Fear is a basic human emotion — an emotional response to threats and danger; a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of pain.
Fear is different from anxiety, which typically occurs without any perceived external threat. When we are afraid, we often want to escape and avoid. Whereas when we are anxious, we tend to perceive the threats as uncontrollable or unavoidable.
For various reasons, some of us are more aware of our fears than others. Many of us have been taught to ignore our feelings, all in the name of being good managers of our emotions! We are admired when we can pretend we aren’t afraid! However, when we ignore or repress fear, our bodies and our emotions still keep score! We develop many physical, as well as psychological, symptoms and diseases because we ignore or mismanage our fears and anxieties.
As an individual emotional state, fear can also affect the unconscious mind, where it can become manifested in the form of nightmares or night terrors. Fear may also be experienced within a larger group or social network. In this way, personal fears that are compounded by social influence may become mass hysteria.
In faith communities, we are often admonished when we are experiencing fear because we do not have enough faith. I suggest that it is much more compassionate to respond to someone who is struggling with fear by first listening to what they are saying, and then tenderly helping them explore the details of the fear so they have a better understanding of the situation.
God’s ultimate plan is for each of us to recognize our need for Him; and we also need a supportive network of other people who will help carry us through difficult times. A scriptural model for this is the man who was lowered through the roof to where Jesus was teaching so he could be healed. (Luke 5:17-20) His dedicated friends tirelessly supported him physically (and I’m sure emotionally) in order to get him help.
We might be more in line with God’s plan by becoming a ‘perfect lover‘ to someone: simply hearing them share their fears without trying to fix them or giving them scriptures or lists of things to do to cover or smother their fears. When we jump too soon to a solution, we are not communicating love! So 1 Corinthians 13:1 might classify us as a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. We would do well to follow the formula in James 1:19 and “…speak little and listen much…..“