ANALYZING FEAR

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Fear is an emotion brought on by perceived danger. It is a response in the present to something that might happen in the future, albeit at times in the immediate future. Fear is characterized by a set of responses that include physiologic responses characterized by the ‘fight or flight response’ seen in animals. It also includes onset of a furious train of thoughts within the mind and the emotions that accompany it.

While some fear is good and keeps man safe, for the most part, fear is recognized as an undesirable emotion that does more harm than good. Is it possible to identify factors that can reduce fear? To begin, what are the origins of fear?

Fear has its origin in the fact that man is finite and limited in his ability to control himself and his immediate environment. Fear is also a sequel to man’s recognition that there is evil in this world and harm can come your way, even if you don’t invite it or desire it. Past experiences and the knowledge that comes along with them fashion your scope of fear. An infant who is exploring his surroundings, fears little, but soon learns what to avoid. Nations and societies as a whole have collective fears based on experiences and real or perceived threats. The comics featuring Asterix and Obelix are classics featuring a small nation of Gaul holding out with ease against the might of the Roman empire. Even this happy-go-lucky nation that had no fears, had a few peculiar ones- like the sky falling on their heads or of their bard Cacofonix breaking into a song, and so on.

The ultimate fear and mother of all fears is the fear of death, because the vast uncertainty that death brings in the face of a man wanting not to die, forms a backdrop against which all fears gain their legitimacy. Take away the fear of death and all other fears lose their sting.

 The Yale philosopher Shelly Kagan examined fear of death in a 2007 Yale open course by examining the following questions: —–What conditions are required and what are appropriate conditions for feeling fear of death? —–According to Kagan for fear in general to make sense, three conditions should be met: the object of fear needs to be “something bad”, there needs to be a non-negligible chance that the bad state of affairs will happen, and there needs to be some uncertainty about the bad state of affairs. —– If the 3 conditions aren’t met, fear is an inappropriate emotion. He argues, that death does not meet the first two criteria, even if death is a “deprivation of good things” and even if one believes in a painful afterlife. Because death is certain, it also does not meet the third criterion, but he grants that the unpredictability of when one dies may be cause to a sense of fear——. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear)

Well said, but easier said than done! Good armchair advice rarely holds out in the face of reality and it does not take long for man to be flung into throes of desperation when disease strikes and death looms ahead. When you are looking for a solution, go to the origin, in this case, the fear of death. Find solace in the One who takes away death, look to Christ in whom death has been swallowed up in victory! King David goes beyond armchair advice and grants us a glimpse into his life, when he says in Psalms 27:1-3;

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

 The confidence that his life was secure in the hands of God, and the grand reassurance that no circumstance or situation could be too difficult for God to handle on his behalf, made David fearless, right from his youth, when he fought off a lion and overcame Goliath, to his latter days when he led the nation of Israel on its many battles.

Fear cannot be extinguished, but certainly can be overcome.

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