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is fear turning us topsy turvy?

Pressure

I received this email announcement yesterday: 

BECAUSE OF GROWING THREAT OF THE H1N1 VIRUS IN OUR COMMUNITY

WE WILL BE CANCELING THE POTLUCK PORTION OF THE MEETING. 

Color me confused.  The potluck itself is no big deal to me –I’m happy to skip preparing a dish– but I cannot find any logical explanation besides irrational fear.  There is no huge outbreak of H1N1 in our area, but “a growing threat”.  I’m sure there are some cases, I’m sure there will be more, and we’re all taking precautions like washing hands often and staying home if we’re sick.  Yes, sharing food is also discouraged, but I don’t expect this crowd to be swapping saliva like kids in the cafeteria. 

I feel like fear is turning our world upside down and topsy turvy:

  • Potluck?  Scary.  Same group sending kids overseas?  Great idea. 
  • Using the bully pulpit to encourage kids?  Scary.  Pulling kids out of school to avoid it?  Great idea.
  • Health care reform?  Scary.  Keeping millions of people uninsured?  Great idea. 

I don’t mean to belittle the complexity or legitimate concerns surrounding these issues, and I admit, mentioning those hot button topics scares me a bit.  Most challenges can’t be boiled down to polar right/wrong sides but require discussion, debate, and negotiation.  I just feel like we’ve gotten a bit off kilter with hysteria.  It seems like fear is taking the lead on everything, and I don’t think that’s healthy.

Fear makes us hunker down and avoid contact.  It halts productive conversation, exchange of information, trust and enlightenment.  We make assumptions based on limited or skewed information and exaggerate differences.   We pass judgment.  The chasm grows.  It makes problem solving very difficult. 

And it blocks out love –as in “love your neighbor“– or the seriously radical one:  “love your enemies.”

As a parent, I want to model for my children both confidence and compassion.  If fear drives all of my decisions, I fail on both fronts.   Sure, I have my fears, and I worry at times.  I need to make sure my kids are safe.  But I need to keep the beast of fear from getting out of control, for my kids’ sake.  I want to get better at walking right in, facing the challenges, and seeking understanding before I react with fear. 

How do you keep fear in check?  We’ll talk more about this soon. 

A couple of related writings you might appreciate:

Creative Commons License photo credit: kevindooley

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10 comments to is fear turning us topsy turvy?

  • Maybe it’s a bit of denial, but I try to just NOT GO THERE. If my mind starts reeling with fears, I try to take a deep breath and think a little more logically. I think it helps too not to take in too much MEDIA. And when I do, I try hard to educate myself on BOTH sides of something, trying to really reach my very own conclusions. I find that those aren’t usually conclusions filled with fear, but of a little more common sense.

    And then other times I just totally freak out :)

  • I am so glad my son is nearly 24 and off on his own. This crazy political climate of late makes me nervous and sad and angry.

    A good friend of mine wrote to tell me that her child’s school had decided to go ahead and broadcast Obama’s speech yesterday. My friend was cool with it. But, as she explained, there were other several moms hanging outside the school in protest, one of them weeping and sobbing over the principal’s decision to air the speech. My friend asked the sobbing mom WHY she was crying. She asked if she had taken time to read the speech in advance (or knew of its harmless content). The sobbing, terrified mom had NOT read the speech and was basing her fear on some propaganda she’d heard on talk radio and conservative TV news programs.

    Well, as we know now, the speech was harmless. Even its critics ended up admitting that it was inspiring and on point. Here in Detroit, especially in the inner city, we NEED our president to express the importance of kids staying in school. Communism? Socialism? Nazism? I don’t think so.

  • It’s been a long while since I last commented (sorry about lurking!) although I do follow your blog. This is a good post and I think the media, and internet exposure (such as the news that show up when signing in for e-mail) has a lot to do with it! The same news keep showing up over and over again, as opposed to newspapers, which tend to move on.

  • pam

    Heather: I think you’re right, if we seek to understand both sides, we make more common sense decisions. I find I often get super riled up until I hear the other perspective. I just need to be willing to listen.

    Cindy, what a story. I’m still dumbfounded by the hullaballoo, although I keep trying. Hopefully we can move beyond it and save our passions for the critical things.

