Posts tagged " fear "

Afraid? Who, Me?

January 12th, 2021 Posted by Thought Tools 36 comments

Unexpected political developments can be scary.  Over the past year, Americans have been barraged by disturbing events and images on an almost daily basis. 

It was really scary for people living comfortably and securely in England when they awoke on Wednesday morning, December 5th, 1914. A nation that hadn’t seen rationing or military conscription in living memory was at war with Germany.  Many people stayed home that day in sheer panic about what was to come.

It was soon after lunch on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, that Americans in New York and Washington discovered that their Pacific naval base in Hawaii had been bombed by Japanese aircraft.  People were rightly frightened by the unknown terrors that lay ahead.  For almost an entire day, most people just sat at their radios.

On Tuesday morning, September 11th, 2001 Americans were glued to their television sets in uncomprehending numbness as they watched the Twin Towers fall.  Like most frightened people, they remained passively watching the attacks again and again as news outlets replayed the frightening footage.

Well, of course once you allow fear to grip you (which is exactly what it does – hence the figure of speech, “he was gripped by fear”) you discover that there is no short- age of things to feel frightened about. Your health, your finances, your children, earthquakes, spiders – I’d better stop right there! I certainly don’t mean to get you started now. But what is one to do when feeling utterly demoralized by fear? 

To find a clue, I high tailed it to the Bible and found this verse: 

Be not afraid of sudden fear. 
(Proverbs 3:25) 

In Hebrew, the word “fear”, PaCHaD, is made up of three letters and looks like this (remember: Hebrew reads right to left): 

פ ח ד
D CH P 

In Hebrew, many important words read forwards and backwards with opposite meanings in each direction.

Thus, looking at PaCHaD backwards is important – and we find the word DaCHaF. 

No, you haven’t caught me in a mistake. In Hebrew the letters P and F are the same and as languages evolved this left its stamp as you can see by looking at the word “fish”, which derives from the same word as the astrological sign “Pisces.” Just change the P of Pisces into an F, and you’ll see how this works. 

Back to DaCHaF – what does it mean? It means to propel or to push forward. We can see it used in the Bible here: 

And Haman was propelled into his house. 
(Esther 6:12) 

The word used for propelled is DaCHaF. Well, if DaCHaF means propelled, then not surprisingly, its reverse, PaCHaD which we know means fear, also must mean restrain, handicap, keep back.  So being paralyzed with fear is exactly what fear does and so it makes sense that the opposite of fear is advancing forward. 

Isn’t that precisely what fear does to us? Fear freezes us in place. Ever read anything like this? “He stood rooted to the spot with fear” or “paralyzed by panic.” It is therefore obvious that ancient Jewish wisdom’s advice when gripped by fear is: start moving! Overcome the tendency of fear to suppress action. Deliver yourself from the trance of passivity. 

Yes, but how? Again, a Biblical clue: In Exodus 14, the Israelites, just out of Egypt are transfixed by terror. The ocean stretches out in front of them and the mighty Egyptian army rapidly approaches from the rear. Trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea, one might say: 

…they were utterly terrified and they cried out to God. 
(Exodus 14:10)

Their fear completely dominated them. 

God’s response was not to split the Red Sea as you might have thought. It was the momentous lesson you and I can learn from verse 15: 

And the Lord said to Moses, “What are calling to me for?
Direct the Israelites to march forward! 

What do you mean? Into the ocean? Yes! And it wasn’t until Israel marched forward into the water that God told Moses to initiate the miracle of splitting the Red Sea. Verse 22 soon confirms the sequence of events. The Israelites went into the midst of the sea, and only thereafter come the words: on dry land. 

They activated their own miracle and contributed to their own deliverance by conquering fear generated inertia. If you want your own Red Sea to split, you’d better “March Forward.” Do not retreat–in that direction lies your personal equivalent of the Egyptian army. But above all, don’t become paralyzed and passive. March Forward. 

Regardless of what geopolitical, epidemiological, or economic crisis is terrifying you, do not allow it to immobilize you.  March forward and take care of your essentials; your family, your finances, your faith, your fitness and your friendships. 

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Parents Living in Fear

July 12th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 2 comments

I often stand in awe of Israeli technology. This tiny country is the source of an unusual number of innovative, life-improving and life-saving techniques. However, not all innovation, brilliant as it may be, is positive.

I watched the following video highlighting a new product that lets babies “speak” to their parents. No more guessing whether your baby is cold or hungry, tired or thirsty—hook baby up to this AI-powered device and it will tell you!

At this point, I was figuratively shouting at my computer, “There already is such a device. God created it and it’s known as a mother or father.” What I was seeing was another nail in the coffin of parents trusting themselves and taking the time to learn their baby’s unique cries and responses.

But it got worse. The video went on to explain how this artificial intelligence gadget would give early warning about heart or breathing difficulties. It would let you know if there was a spike in temperature, perhaps reminding you that you left your baby in a hot car.  It would inform you if your baby was being abused by a caregiver.

Tragedies happen. And, yes, a device like this might prevent some tragedies. But, in my estimation, it will lead to more. Putting her purse in the back seat so that she remembers that her baby is in the car seat empowers a mother to protect her child. Trusting a machine to tell you there is a problem breeds both constant anxiety as well as dangerous mindlessness.

Suddenly losing a baby because of an undiagnosed health problem is heartbreaking. Living in constant fear of that happening slowly chips away at one’s happiness and mental health. Being given, even slightly,  the suggestion that you are a negligent parent if you don’t buy a certain product and the idea that you should drown in guilt if something bad happens is devastating.

