From some of the responses to the blog (here or in conversation), I think I need to start saying that I do not know if “worrying” and “being concerned” are the same or not. I have done a bit of research and opinions are divided. I do not want to engage in a discussion about semantics (as interesting as it can be sometimes). So I do not know if “being concerned” is less “worrisome” than “being worried.” Really, in this case it matters little how we call it. If for someone, being concerned is less than being worried, perhaps it means that such a person has already advanced in a healthier direction.
I would prefer to occupy this little corner of cyber-space reflecting that worry is a choice we make. The lines between caring or thinking about a problem and worry are very blur. Worry produces anxiety and we do not need a PhD in psychology to know that the effects of worry can be very damaging to our health, both mental and even physical.
We worry about money (regardless of how much we have); about health; about the future; about the past; about our children; about our careers; about the perception others have of us; about school; about our job; about the mistakes of the past…
We often worry about things we simply should not. We fear things that end up not happening. Worry is about a future projection. We give way to anxiety about future scenarios that have not happened yet. Perhaps we think that worrying is like a penance – we are already suffering, and perhaps God will spare us the painful fate because we are already “paying” for it.
We often worry because we think, as we said in the first weekly post, that it is the only way we can show that we care. I do not need someone to tell me if I care or not. I know if I care. Perhaps we worry too much about how others perceive us. We worry about whether or not others perceive that we care. Example? A mom worrying about what her mom thinks about how much she cares about the children.
If you are like me, you are already thinking that, quite inevitably, there are times when there is a reason to worry. We or someone we love receives a life-threatening diagnosis, or we or someone we know has an accident, or something really bad happens. Or our fears are confirmed and the thing we worried about actually takes place, with all the pain and the embarrassment we anticipated. But, as difficult as it is to say it, worrying is still not helpful.
I run the risk of being simplistic, but I offer three “solutions” (or attitudes, or behaviors) that may be more useful than worry: sharing, praying, taking it one day at a time (living the present).
Sharing: When we worry, we tend to bottle up. We keep to ourselves our worries because worry gives way to anxiety, and anxiety to fear. Disclosing fears is a very delicate thing, because it touches very intimate areas of our being.
Praying: Prayer is really one way of opening up. When prayer is done right, it really is a dialogue with God—as we said in the first post, unlike worry, which is a dialogue with ourselves about things over which we have no control, prayer is a dialogue with God about things He already controls.
By the way, praying and sharing are two of the dimensions of FaithGroups, the new small-group ministry that we are launching at Sacred Heart this Lent. Part of what we envision happening in these groups is that people will find a safe, prayerful environment where worries can be shared. Sharing is healthy in itself, but it may also give way to solutions from the rest of the people in the group. Often, others seem to have a better perspective than ourselves about what is worrying us.
Taking it one day at a time: How many times Jesus teaches in the gospels about concerning ourselves less with the past, which is gone, or with the future, that is not ours yet, and more about the present, which is all we really have. So the two posts this week finish the same way: Jesus tells us this Sunday, “Do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself.” Are we now going to doubt his word?