Fear Response: Are You Defensive or Offensive

Do your worries cause you to react or do you overcome fear by being creatively proactive?

You can choose to respond to fearful situations in ways other than panic, being withdrawn, or some other solely, defensive protective mode. You have the option of choosing not to react to your fear, letting it manipulate you, but to think creatively, outside of the box, and discover responses that will actually enhance your life.

A recent study of the economy illustrates that most people react to fear instead of being creatively proactive.

The present economic situation in the US has affected all kinds of businesses, large and small. One of the categories of institutions largely affected is charitable organizations. Statistician George Barna of the Barna Group recently posted 3 articles with the results of his year long study of how the economy affected churches and other non-profit organizations, as well as how the churches responded to the fearful economic situation.

What stood out to me was Barna’s comments that most churches responded, in my terminology, by reacting to the economy, rather than seeing opportunities to respond creatively and actually enhance their situation and the lives of the people in their communities. Many churches adjusted budgets, cut spending, and cut staff. While it is the right thing to do to re-evaluate the budget and eliminate unnecessary spending, Barna notes, “For the most part, church leaders seem to have been in a hunker-down mode, attempting to get through the tough economy…”, a protective fear response. Similar to most people in fearful situations, few organizations set fear aside enough to think proactively and see where the current economic situation was actually providing new opportunities to interact with the community in helpful ways. Regarding this Barna says,

When pastors were asked to identify the changes they had made as a result of the economic downturn only about one out of every eight church leaders (13%) identified what might be described as activities that proactively position the church as a valuable resource to churchgoers and to those in the community.

This included hosting support groups and classes for those with have lost jobs, classes for those experiencing money problems, increasing the amount of prayer, provide financial counseling, and offering special talks on how to handle money problems. This next quote is not to speak negatively of the church organizations in any way, but to notice how often each of us respond the exact same way to crises situations in our lives.

Yet, the surprise is how few churches seem to have clearly and intentionally developed a proactive response to the downturn. Perhaps they have been so busy keeping the programs running that they have failed to see the significant opportunities as well as unique challenges represented in the new economic reality… Like so many others, church leaders have been focused on surviving; now is the time, though, to calibrate ministries and strategies to the opportunities brought by the new economy.

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Similarly, whatever your fear situation, you do not want to just survive but thrive by seeing and implementing new opportunities.

Make a new effort to step back emotionally from your present fearful situation. Sometimes it helps to think about it as if it were someone else’s problem and what you would advise them to do, viewing it from the outside. If you cannot do this on your own, you may need to get help from a counselor, pastor, or a trusted, wise friend. Open your mind to the option of thinking creatively; take the offensive and look for ways to be creatively proactive, taking life-enhancing measures that will put you on the road to conquering your fearful situation, or at least living life a level above it.

Quotes are from “The Economies Impact on Churches (Part 2 of 3): How Churches Have Adapted” by Barna Group, Barna.org

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