Finding freedom from fear

A Christian Science perspective: What a change in focus and perception can do for handling fear.

A teacher once asked his students to look around their classroom, making mental note of all the blue items they saw. He then asked them to close their eyes and, without opening them, name all the red items they had seen. The students could name only a few. When the teacher asked them to open their eyes again, the students saw lots of red items – in many sizes and in a variety of shapes and shades. When asked why they had not remembered them before, one student said, “Because we were focused on blue!”

Often our perception of reality is determined by where our thoughts are focused. What we accept as being real plays a huge role in our lives: It can generate fear or it can bring peace of mind.

It’s interesting to note that the human tendency to be fearful is often called “the culture of fear.” So how can we cope with the all-too-often irrational tendency to allow the emotion of fear to overrule the important and very natural human desire to be caring and loving?

I’ve found that shifting my focus from a materialistic view to a spiritual view helps me gain an understanding that God’s presence is all-powerful, entirely good, and is reflected by His creation. This spiritual view brings an awareness that Spirit, God, is the inherently good identity reflected by each individual. Situations may appear frightening when viewed from a limited, matter-based standpoint, but a spiritual understanding dissolves fear and brings peaceful resolutions.

Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, explains in her major work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “We must look deep into realism instead of accepting only the outward sense of things” (p. 129). And she brings out in this same book the fundamental truth on which the realism of God’s supremacy can be proved in our lives: “We must learn that evil is the awful deception and unreality of existence. Evil is not supreme; good is not helpless” (p. 207).

In support of these statements, Science and Health argues elsewhere: “If thought is startled at the strong claim of Science for the supremacy of God, or Truth, and doubts the supremacy of good, ought we not, contrariwise, to be astounded at the vigorous claims of evil and doubt them, and no longer think it natural to love sin and unnatural to forsake it, – no longer imagine evil to be ever-present and good absent?” (p. 130).

Sometimes, when we’re faced with a frightening situation, human thought may initially accept evil as very powerful. But prayer that turns our thought to spiritual reality provides a lifeline anchoring us in a greater awareness of the native goodness of God’s creation.

When I was in my first year of college, I often sought the quiet I needed for study along the banks of a creek about two miles from my college dorm. One afternoon, as I sat and studied, I heard a car drive up and stop. The driver picked up my bike, shook it, and hurried to where I was sitting. His agitation, demeanor, and words truly frightened me. In that era, there were no cellphones, and I had no means of letting anyone know I was in danger, so I reached out to God in prayer.

This man not only came straight to me, but put his hands on me. Just then, I remembered these words of Jesus: “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21) and, “Be not afraid” (Matthew 28:10). To me, this meant that the qualities which define the kingdom of God are expressed fully in every individual. Those qualities include, peace, safety, brotherly love, etc., and these qualities are not something to fear. As I silently prayed, the man began to calm down, and I began to talk with him. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember becoming peaceful and seeing that, as a child of God – God’s own image – this man in reality included only good qualities. In a short time, he let go of me, went back to his car, and left.

Through this incident, I discovered that, in prayer, I can look for and see the divine reality of God’s always present goodness, and the good qualities that belong to man, which before had been hidden by my sense of fear. In addition to my fear being dissolved, I had witnessed the power of prayer to reveal the native goodness of people.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

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The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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