Life is uncertain. Life holds risks. Loving someone with your whole heart, such as one’s children, means being vulnerable. It also means having a life filled with joy and meaning. Today’s trend of terrifying parents by emphasizing dangers that are inherent in being alive is not a positive innovation.

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We Shall Cower in Our Basements?

May 21st, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 45 comments

I just placed a library hold for a book reviewed in my morning paper. I have no idea when I will be able to pick it up. As in so many cities, our libraries are still closed. Why?

I understand that initially governments responded by closing down areas under their control. Yet, weeks have passed and libraries are still closed. What might have happened if libraries were privately run businesses that existed on yearly subscriptions? If they wanted me to renew my membership, they would realize that encouraging me to use only their download facilities might lead me to decide that my membership was no longer a worthwhile investment. 

Like many stores, private libraries might have organized pick-up appointments. Maybe it was time to resuscitate the idea of traveling librarians, who brought books (sometimes on horseback) to patrons who lived far from the library building.  Perhaps each returned book would be cleaned and put aside for 72 hours before recirculating. Owners and employees of a private business would be brainstorming to find ways to serve their customers. Yet, since the public library system and employees are on a government (read taxpayer) payroll, physical libraries, at least in my area, are simply closed.

I understand that those who are mourning the serious illnesses and deaths of loved ones are overwhelmed by this crisis. But, one of the saddest outcomes, in my opinion, has been the proliferation of fatalistic thinking, the very opposite of a traditional American can-do attitude.

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Pandemic Pandemonium

May 12th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 47 comments

Oftentimes, when people start a story by saying, “I’m not proud of this…” the truth is that they really are rather proud of whatever they are fake-confessing.  But I am really, really not proud of this. What I did was just plain incredibly stupid. It was a male sort of thing.  Honestly, I wouldn’t even mention it if it didn’t help me make an important point for this Thought Tool.

When one of our lovely daughters turned six, she asked for a sleepover party. Accordingly, in the late afternoon, about a dozen excited little girls between the ages of five and seven were dropped off at our home in their pyjamas. They had supper together before burrowing into blankets and sleeping bags in our living room, chattering and giggling. 

That was the moment I donned my rented gorilla costume.  Beating my chest while uttering gorilla-like roars, I leaped into the living room and pranced among the sleeping bags.  Yes, I really did. I hate myself for this and all I can say is that it was a male sort of thing. Little boys would have loved it. (I was so sure Susan and our daughter would love my exciting plan that I neglected to inform them in advance.)

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Corridors to Courage

August 3rd, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

My radio show audience knows my oft-repeated slogan—the more that things change, the more we need to depend upon those things that never change

It is my conviction that what I call God’s Biblical Blueprint is the best information source about those things that never change.  Right now, things seem to be changing as rapidly and as profoundly as we have ever seen.   Thus, we even more urgently need to know how to deal with change.

Here are the three most important things to know about change. (i) Change is inevitable; (ii) Change is scary.  (iii) Change can be managed.

Change is inevitable because God placed us in a world of time with every ticking second heralding the new.  Our ability to live safely and comfortably depends upon cultivating easy adaptability to new circumstances. The keyword is new—and new means change.

Change is scary because we humans are most comfortable when we live under stable and predictable conditions.  Changes in health, financial, social, and family circumstances are just plain scary.  Change is usually scary even when the change is for the better.  For instance, a major promotion can be almost as scary as losing one’s job.

Change is best managed by acquiring courage.  To guide us through change, the Tanach, the Hebrew Scriptures, teaches us the phrase, “Be Strong and of Good Courage,” or in Hebrew, CHaZaK VeEMaTZ.  Every time this phrase is used, it is to encourage (see that word courage in there?) someone about to experience major change in life’s circumstances.

It is found in the context of God promoting Joshua to be Moses’ successor.  It is found when King David hands over the kingship to his son, and it is found in the context of Israel confronting its enemies in war.

The first word, CHaZaK, describes having sufficient strength to triumph over whatever one is up against.  For instance, the first Scriptural use of the word is,

Everyone came to Egypt to buy food from Joseph because the famine was CHaZaK, strong in all the land.
(Genesis 41:57)

The famine was strong enough to overwhelm the land. Joseph’s wisdom in storing food during the good years meant that Egypt had the strength to deal with the oncoming famine. One needs the strength to do what one sets out to do.

The second word, VeEMaTZ, means, ‘and be courageous,’ which is to say, have the courage and the will to use your strength.  For instance:

With strength she girds her loins and invigorates (VatAMeTZ) her arms.
(Proverbs 31:17)

The Hebrew word translated as ‘invigorates’ is the word EMaTZ suggests that having arms isn’t enough — one needs the fortitude to use them.

Winston Churchill claimed that World War II need never have taken place.  When Hitler reoccupied the Rhine Valley, violating the terms of the Versailles treaty that ended World War I, Britain and the allies, could have confronted him and precipitated his fall from power.  Instead, they hesitated. They possessed the military capacity—the CHaZaK, but they lacked the courage and the will—the EMaTZ to do so.

Thus, Scripture teaches that we must first be CHaZaK. Be strong enough to do whatever needs doing.  Once we know we can, we seek courage to give us the will to do what must be done.  Gaining the strength is a matter of strategy. Gaining courage is more complicated.

Here are three corridors to courage:

(1) Analyze each challenge you face separately so that you are not overwhelmed by an amorphous blob of fear.

(2) Cowardice is contagious. Courage is equally contagious. Keep company with people who possess it.

(3) In your imagination, constantly run a video of your fearlessness while repeating the mantra, ‘Be Strong and of good Courage,’ or CHaZaK Ve’ EMaTZ.

Change is constant.  Courage becomes constant with exercise and use. Courage will always be the best way to deal with change and the fears it generates.

 

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