WHY ANXIETY HAS SO MUCH POWER OVER US by Timothy W. Massaro for Core Christianity

Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

Anxiety is something we all struggle with and in some cases can debilitate and rule us. Anxiety, though, is the symptom of a more deep-seated fear. Fear seems to control many aspects of society, whether it is the fear of intolerance and bigotry, or the fear of terrorists. Fear runs deep in every society, including our own.

Cultures of Fear

Most people in our culture do not fear whether they will have a warm bed to sleep on or if there will be enough food or water for the day (though there are many who do). We can assume that the basic needs of life will be given to us or that we even deserve them. Yet, there is another kind of fear that drives us and our society we fear losing our status at work, at home, in the culture, or in our churches. The fear of having a bad reputation or not having influence causes an anxiety that undergirds our entire way of life.

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Whether we are seeking to have a good reputation, accumulate possessions, or gain the respect that status and influence give us, our achievements in life move us subtly to fear anything that might cause us to lose our way of living. This fear often drives our daily lives in very subtle ways, creating a paralyzing anxiety.

Richard Beck, a professor of psychology, outlines this neurotic anxiety that drives us:

Feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem, obsessions, perfectionism, ambitiousness, envy, narcissism, jealousy, rivalry, competitiveness, self-consciousness, guilt, and shame are all examples of neurotic anxiety, and they all relate to how we evaluate ourselves in our eyes and the eyes of others. (The Slavery of Death, 28–29)

Our American way of life seeks to blot out any sense of meaninglessness or helplessness. We have become obsessed with our own self-image and worth. This anxiety can be seen in how we view others and treat them. This collective anxiety at its very root is driven by a deeper fear, the fear of death.

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