Anxiety in the 21st Century — A Meditation

Some people define fear by the acronym FEAR– False Expectations Appearing Real.   But fear is the proper response to a perceived  real  danger or threat.   Anxiety is “usually generalized and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing.” (Wikipedia)

In other words,   “False Expectations Appearing Real”  is a way to describe anxiety not fear.    Danger is real in our world.   But,  in this post,  we’re thinking about something more subjective, the feelings of anxiety that are not necessarily connected to a real danger.   When we feel fear,  we want the danger to go away.   And, as soon as it does, the fear goes away. They’re connected.

But anxiety lingers because it may not be connected to anything. It is a more general dis-ease.  And,  anxiety pervades the globe in the 21st century.

I think of it as a feeling that we’re falling.   It doesn’t matter that we’re not really falling because  we feel like we really are.    And the feeling just won’t go away.

This short video below describes the levels and kinds of anxiety felt around the world.
The producers of this video,   JWT Intelligence,   have accumulated tons of data on global anxiety available at anxietyindex.com.   This may be a resource for those of you who are helping people cope with anxiety.   Interestingly enough,   anxiety is not unique to the 21st century.   Watch the video then reflect on the passages of ancient wisdom below.

Jesus told his disciples:   “Therefore I tell you,  do not worry about your life,   what you will eat;   or about your body,   what you will wear.   Life is more than food,   and the body more than clothes.” (Matthew 6.25ff)

Long before Jesus, another wise man wrote:
“An anxious heart weighs a man down,  but a kind word cheers him up”
(Proverbs 12:25, NIV).

The apostle Paul wrote:
“Be anxious for nothing,   but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;   and the peace of God,   which surpasses all understanding,   will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4.6)

The apostle Peter wrote:
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”
(1 Peter 5:6-7)

From ancient days to today,   we are an anxious race.   Stop for a moment and rest.  Anxiety is a bully that has stalked us through the ages.   This demon cannot simply be cast out of our minds and hearts.   It must be replaced.

What can replace anxiety?

The apostle John tells us that “Perfect love casts all all fear.” (1 John 4.18)   The love of a friend.   The love of God.   The knowledge that we are not alone…  the experience of not being alone.   To be told to stop worrying is not enough.   We must also replace anxiety with love,   with a deep connection to others,  or even,   to God.   I suspect that ridding ourselves of a companion as persistent as anxiety is going to take all of us.

Entrepreneurs,   offer your services and build your products with love.

Pastors, build communities of love.

Parents,  love your families.

Teachers,  love learning.

Humans,   love one another.

Anxiety.   The Old Testament writers wrote of it,   the New testament writers wrote of it, and it is still being studied and experienced today.   Even knowing “how” to deal with anxiety and understanding that it is “irrational” doesn’t take away the feelings of falling.

Here are some ideas that came to me as I reflected on the passages above…

(1) Stop and breathe and express and confess your feelings of anxiety…
(2) Build a net of people who love who would catch you if ever “your falling” ended
(3) Become a part of that net for others — become “a cheerful word giver”
(4) Clear your conscience by asking for forgiveness and offering forgiveness
(5) Get perspective, Look at the bigger picture
(6) Replace “I can’t” with “I can”
(7) Reach out with your heart for God
(8) Exercise
(9) Rest
(10) Enjoy the moment (or you’ll miss living your life as you wait for that unknown thing you fear –which may never happen– to come)
(11) Be kind
(12) Do what needs to be done one thing at a time, one step at a time

The spirit of anxiety has been with us for a long time. I suspect it may take a collective and global effort to cast it out for good.

Much love to you…

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What do you think?


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