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Chaplain's Corner: Overcoming unhealthy fear through truth, love

By Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) James Hendrick | JBER Staff Chaplain | Aug. 12, 2015


The "Chaplain's Corner" offers perspectives to enhance spiritual/religious resiliency in support of Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.

Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey  endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing.

I think we'd all agree fear is powerful. I also think we'd all agree it can powerfully motivate, albeit from a negative emotional standpoint.

Another aspect of fear, sometimes unknown, is it comes in two forms - healthy and unhealthy.

Healthy fear is what we feel when we're hiking a trail and see a large agitated bear running our way in a purposeful manner.

This type of fear can save our life. It's grounded in truth.

The unhealthy fear I have in mind is the incorrect conclusions we sometimes draw about ourselves, due to difficult situations, which exercise a negative control over us, our relationships, and our potential.

Typically this form of fear is known by a self-defeating and self-condemning "thought life" that finds expression in our outlook, attitude, and behavior.

Unhealthy fear is ruthless in that can destroy many aspects of our lives while lacking objective evidence to support its claims.

I see this occasionally, for example, in marital counseling when a spouse is battling depression due to experiencing relational infidelity.

Although there are always two sides to a story, typically the wounded spouse will begin wrestling with his personal value or worth due to drawing wrong conclusions about himself. "Why am I not enough?" "What's wrong with me?"

Over time, these conclusions, without the confrontation of truth, can exercise a mental "reality" moving us further and further away from a correct healthy self-assessment to an incorrect unhealthy one.

The grief from this mindset is twofold (conflicted): the loss of relational quality and the perceived loss of personal value. Together, the pain can become very intrusive and poignant.

What are we to do? From my pastoral perspective I offer the following:

First, feed your mind with truth. Jesus Christ said, "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free." I believe this life principle to have huge psychological implications and impact that can improve all life categories.

Feeding our thought-life with truth does much to replace the dominating flames of unhealthy fear with the comforting waves of healthy peace. In short, we must eat, but we must eat correctly.

Second, apply the power of love. In the Bible, the apostle John recorded in 1 John 4:18 that "perfect love expels all fear." What a provocative statement.

Can it be true? I believe it is. Like many Christians, I believe my fear is reduced to the degree that it's replaced with infinite love (God's love) in my heart. I also believe active love has the power to exercise control over all forms of fear.

We see this with mothers who stand between their children and an attacking dog. We also see this when military members place themselves in harm's way to protect their battle-buddy.

Love is powerful and overcomes fear. Done enough, active love conditions fear's power out of our minds.

What do we frequently feed our minds, especially during hardship and crisis - evidential facts grounded in reality or subjective conclusions grounded  in insecurities? This is so important. Truth is vitally essential for all aspects of life, especially our psychology.

What do we do when the dark clouds of unhealthy fear cover us?

Do we remain stagnant and passive or do we look for creative ways to act compassionately, regardless of feelings, especially to those who stand in genuine need?

It truly is "more blessed to give than to receive."

Again, our love-in-action will work powerfully to condition unhealthy fear out of our hearts.

I think we'd all agree fear is powerful and can powerfully motivate. But have we considered that healthy fear will protect your life whereas unhealthy fear will rob you of life?

If you're wrestling with unhealthy fear, may you confront it with truth and love.

Why truth and love? Unhealthy fear cannot cohabitate with these attributes.

May we all be blessed to that end.