In simple terms, the greatest fear that all of us have is the fear of the unknown. More often than not, our imagination supplies thoughts, images, and feelings that simply are not true. Our childish nightmares have only grown more sophisticated as we’ve grown older.
As children we would look at the shadow in our closet and imagine the monster drooling and leering at us from the darkness. As adults we still fear the unknown. It’s just a bit more complex than our childish fancies. Now, our fears are preyed upon by what we imagine. We fear rejection, people’s unspoken opinions, potential difficulties, possible loss, and so much more. We’ve allowed our negative imagination to control our actions.
So many people can’t make new friends because they think people will possibly dislike them. Others can’t get a job because they imagine all the potential difficulties that might exist. Death itself is scary to most people because it is filled with unknowns. Some people can’t ever make a decision because of all the maybes and possibilities that might exist. We walk into a new environment feeling stressed and tense because we aren’t familiar with the people or surroundings.
I pastor a Church and I can’t help but harbor this same fear. Someone calls me on the phone and says, “Pastor, I’ve got to talk to you.” They won’t tell me over the phone what the matter is, but indicate they will when we meet privately. I fear the worst. My mind imagines what they may say, that somehow I hurt them, that they’re leaving, and so on.
This is our fear. This is what everyone fears: the fear of the unknown.
WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT THIS FEAR?
First, don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from finding out everything that you can find out. Too often, we fear what might be and so we become paralyzed and unable to even face any reality. Many of you who read this face the same situation with your finances. You are in debt. You owe large amounts of money, and that very fact prevents you from dealing with bill collectors or the creditors. In fact, you fear the mailbox for what it might contain. You won’t call the creditors and find out your exact situation. When someone gets to this point, I always tell them to call everyone and find out exactly what they owe. Face your fears. Find out the truth.
The reality is never as bad as your fear. Even when the reality is bad, very bad, it is still easier to deal with the reality than to carry the emotional burden of many different potential results.
Let me illustrate. You did something wrong and got caught. Now you are standing in a court room before the judge about to hear your sentence. The sentence itself can range anywhere from a dollar amount to ten years in jail. Until you know, the fear of the unknown means that you carry the emotional weight of all the potential sentences. Your mind races to figure out how you’ll pay restitution, and then how you may handle a one year sentence, or a five year, or a ten year sentence. You carry all the weight of all those possibilities.
But, once you are sentenced, you know exactly what you face. It is actually a relief even if the sentence is the maximum possible. It is no longer the unknown. You know what you need to plan for. You know what you need to look forward to. Just knowing is a powerful relief.
Or imagine that you are sitting in a waiting room awaiting word from the doctor on the condition of a loved one. While waiting, you carry the emotional burden of all the various possibilities. Even if the doctor says that there is nothing he can do, and to prepare for the worst, you’ll find that easier to face than the unknown. Knowing what you are facing is always easier than carrying all that your mind can conjure.
It is also important to surround yourself with many different people that love you. Facing the unknown is always more difficult alone than with someone. In my preaching, I always find it easier to preach to people that I know, that I love, and that I know love me. Preaching to a bunch of people that I have never met before is a completely different story.
Remember when you were a child? You did things on a dare that you’d never do alone. You said, “I’ll do it if you do it.” Facing something with someone else is always easier than facing it alone.
We fear so much. If we examine that fear closely, we will discover that much of what we fear is born out of our own imagination. It is the fear of the unknown.
I mentioned two things that you can do to help you deal with this.
1. Get more information. The more you know, the less you’ll fear.
2. Surround yourself with people that love you. It is always easier to face the unknown when you are with someone.
Don’t let the fear of the unknown paralyze you and take away your ability to enjoy life.
To learn more, or to get the Author’s book, Fitly Spoken, a book on developing communication and social skills for relationships, visit: www.fitlyspoken.org