middot equanimity daily living face fear, live life

face fear, live life

Written by  rabbi paul saal

art-procrastinationForget about it! Just get over it! How does one achieve equanimity? Certainly not by ignoring those issues in our lives that create anxiety, fear and imbalance. Such a philosophy is akin to pretending that the check engine light on our dashboard is not lit. Anxiety can be a valuable warning signal indicative of issues that need to be considered and perhaps confronted. If nothing else, awareness is often half the battle.

Jewish cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker wrote in his 1973 Pulitzer Prize wining book The Denial of Death,  “Modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awareness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing.” The point is that we often build sophisticated mechanisms for avoiding what is really threatening to us. If Dr. Becker had written it today he probably would have added texting, tweeting and the mass rubbernecking that we call reality television. In reality much of our procrastination is simply a sluggish denial of our fears.

Sir William Osler was the founder of John Hopkins School of Medicine. It took two volumes, containing 1466 pages to tell his life story and mammoth accomplishments. Apparently he almost failed out of school while a medical student at Montreal General Hospital in 1871. He was so worried about passing his exams that he could not focus on his studies. Then he read these 21 words by Thomas Carlyle; “Our Main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” Forty-two years later he summed it up in an aphorism while speaking at Yale University, “Live in day tight compartments.”

staring down life

This is precisely the wisdom Mashiach Yeshua offers, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”  Clearly thoughts about our failures of the past, and fear of the potential for future failure can stagnate us today. The sad irony is that by so doing we often guarantee failure without leaving the gate and multiply our stress, therefore validating our fear and self-loathing. So procrastination is the anti-equanimity! The easiest way achieve serenity and balance in the face of concerns is to look them directly in the face.

Here are three steps that can be helpful in doing so.

  1. Analyze the situation fearlessly and honestly and figure out what would be the worst that could occur at the result of this failure.
  2. After figuring the worst that could happen, reconcile yourself to accepting it, if necessary. Then pray giving the result over to providence. Remember God clothes the butterflies and the lilies he will not leave you naked and forgotten.
  3. From that time on, calmly devote your time and energy to improving upon the worst that could happen.

We are often afraid that we are losing the fight, and we suffer fear and anxiety. But hope brings back a faith that we will win. So face those fears, large and small, head on, and echo the words of the Rabbi Sh’aul of Tarshish, “I can do all things through Messiah who strengthens me.”

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