The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow: Why Fear Disguised as Deliberation Is Deadly

Fear, anxiety and the insecurity . . . it seems that in varying degrees society today is driven by these things.  We fear what is new, the unknown makes us anxious and feeling out of control sparks insecurity.  Within our families, work, society or the church operating with these driving forces in our lives, it is no wonder that so many of us and our beloved institutions have reached a point of stagnation and a kind of death.

So what do we do in the face of fear, anxiety and the unknown?

Well I know what I do. I stall.

Sure, I am pretty adventurous in life - when I weigh my options and have a high probability of success - but like most folks if you challenge my authority, push me to risk my livelihood or ask me to risk my influence, I retreat to safe predictable spaces.

As I look back on places where I have seen this the most and how I react as an individual or as part of a group of people, I have noticed that the greatest tactic to avoid possible risk is to delay. Someone proposes a "crazy" idea that causes me to ask tough questions of myself or someone has an idea that I am not particularly excited about, my first reaction is not generally, "Sure, go for it" but "Hmmm, interesting, I'll get back to you on that."  Now certainly at times this is can be done with faithful deliberation or discernment, but more often than not, it is a way for the status quo, usually institutions, to pass the buck of action, to avoid meaningful reflection and to protect what is "ours."

Now before you start tweeting, "I knew it, that @breyeschow is an anarchist!" please trust that I am not calling for an end of responsible action and/or relationships of accountability. I do know that there are times when we are called to be thoughtful and to take our time.  So often we best discover what God has in store for us, by putting our collective hearts and heads together in order to decide how to respond. And, I am not naive to the realities of community action, today's day of NOW NOW NOW, there will always be time when we need to proceed with a deliberation that, for some, will always feel burdensome.

But . . . I have seen over and over again in the church and other communities we use deliberation as a way to protect our own power, privilege and influence.  We protecting these ambiguous possessions that are not even ours to begin with.  We pretend to hold a posture of thoughtfulness when we are really just cowering in fear.  Yes, we should be good stewards of our resources - money, time, legacy - but when we begin to believe that our very worth is wrapped up in these things we have crossed a line into something very dangerous.  When we begin to believe our worth comes from material things, we adopt a "me first" attitude and we hoard in a way that will destroy the spiritual and physical life around us.

So what I would argue for us to take a bigger look at life and how we are to live together.  In those places of influence, power and authority, let us think more broadly with a eye towards being part of new life.  Let us first look at the possibilities for growth that may be there when someone comes to us with a new idea or vision rather than first respond with all of the reasons what something will not work.

In my spiritual tradition, it is as "simple" as taking seriously God's constant refrain, "Do not be afraid."  We are told over and over again, that through all, God has been and will present.  We may not always understand how or why God is active, but if we place our trust in the idea that God's reality is somehow unfolding despite our best intentions to hold God back, we will experience new life and grace beyond our wildest imagination.

For when we do this, when we proceed with bold faithful confidence, we will be joyfully surprised at what will unfold.  While we are naturally driven by self-preservation and loss-avoidance, when we open ourselves up to the possibilities, even the scariest ones, we open ourselves also the possibility of gain.  We gain in those very things that we feared we would lose: influence, authority and power . . . all when used well, can change the world for the better.

And a to be part of group of people changing the world for the better despite the momentum against such things . . . now that's scary.

[Taken with permission from the blog of the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow . Originally posted 1/31/2011. Follow Bruce on Twitter @breyeschow]