Until recently, I did not think of myself as a worrier. I wasn’t verbalizing my worry thoughts, so I did not hear my worry’s, and I didn’t know how much of the time they occupied my mind. What about you? Do you recognize your worry thoughts? They often take the form of phrases that start with “what-if I” or “what if that” and end with some negative statement. Here are some examples: “what if I lose my____what if I can’t____what if that storm____what if that doctor____.” Worriers fill in the blanks with disastrous or painful possibilities.
When we allow such thoughts to keep circulating in our heads, they rob us of mental creativity and deplete our physical energy, as well. Knowing how detrimental that can be, it seems like we would be eager to learn how we can recognize and give up worry, but that’s not always so. Why not? Maybe worry brings us some hidden benefits— benefits that we interpret as good.
What good thing can worry do?
Tell me how it works for you.
Does it bring you peace of mind?
Prompt you to be sweet and kind?
Does it help you get things done?
Would it make my life more fun?
Bring me comfort when I’m sad?
Cheer me up and make me glad?
What good thing does worry do?
Tell me, friend, how it serves you.
Does it help you reach your goal?
Feed your body, mind, and soul?
Would it fill my heart with grace?
Put a smile upon my face?
Could it, perhaps, make me strong,
Give me courage with its song?
What good thing does worry do?
Tell me please, what’s your view?
It seems that you have learned it well;
What’s your secret; won’t you tell?
Surely it has benefits that I could get;
Would you teach me how to fret?
I’d like to hear the facts, my friend;
I’ll do anything you recommend.
I wrote the above poem in jest; I don’t believe that worry has true benefits. However, in the following ways it may appear to be beneficial: (To such believes I’ve, sometimes, unwisely succumbed.)
- By keeping our minds occupied with negative possibilities, worry protects us from the anxiety of stepping into unknown territory.
- By preventing us from taking action, worry protects us from the necessity of learning disciplines and making difficult or uncomfortable lifestyle changes.
- By helping us to avoid close relationships, worry protects us from possible feelings of loss, hurt and rejection.
- By facilitating procrastination—so that our desired goals are always in the future—worry protects us from possible criticism, along with feelings of failure and inadequacy.
If we value these benefits, then there’s no reason for us to quit worrying. But if we, by faith, see that stepping into unknown territory, learning disciplines, making difficult and uncomfortable lifestyle changes, pursing close relationships, and working to accomplish our desired goals will bring us joy, then we most certainly will learn how to overcome our worry habit. That’s the decision I have made.
I believe it will move me in the direction of accomplishing my challenge to celebrate New Year’s Day 2016 with emotional, physical, and spiritual reserve—a heart filled with love, a body filled with energy, and a spirit filled with joy. (Read more about that challenge here.)
I hope that you join me both in my New Year’s Day 2016 Challenge and in my decision to give up the unrecognized benefits of worry.