we all are feeling. FEAR. We all are afraid. Afraid of what might happen in the future (anxiety). Afraid of what happened in the past (regret). In fact, I went and made a list of all the things that I am afraid of and asked many of you to share. Here it is.
I am/we are afraid of…(in no particular order.)
- Messing up our kids
- Saving for retirement
- Saving and paying for college
- Paying the bills each month
- Being good at my job
- Nuclear war with North Korea
- Donald Trump as President
- Mike Pence as President
- Gun violence happening in my community
- Not having a big enough house or it decorated the right way
- Looking stupid
- Kids not having friends
- Not being sexy
- Being overweight
- Not being “manly”
- Getting older and losing my physical and mental abilities
- Parents getting older and taking care of them
- Not being a good enough husband/wife/mother/father
- Being honest
- Being authentic
- Fitting in
- Being different
- Speaking my opinion
- Being wrong
- Marriage failing
- Being alone
- Not having it all together
- The state of humanity and an apparent loss of compassion and understanding
- Global Warming/Climate Change, natural disasters
- Going to hell
Fear is such a strong motivator. Fear gets someone to do something they normally wouldn’t do. It is the number one tool that people use to stay in power or to take power (look no further than the last presidential election. I believe Trump won mainly because he was able to harness the power of fear). Subconsciously, I believe it is what drives so many of our day to day decisions.
Look back at the list above. Which of those apply to you? How have they affected your life? How have they affected the way you have treated or reacted to others? Because of your fear, how does it affect the way you treat yourself? How does your fear affect the way you spend money? Go places? Not go places? Are you more protective? Carefree? Cautious? Trusting?
Are you living the life that you want to live or are you living the life you believe you are being forced to live because of fear?
Let me be clear, there are some very real fears mentioned above and they should affect our lives. Fear can be a good thing. A healthy sense of fear keeps us safe. Fear is what prevents me from only eating Oreos for every meal (I don’t want to die or be obese). Fear is what prevents me from sticking my hand out at the zoo to try and pet a tiger (I want to keep both of my hands!).
But while fear can keep us safe, it can also be paralyzing or prevent us from truly living, even though it has kept us alive. Because we are afraid of being different, we spend too much money on clothes with a certain logo on them which leads to not saving enough for retirement or college. Because we are afraid of “keeping up with the jones” we spend too much money on a car or vacation which leads to stress and staying awake at night because we don’t have money for fees and activities for our kids and our credit card bill has a balance each month.
Think about being authentic or genuine. How many times has someone asked you “How are you doing?” and you immediately respond with “Fine” or “Busy” but in actuality you are dying inside. Yet, you give a brief, short answer because you are afraid of what they will think if you are vulnerable and honest. So, you keep going with your “busy” day, pretending things are “fine” wishing you had someone who would understand and share your fears with you.
At least that is what I have done way too often, and I am tired of it. I think because we are living in fear, we are exhausted. We are exhausted by keeping up the appearances. We are exhausted trying to keep it all together. We are exhausted trying so hard only to feel like the end is never in sight. I am exhausted.
So, I have a new mantra. F*#k Fear. F*#k trying so hard. F*#k not being good enough. F*#K trying to impress. F*#k being afraid.
Sorry for the language. I understand that some people will be turned off by my using the “f-word.” I am not trying to be crude for crudeness sake. I am not trying for click-bait, or to shock people. Sometimes, there are only certain words that convey a certain feeling. Strong emotion calls for strong reaction. I believe this is a place in which that word is appropriate.
This doesn’t mean that fear won’t have a place in my life. I am not going to stick my hand in the tiger’s cage. I am not going to eat Oreos at every meal. But I am not going to let fear have more power in my life than it should.
If I want real, authentic and honest relationships, then I need to be real, authentic and honest.
If I want a more peaceful and compassionate world, then I need to practice peace and compassion.
Sometimes people will embrace it. Sometimes they won’t. Sometimes I will embrace it. Sometimes I won’t.
I don’t know how everything will turn out. Perhaps, that is the real thing that makes us afraid. We are afraid of the unknown. We are afraid of things turning out in the worst way possible. Therefore, we play it way too safe. We operate out of safety, which many times is just fear in disguise. We hunker down in our lives, in our world, in our homes, in our head.
What I do know is that by giving in to fear, things are not going the way anyone wants. We are all walking around on eggshells waiting to hear what is the next disaster, war, illness or devastation that is going to occur and hope it does not happen to us.
That is not living. That is existing
We are not here to exist. We are here to live.
Life is hard and scary and full of fear.
Maybe that is what makes it worth it.
We are here to be alive. To laugh and to love. To cry and to comfort. To risk and to lose. To gain and to enjoy.
As I was discussing this post with another friend, he said it reminds him of Jesus saying, “I came that they have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
That does not mean an abundance of possessions and material items. It is an abundance of love and relationships. It’s hard to do when we are afraid. Afraid of each other. Afraid of the future. Afraid of what “might” happen.
May you live the life you want, an intentional life. A life in which fear is present, but fear knows it place. It is a place where fear does not have the final say, but life and love do.
Have a great day and don’t be a jerk,