What Are You Afraid Of

What Are You Afraid Of?

Conversations in the Worthychat online chat room have made me think a little bit about fear lately. Talking about fears, that is the specific things that people are afraid of, is actually kind of interesting, at least to me.

A lot of that is quite a mystery to me, it seems to make no sense whatsoever. However that is to be expected I suppose. Fear is an emotion and emotions often have little to do with being rational.

Of course many of us have fears that are really irrational, but we like to think up rational reasons why we have them because we do not want others to think of us as irrational beings. This has its roots in pride.

This particular blog post, like many of my blog posts has no objective, no purpose, at least it has none so far. I often just start with a seed of an idea and then write out thoughts as they come to me.

In this case the seed of my idea is "fear", and how irrational it is at times. Fear is not the only manifestation of irrationality. Sometimes our speech is directed by irrationality. At the discussion forums at Worthy, we sometimes see irrationality on display, though we often do not recognize it for what it is. I think this is particularly the case when the irrationality is our own. People sometimes have heated debates. Sometimes the debates are less heated. Even when the debates are calm, we often see some people seem to have a need to be seen as right or to get the last word in. It is fine, of course, to have individual opinions. When we hold on to our opinions in spite of what the facts are telling us (that is to say that the facts, coupled with rational thought), we are choosing to remain ignorant. This also has its roots in pride. Sometimes you can tell which people are humble. Humble people tend to ask questions. Prideful people often try to answer questions. I admit that I fall into the latter category.

To paraphrase 1st Corinthians 8:1, Paul tells us that knowledge makes us arrogant while love builds others up. I sure hope that I have some knowledge because I sure have enough arrogance. Of course I'm getting a little off topic, but with  the way I do blogs, that is to be expected. As I said I just start with a seed of an idea and then write down a bunch of thoughts as they run through my mind until I run out of things to say.

As I write however, I sort of keep a lookout on how to make the things I say have some spiritual relevance. Here in this blog, that has already manifested in my rant about knowledge and pride. That probably is the case because I find myself frustrated discussing certain topics in the forms. Sometimes just reading topics I do not participate in, even frustrate me. Because I am not addressing anyone specific here, nor any specific topic, I am going to say outright that there are many arrogant people on these forums and many ignorant people in them as well. Often times those two qualities reside in the same individuals.

One of the reasons I do not participate more in the forms is because I do not enjoy that feeling of distress and frustration that comes from reading posts where people are so wrapped up into holding on to their position and making certain that others people see it their way, that they have made themselves blind and deaf to so many things they could learn if they could only set aside some of their pride. I have said this before, but some people think that what they believe is the equivalent of the word of God. They state an opinion as though their opinion is God's word and can never recognize that their opinion is perhaps a misunderstanding of God's word and it has no authority whatsoever. I find this so saddening that I have to take mini-vacations away from the forums. I have to wonder sometimes how many people there are who could benefit from the vast knowledge that many of our forum members have, but will not do so because they find the forum environment to be too toxic.

Of course many of you who read the forums and who are familiar with some of its characters, including myself, might be asking yourselves or thinking to yourself that this Omegaman character is one of the people he is describing. Isn't Omegaman one of those prideful, arrogant, self-righteous, puffed up, people who is unyielding and unable to learn because of his blindness and deafness resulting from his pride?

It might be that this is indeed the case. I have changed my opinion about certain things and doctrines which I once held with passion, when the evidence for positions that I did not hold became overwhelming and I could no longer deny them. In this I find some hope that I am not so blind and so arrogant that I cannot see things as they are. I know that my pride has slowed my learning for me one doctrine in particular that I now embrace, which I did not embrace for at least my first 30 years as a believer. Looking back I can see that with a little more humility and just a little hard work I should have embraced this doctrine within a year and possibly even within one day. Knowing this about myself scares me a little. If it doesn't scare you a little, then perhaps you too are too arrogant. Whoever you are that is reading this, it's doubtful that you understand everything perfectly or that all the doctrines that you hold to be correct, are so. If all of your doctrines are correct, then maybe Jesus returned sooner than I thought He would.

 If you are a person who reads the forums regularly, and pays attention to the details of things that are said, you no doubt have already thought of some people whom you can fit into that arrogant prideful category. Perhaps the people that are coming to your mind now you have labeled as legalists in your mind, if you haven't in fact actually called them that. If you have called some others legalists, or thought them to be legalists in your mind, it might be that you are right and that these people really are legalists.

Be careful however, because I am convinced that some people who think of others as legalists are also prideful and by labeling someone as a legalists they have come up with a different way to hold onto their pride by viewing themselves as more enlightened, more tolerant, more accepting, more loving,  allowing more liberty, and in fact find in themselves, a kind of superiority to these people they think are legalists. This also can be a form of pride and it can puff up as certainly as knowledge can.

