Once upon a time I was skeptical — no, it was worse than that. I was a bit of a scoffer for those who had phobias of some kind.
Fear of flying was one I could not understand, because flying is (statistically) one of the safest ways to travel. The Department of Transportation keeps track of all that, and you can look it up.
But if you have that “fear of flying” thing — as about 1 in every 3 Americans does — knowing the statistics will not help. You probably already know them, in fact.
I, on the other hand, was being completely sensible, admitted to no known phobias of my own, and assumed that all phobias could be overcome with rational thought.
I was wrong.
Perhaps to teach me a lesson (I’m giving him credit, not blame) God allowed me to have a fear of large dogs.
My “Big Bad Wolf,” in the form of big dogs, showed up often. We lived in Palo Alto, a charming town in Northern California with great weather. We often walked around town, and so did other people with their big dogs. I crossed the street to avoid them.
There was no doubt in my mind they could sense my fear and wanted to take advantage of it. In my imagination they looked down on me like the weakling I was and even snarled a little.
Was that rational? No. Additionally, there was no known reason for the fear. Still, there it was.
A couple of times a year we would drive down to Phoenix to visit my wife’s family. Her brother’s family had a big dog (German shepherd) named Bracket. Once when a stranger came to a closed screen door and seemed to threaten one of the girls, Bracket crashed through a window to get to him.
Then one day while we were visiting, everyone left the house except me and Bracket.
My phobia (now more than a year old) kicked in, and I decided I would get in the pool. Bracket was in the house and I was swimming. All was well. Then Bracket came out, saw me in the pool, and dove right in! She wasn’t attacking, she wanted to play.
We had a great time, and in that afternoon my fear left. I imagined it slinking away with its head down and a tear in its eye, knowing it could no longer control me.
That all helped me greatly when thinking about fears. I learned several things that might help you.
First, emotions are very resistant to rational arguments. (That isn’t just true for fears, by the way.)
A phobia is an irrational fear, but all fear is emotion based.
Test this one for emotional vs. rational: a protestor marching around a site for a proposed nuclear power plant while smoking a cigarette.
The odds that the power plant will ever hurt anyone are infinitesimal. That the cigarette will hurt the smoker is certain. That is all about control, an illusion that can cause us to fear what we shouldn’t and fail to fear what we probably should.
Like you, perhaps, I’ve experienced the fear of failure. I’ve also experienced some of the fear of success. Both of those are false prophets, and yet we listen to their siren song.
Second, I learned that emotions will yield to other emotions, and then rational arguments can be introduced and begin to make sense.
The joy I had in playing with that big black dog in the pool was my antidote. After that, I began to think more clearly about other dogs I encountered. I saw them as possible friends rather than certain enemies.
A house of hay and one of bricks
Did you know that LL Cool J recorded a version of Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? It’s a hoot, especially when he raps “Tra-la-la-la-la.”
But you have to know the original from 1933 to understand that three little pigs decided they could outsmart their enemy, the Big Bad Wolf. They would build houses that would keep the Wolf out.
Unfortunately one pig’s house was made of hay and one was made of twigs, and the Wolf was able to blow those down. Fortunately the third house was made of bricks, and could not be blown down.
What is your defense against fear? Is it “blow-downable,” or will it stand up under pressure?
Just like the Big Bad Wolf, many fears are opportunistic. And fears, more than almost anything else I’ve encountered, are known liars.
Many of us are a little more susceptible to fears that mimic something in our past. One pastor recently said he was afraid of “small boats in big water.”
It turned out that when he was a teen, the boat he and his father were fishing in sank and they had to cling to it for 30 minutes in cold water before help arrived.
You may have experienced some traumatic incident like that, and part of the scar might be a fear living in you.
What you need to remember about such things is this: That was then, this is now.
The lie fear will tell you is that it’s all the same. It isn’t.
Building your brick house
Terrorists, as I wrote last week, try to control people with fear. Today’s terrorists include Hamas, Hezbollah, and all those people who will cancel you for speaking the truth.
Their lie is that life as you know it will end unless you cooperate or even side with them. Oddly, when you do that is when your life ends.
Fear will show up in many forms and try to get in. If it does get a foot in the door, don’t let it stay.
Here’s one way to build a defense. Use a “brick” of light to stop fear. Darkness never overcomes light, so let the fear be seen and its power will wane.
Use a brick of humility, one of prayer (with thanksgiving), and one of faith. Fear can be sent packing, but then it should be replaced. Use a brick of peace for that.
Live in peace rather than fear. It’s a great way to do good!