Growing up, what was your reason for being fearful? The boogeyman under the bed? Your house possibly catching on fire? Your parents leaving you with a babysitter?
Flash forward to now. Do you still find yourself being fearful?
There is a lot you might be afraid of these days, that’s for sure.
I’m not advocating ignoring a problem with the forlorn hope that it’ll go away. Instead, I’d encourage you to pick and choose what problems you can safely ignore in order to protect your own heart.
We are still in the throes of COVID-19. I won’t invest any bandwidth discussing that now, because I’m not sure I have anything to add. We were already bombarded with bad news before the pandemic. Now – it’s bad news to the nth degree. There’s nowhere you can really escape it. That may be reason enough for being fearful.
What’s worse, some people seem to thrive on wretchedness. Spend a little time on Facebook or other social media site, and you’ll find yourself being brought low by much of what you read – even the posts from your friends. I don’t mind others having differing viewpoints from me; that’s pretty healthy. It’s a matter of how those viewpoints are shared.
Why, I’ve wondered, do some people want to score points against those they disagree with?
- Part of it may be loving that “gotcha!” moment. It’s always fun to point out how clueless the other person is.
- Part of it is the “preaching to the choir” tactic. Posters enjoy knowing they aren’t alone in their opinions or beliefs. There’s nothing better than collecting all those “likes,” right?
- Some people post things in attempt to persuade others to see things their way, especially in politics. Even better, they might “convert” that other person. There may be times when that’s actually worked, but I’d classify that as a miracle or exception.
Stepping outside of social media, there are other entry points into your mind and heart:
- The 24-hour news cycle. You have to fill that time with something if you’re a newscaster, and there’s nothing like a good pandemic to keep that cycle going.
- Cable news in general. My mama tended to have CNN or Fox or other news outlet on the TV round the clock in her latter days. I’d lose my mind if I had to submit myself to that.
- Ease of acquiring information. I’m just a click or two away from having access to just about any knowledge. I’ve been known to search for a recipe, and two hours later I know just about everything there is to know about the Ottoman Empire.
- Tech devices. I’m currently carrying my iPhone. My iPad is within reach. I’m typing on my MacBook Pro. Am I in bondage to all this gee-whiz gadgetry? Are you? You decide.
I could go on, but you see my point.
Fact: Where your mind dwells, that’s where your heart is, too. If you surround yourself with negativity, you become negative. Fill your mind with goodness, and goodness becomes a part of your life.
Constant, willful exposure to the nastier aspects of our world ultimately devalues our souls.
Understand that I have a degree in journalism. I understand the virtues of being well-informed. It’s important to be curious about the world around us. But how much information do you take in that you can actually take action on? If what you read, see, or hear makes you feel awful, what can you do about it?
We always pray, for sure. You pray for any heartbreak in the world. You pray that God’s presence be felt. Still, it’s wise to recognize there are many things you can’t control. But you can control, to a big extent, what you let into your mind, and then into your heart. Being fearful doesn’t have to be a constant.
Here are some suggestions.
- Restrict your intake of news. Again, this isn’t about being uninformed. It’s a matter of getting just enough to give you a sense of what’s going on around you. But to subject yourself to the same awful story over and over can’t be healthy.
- Focus on the things you can actually do something about. If you aren’t happy with someone in office, say, then vote them out. In the United States, we have this really cool reset button. Vote in your guy or girl next time.
- If there are things you are exposed to that you can’t do anything about – move on. Don’t dwell on the “what if’s?” I heard a neat term used in counseling a while back: “Catastrophizing.” It’s irrationally looking to the worst possible outcome of any incident or circumstance. Mama called it “borrowing trouble.”
- Ask yourself: “Do I find satisfaction in learning of and exploiting someone else’s failures?” If that’s so, then “Why am I like that?” is a sensible next question.
- Find a cause that’s worth investing your life in and do it. And do it while not taking advantage of someone else. If you’re passionate about animal rights, for instance, I think that’s terrific. Just don’t devalue people who aren’t as passionate as you. This comes under the category of “guarding your heart” because you’ll save yourself some frustration when you realize we all have things important to us. And those things don’t necessarily have to be the same.
- Restrict your “I’m right, therefore you’re wrong” impulses to a minimum. Who knows? Sometimes the other person might be right. There’s no reason for being fearful because you might be wrong.
- There may be some people in your life that want to drag you down right along with them. Love them anyway. That gives you extraordinary power. But – choose, as best you can, how you interact with them.
Bottom line: Guard your heart.
You can have a heart that is open and expansive and accessible. Perhaps, though, you’ve laid it out there to be abused.
You can’t control what others do to your heart. But you can control what you voluntarily put into it.