False Evidence Appearing Real
I don’t know about you, but I live a life of scurry, hurry, and worry! I am always stressed about something.
The Bible says be anxious for nothing… and I am: I am anxious for nothing! I am just anxious all the time, and I can’t even tell you what about. I don’t think that’s really what it means however…
Recently someone asked me a simple, yet powerful question: What would you do if you had no fear?
A simple, but powerful question.
Maybe you would go back to school. Quit your job. Ask the pretty girl on a date. Forgive someone. Forgive yourself. Move to a new location. It could look like many things in life.
I shot off some silly answer at time, but I knew I needed to take a hard look at my life and ponder this regularly.
So often I experience “analysis paralysis” in that I overthink things seven times over! [cut to scene from Fiddler on the Roof: “on the other hand… but on the other hand, etc…”] What it boils down to is that I fear that I will fear that I made the wrong choice, so I am afraid to choose. Whether it is a big thing or small, I feel like I would then be judged and face the consequences of making a poor choice from God and man.
When you think about it, fear isn’t real. So should we really fear fear itself? What would the opposite of fear looks like?
Fear is not real, but the side effects are killer
I once heard fear defined via an acronym: False Evidence Appearing Real.
This is a simple, yet deep way of looking at it. When we are afraid, we are making something that is not happening reality in our minds. The movie “After Earth” touched on this concept that fear is not real:
“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity Kitai. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice. We are all telling ourselves a story and that day mine changed.”
Danger is real. And I guess one needs to distinguish between health fears (common sense) and irrational or out of control fears. We would have a fear of walking off of a cliff because of what we fear would happen. Yet, often we have the same certainty in our minds that a similarly traumatic and unpleasant outcome would come of [insert “xyz” situation of trivial importance or danger] occurring.
In the recently popularized Divergent series, we can also see the power of fear portrayed. In this post-apocalyptic dystopia, a faction /caste system is put in place to ensure a productive and protected society. They way you were told what faction you naturally belonged to, they ran a simulation of your worst fears and gauged how you responded to them; thus placing you in one of the main categories. However, if you could control your fear (divergents), the system couldn’t control you, which was a problem for those who held power.
Well, on a spiritual level, is this not the very story we are in? If we can control our fear, that means the enemy cannot control us, which makes us dangerous!
In one scene, the main character realizes she is in a simulation while she was in it, and started to take control of the reality around her. When she did, things started to break and fall apart. She simply said “this isn’t real” and her reality changed. Sounds so simple, right? Well, she’s a hero in a movie, and we are not always as strong willed as they portray characters?
But why can’t we be?
Managing, and controlling fear is a big deal. Studies have been conducted for years showing a link between stress (which is often based on fear), fear, anxiety, etc.. to Physical/emotional trauma and disease.
God says don’t live in fear. I think this is a double whammy: we trust God, the only one who is ultimately worthy of trust, and we don’t have to deal with ulcers and gut issues from all the physical ramifications and side effect of living in fear!
It is claimed that there are 365 different verses that reference fear, or some derivation of that concept. I have not verified this, and I think this number includes “the fear of the Lord” which is different than living in fear, but there are certainly a good number of verses that do say “do not fear.” If it is that’s important, should we be afraid of fear?
Fearing fear itself
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself!”
If we shouldn’t fear, then why fear fear? (That’s like saying “never say never” – you just said the thing you’re not supposed to say. Too much recursion. Mirror maze. Inception. Mind blown)
Maybe we’re not to fear fear, but simply conquer it. Obviously simply doesn’t mean “easily,” but the concept is simple.
Cast down those fearful and anxious thoughts is not always possible on our own, but is possible with a spirit of power:
2 Tim 1:7 For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
We are not built to experience constant fear. It does bad stuff to us! Should we then fear it? We should acknowledge the negative power it wields, like we do with sin, and endeavor to avoid it.
Rom 8:15 For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba, Father!
Living in the opposite of fear:
So, this question of “what would you do if you had no fear” leads me then to ponder what that would entail overall. What does a life not lived in fear look like?
What is the opposite or antonym of fear? Freedom? Faith? Peace? Assurance?
Perhaps your definition of the opposite of fear would be different than mine, based on what that fear obfuscates or prevents in our lives respectively.
We live in a mix of good and evil. We can experience a mix of fear and faith, or fear and freedom simultaneously, even though we want just the positive.
For me, given that I define fear as “False Evidence Appearing Real,” I tend to think of faith as the positive corollary: both fear and faith take something that is not and act on it as though it is. The substance is the same, or lack thereof, but the perspective and thus outcome are very different; one leading to sickness, and the other leading to hope.
When people are labeled a pessimist, they often make the negative fear their reality, whereas an optimist internalizes faith. Those who proclaim themselves “realists” just experience some mix of the two.
But do we sometimes fear not fearing? Are we afraid to not be afraid? If freedom is your antonym of fear, are you kept back from freedom because of fear? (The general concept, not in the details of the things keeping you from breaking free) Growing up in a conservative church, I’ve been afraid of the word “freedom” when used in religious context, because people have taken this too far and claimed they were free to do whatever they wished, and their standing with God was unaffected. So my struggle has been finding the balance between following God’s law, and knowing what freedom for believers should actually look like. But I am limited by a fear of taking it too far, so I don’t move at all.
Are there examples of people you feel “have it figured out” in terms of fear management? Kind David seemed to… half of the time.
Yet courage is not what send fear packing, but love:
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has torment. He who fears has not been perfected in love.
I ask you the question now. Take a long hard look at your life and try to get a picture of what would it look like/what would you do if you had no fear?
We know that fear is not real, yet it has real consequences to our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. We should not even fear fear itself, for we have been given a spirit of power, love and a sound mind, and that perfect love casts out fear. So now we should learn to live in the opposite of fear. Faith, love, assurance, peace, or you fill in the blank.
What would YOU do if you had no fear?