Well, that was quite a bit of editorializing on the subject I did not come here to address. I guess it has just been on my heart lately. I apologize.

I do want to get back to my topic about fear however. I may or may not have anything spiritual to say or observe about fear, but I think that you might find some of the things to at least be interesting curiosities.

If we are normally functioning human beings, then we are pre-wired to seek to survive. A natural outgrowth of these instincts is a fear of death. Since this is true, we might expect to have fears of things that can cause death. In varying degrees we have the ability to overcome fears with rationality. For example many people might have a fear of jumping out of an airplane at 10,000 feet above the ground. Part of this fear comes from our instinct for survival and are lack of wanting to die  just yet. Some people might think that converting their bodies from a three-dimensional object into a two-dimensional substance caused by sudden contact with the ground, would cause pain and they are fearful of pain. If they thought about it a little they might realize that their death would be so sudden that they would never even have a chance to experience pain. In that case they should be able to overcome any fear of pain from jumping out of an airplane. However a fear of death could still remain. Now if a person were to modify these circumstances somewhat by donning a parachute, then the odds of avoiding death are multiplied immensely. Armed with this new information a person might be able to rationally conclude that they will not die by jumping out of the airplane and they can now set aside their fear or convert the emotion of fear into an emotion of thrill.

So I was thinking there are lots of things that people fear and perhaps some things that people do not fear that it might make sense to fear. Yesterday I did some research into statistics of some causes of death in the United States. These things that I researched are not random I cherry picked them in order to make a certain point. The point being that sometimes our fears of some things are pretty irrational because the statistics involving those things show our fears of them to sometimes be totally dis-proportionate to the facts.

Now I need to point out that some things that we have fears of, we might feel they are dangerous and yet in our mind we know they really aren't. I have one phobia that I know of. I don't know if my definition of the word phobia is an accurate one, but I understand the word to mean and irrational fear. My phobia is spiders. Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, is a pretty common one in the United States. I don't know why this is the case. I have a personal belief about why I have arachnophobia, I believe I learned it. In fact, I believe my mother taught it to me, though she did not do so intentionally.

My mother told me a story about when I was a baby she had a folding crib that she put out on the lawn in our backyard. She put me in the crib and left me there by myself while she observed from some distance while she hung up clothes on our clothes line. I hear that some people, especially in other parts of the world, still have clothes lines.
However I don't think I have been without a close dryer since the mid-1960s. But that is another story. Anyway, I was entertaining myself in this crib in the backyard when my mother came over to get me. When she got to the crib she discovered that I was playing with a spider. The spider was black and red. In the United States we have a spider we call the Black Widow. She happens to be black and red and in those days it was thought to be our most dangerous spider. We now know we have more dangerous ones, but still the black widow was known to be sometimes fatal and of course that would be especially true for a baby. When my mother saw me playing with a black and red spider she screamed. I as a baby was quite happy with my cute little black and red plaything. But when my mother screamed it frightened me, and I cried.
 I think perhaps that I now associate my being frightened with that spider incident. Clearly, since I was happily playing with my little eight legged friend, I had no natural fear of spiders it was learned somewhere during my lifetime, and I believe the story I just told you is the source of my personal arachnophobia.

I had a friend, I think I was 19, and he was 17, when I learned he had a fear of heights. We were on a camping trip in an area that had lots of cliffs. I was surprised to learn how afraid of heights he really was. He would not go closer than about 10 feet to a cliff there. I thought that was extremely strange. To me this was clearly irrational, but then I had been jumping off of roofs since I was much younger, and even jumping from one roof to another occasionally, since I was about nine or 10 years old I think. My friends name, was Larry. His phobia was so bizarre to me that I planned to get him over it. For some bizarre reason I was able to get Larry to trust me enough to follow my directions. I do not know anything about treating phobias but I just thought surely he could get over this with a little effort. What we did was to get Larry to gradually face his fears. This was a nine day trip into the wilderness that we were on, so we had some time to work on this. At first I had Larry come as close to the edge of the cliff as he dared. Looking back I estimate that was probably about 8 feet away. We did this several times that day for several minutes each time. While Larry was nervous, he was not panicked.

In subsequent days I would get Larry to come closer to the edge of a cliff maybe a foot or two closer each day. Eventually, although he would not stand there, I could get Larry to sit at the actual edge of a cliff and remain there. That was about as far as we got on that trip but Larry had a gotten rid of his phobia. With his newfound bravery and confidence Larry was able to work on his phobia further, all by himself. I have not heard from Larry in many years, but last I heard he was working for the California Department of Fish and game and routinely would climb and descend cliffs and trees for various purposes involving bird nests. I think therefore that people not only learn phobias, but they can unlearn them also.

