When working with others one-on-one, speaking to a group, or facilitating a workshop, a common question I get is the question of whether or not fear can ever be healthy. Admittedly, there was a time in my life when I would have answered with a resounding “Absolutely!” After all, fear causes us to jump out of the way of oncoming traffic, right?
Since that time I have spoken with individuals far wiser than myself, done my due diligence, engaged in rigorous soul searching and prayer, and have become convinced there is no such thing as healthy fear. Ever.
I understand if you may need some convincing. I did. So let’s first consider what the big book has to say about fear.
“[Fear] was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our lives was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve.” p. 67
The big book goes on to make the observation that
“[Fear] seems to cause more trouble [than stealing].” p. 68
“We asked [God] to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.” p. 68
So let’s some up a few points as we are considering whether or not some fear can be healthy.
Does any of this sound like the description of something healthy to you? If fear were truly healthy would you want to outgrow it or ask God to remove it? Would it cause misfortune greater than stealing? Would we call it evil?
Over the years I’ve taught this concept at seminars, workshops, and retreats and, invariably, somebody brings up the example I used at the beginning of this article:
“What about oncoming traffic or wild animals? Isn’t a healthy fear of getting hurt the reason we avoid these dangers?”
Simply put, the answer is no. Instinct is what causes you to jump out of the way of oncoming traffic, not fear. Fear does not inspire action; fear paralyzes. Fear freezes people in place, like a deer in headlights. Instinct is what commands us to engage in self-preservation.
I’ve developed a printable checklist to help you stay mindful of your efforts.