Facing Fears HospiceFear is not failure. Fear is not weakness. Fear need not be destructive. We do not need to be ashamed of our fears. Fear stimulates faith. Fear is the inspiration to endeavor. Fear is the doorway to wisdom. Therefore, we do not need to fear fear.

There are two things which we should not fear. One of them is that which we can change. If we can do something about it, let us stop wringing our hands in useless fear. Let’s get to work to do something. The second thing we should not fear is that which we cannot change. If there is nothing we can do about it, then, to put it simply, there is nothing we can do about it.

One of the most prayed prayers in all the world is the prayer that Professor Reinhold Niebuhr wrote many years ago:

“God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

This is a good place to summarize some very fundamental principles in reference to fear. First, live one day at a time. You can’t relive the past and you can’t live the future. There is no need to hold on to the failures of yesterday and to manufacture fears for tomorrow. Do the best you can now in spite of what has happened.

Sir William Osler was a distinguished physician and teacher at Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania. He said: “The load of tomorrow, added to that of yesterday, carried today, makes the strongest falter.”

Or as Balzac, the nineteenth-century French author said, “After all, our worst misfortunes never happen and most miseries lie in anticipation.”

Another thing we can say about fear is that it can be dealt with if we stop thinking about ourselves and start doing something for somebody else. If you feel a fear coming on, think of somebody who is lonely, or worried, or who needs help. Go down to the store and buy a present, and take it or send to that person. It is marvelous what that simple little act will do for you. Buying the present for somebody else oftentimes can do as much for you as a visit to a psychiatrist, and it is a lot less expensive.

Carl Jung was a great psychologist. He once said, “The greatest and most important problems of life can never be solved, but only outgrown.” Once I saw a little poster in the lobby of a hospital that read, “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but will get you nowhere.”

That is not true with fear. Fear will accomplish things. Fear is one of life’s driving forces to help us reach the highest heights.