In my own case, I utilized this same technique of confronting fear to overcome it. These days I can handle spiders. That is to say that just as when I was a baby I can have spiders in my hand and not be panicked. I will admit that this does not mean that I have no apprehensions whatsoever, but that's intense adrenaline and sense of panic is no longer an issue. Being rational can help overcome fear. I will admit though that if I am just sitting in a chair and a spider suddenly runs across me, that it does freak me out a little bit. I still have that initial jolt of fear but usually I soon gain composure and just brush the spider off.

Well, that was a lot of rambling writing down free thought. Now I plan to go into the only part I expected to put here when I began writing this down. Specifically that means I want to show you some of the causes of death in the United States and the statistics of how many deaths there are from these causes in a typical year. I know a guy who does not like sharks. I don't know why he does not like them, I don't know if he would describe it as fear, hatred, disgust, or whatever but he does not like sharks. I am also not sure if he is serious when he says some of the things that he says about sharks or if he is just exaggerating because he likes to be controversial and argumentative. He says things like he thinks all sharks in the world should be killed. Now I suspect that he does not really mean that, since some sharks are very small and present no potential harm to people and are so small that they do not significantly eat other fishes that my friend would rather see used for human consumption. Of course sharks themselves are edible, and this man acknowledges that fact. So he thinks a good way to get rid of sharks is to catch them all and then feed people. If one wants to get rid of sharks I suppose that would be a good way to do it.

On the other hand, I like sharks. They fascinate me I find them beautiful, and this has been true since my years in high school in the 1960s. I have scuba dived among sharks and I enjoy doing so. I even painted a picture of sharks.
I do not recall ever being afraid of sharks while being in the water with them. So what is this about sharks, why am I bringing sharks into this discussion.

  While as I said I'm not afraid of sharks perhaps my friend is. Whether or not he is afraid of sharks is not all that important, because there are people who are afraid of sharks. Some people like to go to the beach but will not go into the ocean because there might be a shark there somewhere. Sand is irritating, and the Sun is dangerous, but sharks are neither (most of the time).

 I am using sharks here as one point on a scale of things that some people are afraid of and that can be a cause of death. In a moment I am going to list some causes of death in the United States and insert a pie chart that I made that illustrates these causes of death in proportion to how often they occur. Click the image below to enlarge!

Notice that the risk of death by shark, snake bite, spiders, terrorists, cows, plastic buckets, lightning, pet dogs and friends combined, is roughly equivalent of the chance a wife has of being killed by her husband!

Some details on U.S. causes of Death, Rounded off average annual

Sharks 1, Alligators 1, Bears 1, Snakes 6, Spiders 7, Ants and non-poisonous bugs 9, Cows (does not include traffic accidents) 20, Dogs 28, Misc. Mammals (Horses, pigs, deer, etc.) 52 (does not include traffic accidents), Bees, wasps, & hornets 58

By comparison, lightning 25, terrorists attacks 12 (last 10 years averaged), seasonal flu 3000-50000 deaths, depending on how the statistics are compiled),heat related deaths (not fires) 688, deaths do to cold temperatures 1,162! Anything in that list one of your phobias? What are you afraid of?

After that pie chart above, I became too tired to finish this blog, and took a nap. Then I went over to talk with a neighbor in his driveway. There is quite a coincidence here. Earlier in this blog, I spoke of spiders and my phobia of them.
As I was talking with my neighbor, a Sun Spider ran across the driveway, several feet away. I went over to investigate it. He (the neighbor) asked: "What is that, a cockroach?" I said: "No, it is a Solpugid, a Sun Spider!" I don't know why they call them Sun Spiders. This one I saw at my neighbor's, was the 7th one I have encountered in my life. Six of those encounters were at night.

 Now to me, the Sun Spider is the purest manifestation of my arachnophobia.. They move fast, they have large, sharp, bitey things on their front ends,. The seem to possess good vision, and they are aggressive, Worst of all, they are just plain creepy looking.

The first one I ever saw, was found in a cardboard box, by a woman named Maggie. I did not know what it was, and I decided to give it a name. Not a name, like Fred or Broderick, but a proper, taxonomic name - one in Latin. Being the Latin scholar that I am, I called this creature "Uglius Maggiei", Maggiei - after it's discoverer, Maggie, and Uglius - because it was the ugliest thing that I had ever seen.

My neighbor, Clem, had never seen one before, so I decided to show him how aggressive they are. I put something in front of this arachnid, to provoke an attack. However, it was not looking for a fight and tried to run off instead. I attempted to block it's escape with my shoe, and it ran underneath the sole.

