Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Gift of Fear

The Gift of Fear: survival signals that protect us from violence

I read this book because I am planning on preaching on fear in a few months. However, this book ended up being not exactly what I had in mind. It will be somewhat useful in terms of understanding what fear is (a biological instinct to keep us safe from danger) but most of the book won't be coming up in the sermon. DeBecker is a fear expert - everyone from stalked superstars to the Federal Government comes to him for his expert advice. 

Fear is a natural intuition that is supposed to protect us. But humans are the only animals who normally refuse to listen to our intuition. Women, who have a keener intuitive instinct, are especially bad about this. DeBecker says ... "while women wouldn’t walk around blindfolded, of course, many do not use the full resources of their vision; they are reluctant to look squarely at strangers who concern them. Believing she is being followed, a woman might just take a tentative look, hoping to see if someone is visible in her peripheral vision. It is better to turn completely, take in everything, and look squarely at someone who concerns you. This not only gives you information, but it communicates to him that you are not a tentative, frightened victim-in-waiting. You are an animal of nature, fully endowed with hearing, sight, intellect, and dangerous defenses. You are not easy prey, so don’t act like you are. Page 69, italics mine. 

Why are we so quick to ignore our intuition and our fears? DeBecker gives many examples of how intuition is important in at least two important ways: 1) It is always in response to something and 2) it always has your best interest at heart. He says "...rather than making a fast effort to explain it away or deny the possible hazard, we are wise (and more true to nature) if we make an effort to identify the hazard, if it exists.  If there is no hazard, we have lost nothing and have added a new distinction to our intuition." Page 70. Why do we think it is rude to step into a small metal box with a man who makes us nervous at one glance when it could likely save our life? I am speaking of elevators, ladies! I am sure any woman who reads this will be able to identify with that feeling. 

DeBecker goes on to explain how to "hear" our intuition. I suppose we need to re-educate ourselves to listen to our intuition because we have tried to expunge it from our culture. DeBecker says that the messengers of intuition are:
Nagging feelings
Persistent thoughts
Gut feelings

What does this have to do with my faith? My intent on preaching about fear is to show how to overcome it with God's help. After reading DeBecker's book, I realize that most of our spiritual fears are really worry. DeBecker says that "worry is the fear we manufacture - it is not authentic. Page286. How can we know if it is true fear we are feeling? We need to use three criteria to determine if it is "real" fear. The first is, when you feel fear, listen. Is it really fear you feel? The second is, when you don’t feel fear, don’t manufacture it. Don't dwell on it, imagine it from every perspective and think of what could be. Thirdly, if you find yourself creating worry, explore and discover why. I think these will be helpful in speaking of the fear we think we have in our faith lives when actually they are worries. I also wonder how DeBecker's understanding of fear compares to the biblical mandate of fearing God. 

One last note that DeBecker has in the appendix is on gun safety. He says that what we really need is bullet control. Why can’t gun manufacturers create a gun that only you can shoot? The next best thing is a gun lock - especially one you can easily see if it is on (if it should be pointed at you) and simple for you to remove. Just a thought in these "hot topic" times. 

I could go on and on about this book - highly recommend it but it does have some awful images of the criminal mind, violent abuse, rape and other violent attacks. This is not for the fainthearted.

Happy reading!


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