#10 – Discontentment is Fear {pt. II}

Fear Can Get You Two Ways


Fear is a natural reaction to many events in life. It is a knee-jerk response to things that happen – or more often – what we think could potentially happen to us. It’s easy to imagine all the bad things that may crash into our lives. You could lose your job. Get failing grades. Lose your hair. Burn your alfredo sauce. Get cancer. Forget someone’s birthday. Get a paper cut – that kind that really, really hurts. Crash your car. Your child crashes your car. Your child crashes your car into your other car. You can’t remember if you left the waffle iron plugged in.

If you start to think about all the things that could go wrong – there’s a lot to be scared of. You live in fear that all/many/most things that could go wrong eventually will, and when they do you won’t survive. That fear will drive out any contentment you have, and make sure it stays far away.

There are actually two parts to this source of discontentment. First, you think things will go wrong. Second, if (when) they do, it will destroy you.

The first part is more of an outlook on life, the preverbal half-full or half-empty divide. Do you expect things to go well or poorly? You can imagine an internal bookie in the back of our minds constantly taking bets and setting the odds for various events. The workforce is being reduced, how likely am I to get one of the dreaded meetings with HR? I don’t feel well this morning, what are the odds it’s actually a rare malady that will cause a slow and painful death?

Or, how likely are good, pleasant, beneficial things? What are the odds we set when we compare ourselves to others? We say things like: “I never get the lucky breaks”, as we think others have better odds of good things than we do. This first aspect, our predicted probability of bad things is related to but less damaging than the second aspect.

The second is much deeper and reveals more of what we think about this world, and what life is like. This second part is the follow-up. No worries if these things are not damaging, what really matters is how bad they will hurt us. What we expect the damage of these situations reveals more about our beliefs of contentment than what we think the odds are. This second aspect is the result of losing your job/getting sick /being fired/burning your sauce/crashing your car? Then what? Do you think you can recover? Will that loss crush you? Will this negative outcome destroy you or not?

Do I believe losing my job means financial ruin for my family, which means our lives are destroyed and my identity is lost, and I’m a loser, and everything will be horrible forever?


Will losing my job mean massive financial hardship, but our family will always be family, and worst-case scenario we have to move in with someone until we can find work, but we’ll be OK in the long run?

If we have a massive fear of the outcome of life’s events, it’s not just how optimistic we are about what happens, but how devastating the results. We can be more optimistic about the chances of something (more half-full kind of thinking) but our belief about the result of that event makes that optimism all for nothing.

If you don’t already know about this – go check out the last few days of the Lent devotional series from the Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts at Baylor University.
They put out a new series every Lent and Advent. I’ve been following them for several years now, and I find myself looking forward to these seasons partially due to these thoughtful combinations of word, music, visual arts and faith.

{this prayer by Mother Theresa was in the CCCA Lent series this week, and seemed to fit so well with our discussion on fear & discontentment}

Prayer for the Shaping of Desires

Deliver me, O Jesus:From the desire of being esteemed
From the desire of being loved
From the desire of being honored
From the desire of being praised
From the desire of being preferred to others
From the desire of being consulted
From the desire of being approved
From the desire of being popular.

Deliver me, O Jesus:
From the fear of being humiliated
From the fear of being despised
From the fear of being rebuked
From the fear of being slandered
From the fear of being forgotten
From the fear of being wronged
From the fear of being treated unfairly
From the fear of being suspected

Jesus, grant me the grace
To desire that others might be more loved than I,
That others might be more esteemed than I,
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I, too,
become as holy as I can.