I lifted my foot off the driveway, and the creature was not under my shoe, as I had supposed. Clem said: "It ran up your leg!" Now, this part is amazing to me. I have looked into the barrel of a shotgun that was loaded and cocked, being held my a man I thought intended to shoot me. I have fallen off a cliff, knowing for certain than in a moment, I would be dead. I already mentioned that I swim with sharks. I have picked up Rattlesnakes with my bare hands - even the Mojave Green, the most dangerous Rattlesnake. I have had lightning strike so close to me, that I could smell it, I am guessing it was perhaps 20 feet away. A few years ago, I was laying in bed, with a breathing problem, and I suspected I would not see the next morning. I was briefly swarmed by some Africanized honey bees about  8 years ago. Fortunately I got out of that situation very quickly, and only received 8 stings to the face.

I am not trying to brag, I just want to put this spider thing in perspective. I am not a fearless man, I just am willing to face fear. I won't say that I was never frightened in any of the above events. What I want you to recognize is, that of all of the things I mentioned, spiders provoke the greatest sense of fear in me, and the Sun Spider, is the pinnacle of my fear of spiders. It is hard for me to imagine, anything much scarier, than having a Sun Spider run up my leg, under my pants, and that is what I believed happened to me last night.

How afraid, how panicked was I? Not at all, not in the least. I had no sense of fear or anxiety at all. Nothing, absolutely nothing. It was weird, and I cannot explain it I am not even trying to make a point about it. As it turned out, it had not run up the inside of my pant leg, it had run up the outside of my pant leg. Once I noticed this, I used my hand to brush it off.

However, since I was in the midst of writing about fear, to have the most terrifying thing imaginable happen to me, seemed too coincidental, to not mention it, perhaps there is something in that story for someone, but I have no clue.

Just for grins, I decided to toss a few phobias in here:

Anthophobia (I used to have this one)
Barophobia (one of my favorites)
Chaetophobia (I cannot imagine)
Chlorophobia (how horrible)
Cherophobia (too weird to grasp)

Honorable mention: mutatiophobia - the fear of political liberals. This one, however, is not a true phobia, because fear of liberals is not irrational. (Yes, I made this one up!)

Having no goal in this blog, and getting tired of writing it, it must be time to wrap it up. I am thinking I should look to the Bible to find a fitting ending. I am often fond of pointing out, that I only know of two spiritual gifts that I possess. First there is the gift of sarcasm, I think I have already employed that gift in this blog. I also have the gift of procrastination. It took be several days to finish this blog entry, so I guess I used that gift also. I think I might have a third gift, related to the 2nd one. I have a gift for laziness. So, in order to employ that gift as well. I think I will avoid getting into the Bible directly, and just recall a few things that I have noticed from it.

There are several places where to Bible says things like "have courage" and "fear not". That suggests to me, that fear is a choice. I have heard it said, that courage is not an absence of fear, but acting in spite of fears. I know that somewhere in the Bible is says that fear has to do with punishment. Some Christians are afraid that they might not be saved, or that they committed the unpardonable sin etc. Many times these people have fear as a part of there personality, they fear many things in general.

Should we, as believers, fear a loss of salvation? In my studies in the Bible, I see no reason to fear a loss of salvation. Salvation is a gift, and God does not ungive things, what He promises, He carries out. If He says "you will be saved", He will not later say "Oh, never mind, I changed my mind about that".

I think, personally, that those of us who say that a believer can lose salvation, are not only failing to understand the Bible's teaching on the subject, but they are inadvertently calling God a liar.. This is a matter of debate and I do not expect everyone to agree with me.

Now, that is not to say, that we should just take for granted, that our salvation is a slam dunk, done deal. If we are saved, then it is a done deal, and the deal was done before the foundation of the world. The real question is, do we have the right, should we have the confidence, to assume we are among the saved. Back to the topic of fear, the Bible says to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

Fear, in some cases in the Bible, is awe, respect, etc., not terror. However, the trembling I mentioned above, is not about mere respect. Likely, many times in the Bible, fear is a combination of these ideas.

Some of the time, I prefer to think of it, as a combination of healthy and appropriate respect, along with the acknowledgement of real danger. A high voltage power line, is not something I need to assume is out to get me, at the same time, it is not something to mess with, not something to be casual about.

Now, the worst phobia of all, I happen to have. This is not to say that it is the scariest phobia, I just mean that of all the phobias there are, this one has some horrible implications about my character, and so possible horrendous outcomes and costs.

I do not know if this fear has been named, but it has been noted. I am not sure that anyone has done a better job of spelling this one out than the atheist, Penn Jillette has in this video. Why do some many of we Christians, knowing what we do, hesitate to tell others about Jesus? Do we have Evangelophobia?

Well, I think with those thoughts, I will end this, and go back to thinking about things that occupy a larger percentage of my thought life, like "what will my next meal consist of?"

I have some smoked Salmon, so see you later! FEAR NOT!