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Another Perspective

Men & Fear II: Antidotes

“I will fear no evil for thou art with me”
— Psalm 23:4

In my previous blog I wrote about non-productive ways men typically handle fear. In this edition I want to address constructive methods for addressing fear.

Fear is dissolved by love. As C. FitzSimmons Allison observed: “…fear…does not lead us to safety but rather to hiding from that which can make us successful, whole, and alive. We need [love] if our fear is not to bury us.”*

It is life-giving for men to face their fear, not turn away from it. This is true on both the inner and outer levels of life.

On the inner level men move toward fear when they acknowledge, accept and assimilate what they fear, finding its roots inside of them. Doing this deprives the fear of its power to intimidate and torment a man into submission. There are several practical ways to do this. Talking about what is feared or writing about it in a journal brings fear out of its dark homeland into the light of day where consciousness shrinks the fear, making it manageable. Praying about what is feared is another resource. Over time prayer transforms what is dreaded into something a man can accept and perhaps even learn to love.

Love is the antidote to fear. A man does not fear what he loves. Experiencing the love of God helps a man deal with fear. God's love can be experienced through activities like attending worship and participating in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Facing fear in ways like these helps a man grow stronger emotionally. He discovers he no longer has to be paralyzed by what he fears. Courage becomes an abiding companion when fear is faced. Every new fearful moment faced becomes an opportunity for a man to rediscover and experience emotional freedom - and the transforming power of love.

Facing fear is also important on an outer level. Aversion therapy, for example, enables a man to face what is fearful and to no longer be intimidated or paralyzed by it. This is a behavioral method for acknowledging, accepting and assimilating what is feared so the man can get on with his life, doing what needs to be done. Aversion therapy is a particularly helpful resource for addressing the fear of flying, learning to drive again after being in a horrible accident, dealing with spiders or snakes, etc.

Spiritually, when a man allows God’s love into his life, fear increasingly goes away. As the Psalmist wrote, “I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” As a man walks through the valley of fear, he can discover God is with him. God's presence comforts (i.e. strengthens) a man. He can discover he is not alone in his struggles with fear.

The story in Genesis about Jacob is instructive. After stealing Esau’s blessing, Jacob fled from home but found guilt and fear troubled him. Esau said he was going to kill Jacob for stealing his birthright. During Jacob’s first night in the wilderness he had a dream that showed him he was not alone. In his dream Jacob saw a ladder connecting earth with heaven, on which angels descended and ascended. Then Jacob saw God, who blessed him just as he’d blessed Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham. Part of that blessing was: ”Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go….” (28:15) Remember, Jacob received God's reassurance at a moment when he was full of guilt and fear. Jacob's dream helped him face his feelings.

The lesson from Jacob's experience is that even when fear is intense, God is with us. We are not alone in our fear. In large measure because of his dream, Jacob faced his fear of Esau's anger and threats. He returned home where the two brothers reconciled. When Jacob faced his fear it diminished and was replaced by love.

Facing fear, rather than denying it or running away from it or seeking to overpower and control it, is what dispels it. Facing fear means acknowledging, accepting and assimilating what is feared. Ultimately, love is the antidote for fear.

What has been your experience with fear? How do you typically handle it?
* C. FitzSimmons Allison, Fear, Love and Worship (New York: Seabury Press, 1965) 27.
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