    Valerie, thanks so much for chiming in! I agree, the 24 hour media keeps whipping up the same issues. We also have more options to self-select, which makes it easy to gravitate to things that reinforce our fears and opinions. Sigh.

  • Good points. We have totally missed the points of “loving our neighbors (and enemies).” It saddens me to see the fear.

  • Sharon Gingras

    Pam I agree with you but want to add that God is in control and we needn’t fear him, but trust in him.

  • Ben Jameson

    Well, here is my take. I am far from an Obama supporter, but I wasn’t about to hold my kids out because I do respect the office of the president and I want my kids to respect it, too regardless of who occupies the White House. Also, if my kids deviate from the way that I want them to go because of a 20 minute speech by a guy on TV that they have never met, then I have done a very poor job as a parent. I am not worried about any political leader carrying more weight in my kid’s lives than I do. Besides that, it wasn’t like he was telling kids to do drugs or sell their soul to the devil. He told them the same stuff any president would tell them. It wasn’t a big deal to me.
    As for fear, I think the simple answer to that is the fact that fear will always get a person’s attention. It also sells. Politicians on both sides know that people can be controlled by fear. Democrats and Republicans are both guilty of trying to scare people into not supporting the other side. The same goes for every news network on TV regardless of whether they fall on the liberal or conservative side.
    I really think that many people are driven by fear because they aren’t confident in what they believe. I know what I believe and it has nothing to do with political parties or health scares or financial worries. My life is grounded in my relationship with Jesus Christ and I am guided by the Bible. Those things never change. Leaders change. Cultures change. Economies change. God doesn’t. So for me, fear isn’t an issue because my life is guided and driven something (or Someone) that is consistent and reliable.
    Well, that’s my take.

  • pam

    Wow, you all humble me with your insights.
    Gary, I look forward to delving more into your site and reflections. Powerful stuff.

    Sharon, thanks for stopping by. I absolutely agree that trust in God can help us overcome all fear. I see “fear of God” in the OT as a healthy awe of His power, not the way we’ve twisted fear in our world.

    Ben, I greatly appreciate you chiming in and agree with you (on the important stuff ;-) . Some kids in our district saw the speech, some didn’t, and it wasn’t such a big deal. You are right that all sides work their angles on the fear-mongering because it’s so powerful. And yes, strong faith can help us overcome such worldly turmoil. Thank God for that.

    Thanks for the wisdom, friends!

  • pam

    A few more thoughts:
    Those of us who profess trust and faith in God to overcome fear need to wield it carefully on either side of the aisle. When we speak of love but whip up unnecessary fear, I believe we are being completely inconsistent with our faith.
    I need to work on my frustration and anger with this issue and find a way to make my points yet rise above the fray. Any ideas?

  • To work on your anger, first work on your fear. To work on your fear, first work on your trust. I wrote about this a while back (click my name for the link), inspired in part by Jennifer at Conversion Diary’s insight about how fear is the absence of trust. She has since said fear is the absence of love. There are some similarities between love and trust (especially where God is concerned) so maybe it’s both. At any rate, I find it really useful to work backward from anger to fear to trust. I often learn a lot about myself and what’s really causing what.

    I happened to find your post during the G-20 summit here in Pittsburgh. Fear has shut down our city. Many businesses and schools are closed; many buildings normally unlocked during the day are locked; some buildings are actually BOARDED UP; all garbage cans and newspaper boxes have been removed from the streets; thousands of extra police officers have been imported. Why? Fear of massive, violent protests. And after months of media chirping about how the world’s most important people will see how wonderful our city is, what they’re seeing is a ghost town. We’re not showing the world what a loving, friendly place this really is because our mayor is afraid of protestors and assumes that the delegates are afraid of us ordinary citizens. It’s a shame!

    Ben Jameson wrote: Also, if my kids deviate from the way that I want them to go because of a 20 minute speech by a guy on TV that they have never met, then I have done a very poor job as a parent.

    Amen!! My child is only 4, but I’m already seeing that what he hears from his preschool teachers and peers has far less influence on him than what he hears–and sees and feels–from his daddy and me. If I fear he’ll follow other people’s ideas, I need to work on trusting the rightness and power of what I have taught him.

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