Spooky music and fanciful costumes greeted me this morning. It is Halloween. It’s a kids’ holiday with lots of crazy fun. But it also points to a deeper truth.
Fear is a part of being human. Some seem to have the gift of being “fearless,” but most of us struggle with it. We fear trying new things, making difficult decisions in a relationship and realizing the best within us.
What does God Say More Than Anything Else?
The Bible recognizes the power of this emotion. The phrase God repeats more than any other is Al Tirah — “Do not fear.” God says it to each of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God says it repeatedly to all of the prophets, and tells them to reiterate to the people. Over and over again, Al Tirah, do not fear.
Why this repetition? Because fear is dangerous, and it can debilitate us. We can fail to become the person we are meant to be.
By telling us not to fear, God wants to reassure us that we can handle our fears, if we do not let ourselves become paralyzed by them. Fear can undercut the optimism that assures our future.
Israel’s Gift to the World
This biblical truth has been affirmed in the modern science of positive psychology. Researchers have discovered what they term “the optimism bias.” The way we view the future helps shape what it turns out to be. When we view it positively, we reduce anxiety and stress, thus enhancing our productivity in creating the future we envision.
Much of the research in this area has, interestingly, come out of Israel. The world’s foremost optimism expert, Dr. Tali Sharot, writes that “The tendency for positive predictions to create positive outcomes is rooted in fundamental rules… The mind has a tendency to try to transform predictions into reality because our behavior is influenced by our own subjective perceptions of reality.”
How It Works
If, for example, we believe we will finish running the 5k, we will push ourselves harder in order to turn that belief into a reality.
We can apply this insight more broadly. If we believe that we can overcome our challenges at work or at home, we will likely discover more creative and successful ways of doing so.
Or, as Robin Sharma put, “the beautiful thing about fear is when you run to it, it runs away.” In other words, with intention and knowledge, we can transform fear into faith.