Skip to main content

The Purpose of Fear, Part 1.

To quote one of my favorite fictional characters, Captain Kathryn Janeway, "I've known fear. It's a very healthy thing, most of the time. You warn us of danger, remind us of our limits, protect us from carelessness. I've learned to trust fear."

Fear keeps us from sampling the poisonous plant, it motivates us to wear thick boots when hiking in potentially snake-filled brush, makes us more attentive to our surroundings late at night in a parking lot.

It can be difficult right now, finding the appropriate level of fear. Somedays, I read a  first-person account of a medical professional who was with someone who died of covid-19, and almost start gasping for air myself. I'm overwhelmed by fear that I, or someone I love, will contract the novel coronavirus.

But other days, the threat feels so far away, that all of the precautions I'm taking feel ... unhelpful. I am reminded of the game of "lava" I used to play as a kid. You could walk on sofa cushions, the coffee table (sorry, Mom), and would streeeeetch so you could step from one chair to another, just as long as you didn't touch the floor, which was hot lava, and would kill ya.

Walking in the neighborhood, 8 feet away from my mother, masks on both of us ... are we hopping on sofa cushions?

Well, that's the reality of our lives right now. There are some things we know about covid-19, but so much more that we don't.

I live in Texas, and what scares me right now are the people with no fear. Politicians, yes, who flaunt the Stay Home, Stay Safe ordinances, but even more are the people who are so at home in their own feelings of invincibility -- "It could never happen to me" -- that they aren't even willing to follow the lightest of guidelines. Don't gather with others. Wash your hands. Cover your nose and mouth.

I worry that until we personally know multiple people fighting coronavirus, know someone who has died from it, that even those of us who have had an appropriate level of fear are going to begin letting some of it go. Taking a few more chances.

I have friends in NYC, Washington state. I am a minister, as are they. They are figuring out how to do memorial services. Death has come to their congregation.

I've learned to trust fear. 


Popular posts from this blog

Don't Trust Your Instincts, or, "Well-Meaning People Can Exacerbate Big Problems"

My evangelical friends talk about being "convicted." That moment when you hear or read a message and like an arrow, it dives into your heart, and you know that you have been guilty, and you have some growing to do. At the very beginning of my learning about Bowen systems theory, the professor was laying out the basic idea: that we all feel anxiety, and when we do, we act (often in unhealthy ways) in order to lessen our anxiety. And in an unhealthy system with emotionally immature people -- a family, a business, a church -- one person's anxiety can trigger the anxiety of others. Here's a great primer on that. Really great. Like, watch it 20 times in a row. Or every morning as you drink your coffee. (I'm not kidding. I think your life would be better. Consider it a spiritual practice.) So back to my conviction moment. The professor went on to talk about how when we see someone who is "vibrating" with anxiety, our instinct is often to rush over,

The Most Controversial Thing I'll Write All Year

Back when you were a kid, you learned a lesson. It was wrong. And it's time for you to unlearn it. You learned that you were responsible for other people's feelings. Not that you should care about other people's feelings. (You should.) Not just that you should be sensitive to other people's feelings. (You should.) But you were taught that you were actually responsible for other people's feelings. It happens in almost all homes, even the loving ones. In abusive homes, it's more blatant. If Dad is unhappy, you get hit. So you learn that it is actually your responsibility to keep him happy, or there would be consequences. But even in non-abusive homes, it happened. If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  You are not responsible for other people's feelings. That's their job. And in fact, you are crossing their boundary if you try to control their feelings. They get to decide how they feel about something, not you. They may decide that you

Me and My Collar

You may run into me on a Friday, in my neighborhood, so it's time I let you know what you might see. When I was doing my required unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), my supervisor suggested that any of us who came from traditions where a clerical collar was an option, take one "collar week," to see how we were treated, as opposed to wearing regular professional clothes. After a couple of days, I joked to the Catholic priest, "How do you manage the power?" In regular clothes, I would walk into a patient's room, and it would take about 5 or so minutes of introductions and pleasantries before we could really get down to talking about their feelings, their fears, the deep stuff. With most people, as soon as that clerical collar walked in the room, with me attached, they began pouring out all the heavy stuff they were carrying. I was riding the bus back and forth every day, and though not quite so dramatic, the collar effect was alive there, to