Fear: Is It A Friend or A Foe?

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My husband and I recently kept 3 of our grandchildren for a week. Their parents went on a lovely vacation to celebrate my son’s birthday. They have a wonderful tradition of reading to the children each night before bedtime until they are proficient enough to read to themselves. When she is here, our five year old often chooses a book we have called Fears, Doubts, Blues, and Pouts by H. Norman Wright and Gary J. Oliver. At five, fear still feels more like a foe than a friend. (https://amzn.to/3xwsoOt)

Photo by Cottonbro

Fear as a Friend

Fear is a powerful emotion. It originates in the amygdala, which is located near the base of our brain. This almond shaped structure is primarily involved in emotion and memory. However, it serves another important function. When faced with a real or imagined threat, the amygdala gives us the fight or flight urge.

In this way, fear keeps us safe. With lightening quickness, we have heightened awareness when our safety is threatened. For instance, fear will quicken the footsteps of a woman who is walking to her car at night when she senses she is being followed. Additionally, it will cause her to grab her keys or mace.

Fortunately, fear can motivate us to change. For instance, if your doctor told you to change your diet and to begin walking daily or you will have an imminent heart attack, fear would motivate you to do so. At least, it would for most people.

Fear motivates and drives us. The fear of failure, of rejection, or a fear of loss will often drive us to do whatever it takes to overcome those negativities. We’ll tap into or explore options or resources or approaches we haven’t tried in the past. The fear of rejection often drives us to go out of our way to add value to a relationship. It causes us to make that extra effort to succeed. Fear is there to drive us in the direction of whatever it is that we really want.

And finally, fear must come in order to develop courage. Courage cannot exist and cannot be experienced or expressed without the presence of fear. Fear is often brought into the equation in order to help us tap into, develop and embrace our courage. (emphasis added)

photo by Kat Jayne

Fear as Our Foe

When we allow it to grow out of its healthy boundaries, fear becomes our enemy. Furthermore, it is the root of anxiety, phobias, and stress. The needed hormones released during a fight or flight situation are damaging to our bodies when we live in a constant state of fear, whether low grade or otherwise.

The cortisol hormone released during fight-or-flight mode and when we experience stress weakens the immune system by decreasing the volume of lymphocytes circulating in our body. Being stressed out all the time makes us more susceptible to infections and even cancer. The lymphocytes are partly composed of B-cells that release antibodies to terminate invading bacteria and viruses external to the cells. The T-cell type of lymphocytes target invaders that have entered into cells and begin destroying the virus or bacteria. Another aspect of living in long-term fear that can damage the health may be collateral. Individuals suffering from extreme stress or the fear of something may abuse substances to cope.

Furthermore, fear that produces anxiety and self doubt paralyzes us from achieving goals and dreams. American writer and film director Suzy Kassem once said: Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will. I second that!

Photo by Mikhail Nilov

Another Downside to Fear

A second area fear targets is memory. As mentioned above, fear floods the amygdala area of our brains with hormones. During the initial fear-inducing event, the perceptions we have are vividly imprinted on the brain.

This impacts memory by storing the moments when our perceptions became more acute in high-resolution. These memories will burn into our souls as thoughts that have paramount importance over any others… These may be perceived simply as red flags in our subconscious minds that make us feel a looming sense of dread regarding individuals associated with these fears. This reactive irrational fear-based thinking is the force behind PTSD and can lead to long-term memory formation problems and damage to the function of the hippocampus. The memories incurred from the mechanism dubbed the ‘amygdala hijack’ are always perceived as negative, as a warning to avoid similar situations in the future, possibly explaining why first impressions are so important.

It also causes what is known as brain fog in people who have PTSD or acute anxiety.

What Else?

Lastly, the long-term effect of being exposed to adrenaline is certain to result in cardiovascular damage.  This will reveal itself in the form of tissue damage and the constriction of blood vessels, resulting in high blood pressure.

Clearly, unhealthy fear is not to be disregarded.

Photo by James Coleman

What Does God Say About Fear?

There is a reason God placed fear not in the Bible 365 times. We are a fearful people. In fact, politicians and unhealthy leaders of any field know this. They use fear in attempts to control their followers.

So does the enemy. Satan whispers the “what-ifs” in our ears over and over.

What if you:

  • fail?
  • are rejected?
  • lose?
  • succeed?

The list can be endless! However, God’s Word says something altogether different. Some of my favorites follow:

Psalm 34:4:

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 27:1

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?

Psalm 118:6

The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

Isaiah 41:13

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

I John 4:18

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

These are simply a small representation of the reassurances the Father has offered us. It isn’t necesary to live in fear any longer. It never was, but we fell into the trap at some point along the way.

I am fully and personally aware that it is a difficult task to forsake living in fear, but take courage my sister. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world…and unhealthy fear is a liar.


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