One of the lessons I learned from battling cancer for over 18 years, is that fear can be paralyzing. Not the paralysis that comes from an injury to the spine, but the paralysis of inaction – the inability to take charge and do something about your challenging situation. Fear can cause us to shut down and passively lay down and wait to die. It also lies to us. It tells us, “Why bother? You know how this is going to end. Give up now and don’t waste your energy.”
I was there. When I first noticed unusual physical symptoms in my breast, fear paralyzed me. I did not take immediate action to confirm whether or not I had cancer. I did not want to know. It took months of wallowing in fear and managing my symptoms before I heard the words, “You have cancer”. At that point I was completely immobilized and determined I did not want to fight. I had no motivation to research treatment options or develop a plan. I was stuck. It was the fear of the unknown. It wasn’t until God spoke to me and ministered his grace that I felt strengthened to move past my fears. Once I stepped out of that debilitating space, I was able to gain strength. I gained confidence from the things I was learning, and I began to see clearly with a level head.
I think that this message is even more pertinent to the current economic, social, and political unrest enveloping our country today. The coronavirus and the resulting lockdowns were fodder for an increase in anxiety and fear. There was the palpable fear of contracting COVID, spreading it, and the fear of violating the lockdown directives of those in authority. On top of these fears many were fearful of their economic future. The 3-month lockdowns caused the economy to grind to a halt and come to a standstill, affecting many small businesses. Many people’s livelihood evaporated. The unemployment rate skyrocketed, and people were under great financial stress.
And just as the country was taking steps to reopen, George Floyd was murdered by four police officerscaught on video for the whole world to see. One officer held his knee on George’s neck for 9 minutes, while George was saying he couldn’t breathe. It was a tinder boxcausing racial tensionand America descended into weeks long eruption of protests, anarchy, rioting, and looting. Fear, angst, anxiety, and pressure permeated the country. People were afraid for their lives, afraid of the destruction of private and public property, and afraid of the indiscriminate displays of anger and enflamed passions.Three months of uncertainty and anxiety from being locked down and “social distancing” was a powder keg. What do we do? How do we handle all of these different pressures coming at us all at once like arrows?
First of all, I suggest we remove ourselvesfrom the news and social media. News outlets arefanning the flames of racial divisionmaking Americans take sides, when I believe 90% of Americans are unified in their horror and denunciation of what the police officer did to George Floyd. I believe most Americans are united in wanting justice for Floyd, although they may not all agree on what it should look like.
Social Media is worse because it spreads disinformation like wildfire and everyone’s opinion and rants are on full display for disagreements and bitter vitriol to be hurled back and forth.
In order to maintain balance, harmony, and peace within, we need to unplug. We need to think clearly about the situation and what is happening. If you are angry, stop and think about how you can channel your anger into something positive and effective. Allowing the anger to fester and build, only causes us to behave and act irrationally. Unintentional hurt and irreversible damage is the result. Calmer heads need to prevail.
If fear is gripping you, you need to get on your knees and pray. Release all your emotions and fears to God. Its ok to cry out. It’s ok to let God know your feeling overwhelmed. Do a lot of self-reflection and examination of your own personal motivations. Let go of any guilt, insecurities, prejudices, or preconceived notions. Step away from anything that feeds your anxiety and fears such as the news media, social media, and anyone who is confrontational.
Pray for the country. Pray for peace. Pray for all the families that have been affected by Floyd’s murder, other people murdered during the riots, and the loss of property and livelihoods from the looting and destruction. Pray for our leaders that theylead with integrity, display strength, andwalk in wisdom, compassion, and understanding.
Remember that you are not the only persongoing through this. Many of your fellow Americans in your neighborhood are going through the same thing. Find and gravitate towardsthose who are likeminded and solution oriented and join forces with them. Find those who are determined not to sit back and allow their circumstance to control their emotions and reactions, preventing them from moving forward. Don’t stay stuck in your fears. Be proactive and not reactive. Devise a plan of how you are going to recover financially. Pivot and figure out ways you can take advantage of opportunities to serve.
Remember this will all pass.