My nature is to worry about things. My husband is the opposite: He always says, “Everything is going to be fine. It’s all going to work out in the end. God’s in control.” While I appreciate that outlook on life, and perhaps even envy it, I feel it can breed complacency and lead someone to be less proactive in changing a negative situation. He tells me “worrying won’t solve the problem,” but I feel that in many cases it can be a powerful motivator toward action.
Is worrying always bad?
Is there a way to reach a feeling of calm about the future without falling complacent?
Here is this week’s question: My nature is to worry about things. My husband is the opposite. He always says everything is going to be fine, it’s all going to work out in the end, God is in control. While I appreciate that outlook on life and perhaps even envy it, I feel it can breathe complacency and lead someone to be less proactive in changing a negative situation. He tells me worrying won’t solve the problem, but I feel that in many cases it can be a powerful motivator towards action. Is worrying always bad? Is there a way to reach a feeling of calm about the future without falling complacent?
So we have a whole lot over here and I’m going to focus on the two final questions. Is worrying always bad? I wouldn’t say worrying is bad and that’s because we all worry. We all worry. So I don’t want to use the word bad. I would say that worrying is unhealthy. It’s unhealthy and it’s unhealthy because it stems from the fear of something, we are in fear of something, and whenever we enter into a state of fear, it has a lot to do with the fact that we are personalizing this event or anticipated possible event affecting me in some way instead of objectively looking at the situation.
So worry also is a very unhealthy way to motivate ourselves. And when we use unhealthy ways to motivate ourselves, while it will motivate, it does work, but it actually leaves us prone to be much more inefficient than we should be and it leaves us prone to stumbling because we are not using a healthy motivator.
Now, let me use an example to explain what I just said because it may have sounded very philosophical but I want to ground it so it’s very clear. I am actually going to speak this weekend at an event which I was invited to be a guest speaker at. And I was getting nervous about this event and whether my speech is the right speech and whether it’s going to be received well. Is that problematic? Well, on the one hand, we can say it’s normal. Most probably most people who go up to speak to a crowd which is not their familiar audience is going to be nervous. However, even though it is very normal, it is still, if we look at it truly, it is unhealthy. And the reason why I say it’s unhealthy, ideally even though it’s very very common and hard to overcome, but I describe it as unhealthy because the reason why I get nervous is when I begin to personalize the speech. What I mean by that is when I’m thinking about what are people going to be thinking about me? What are people going to be thinking about how good of a speaker I am? How are people going to like the way I presented? And all of these different types of feelings, which are all an outcome of the way I’m bringing my identity into what I am doing and defining my value based on the presentation.
Now, here is the reality. The reality is that I am very prepared and I am going to bring my very best to the stage. And whether people do or do not love the speech that I give, I have done the best I can do and I cannot offer any more than that.
And if I was not personalizing the speaking, I’d be very comfortable and clear about that. Here I am, I’m going to give my whole being to you now and this is the best I can do. Of course, I’m not verbalizing that to the audience, but that is the way I do not ‑‑ I can bring myself to the event without personalizing it. And, actually, when I do that, which I actually process in my head, I’m far less nervous because I’m taking everything God has given to me and I will do my best with it.
So we worry when we are personalizing the event and we’re worried about how that is going to affect me, how that is ‑‑ what is that going to say about me, etc. When we look at the event objectively and just simply say what ‑‑ how can I make the best of this situation, the worry goes away. And because the worry goes away, we are actually able to bring our full healthy consciousness to dealing with the problem in the best way possible.
One of the examples I love giving about this, which I give in many examples that have to do with unhealthy emotions, are commandos in an Army. Commandos in an Army, if they are going to get into an unhealthy emotional state, if they are going to start worrying in the middle of a mission when things did go wrong, they have every reason to worry, they’re trained not to worry because the moment they start worrying it distracts them from proper results.
So we need to hopefully learn how to bring our full motivation to resolving an issue or making, preventing an issue or bringing a great outcome to something in the future without the worry but with a motivation of truly caring that that should turn out to be the best that it can be.
The second question is, is there a way to reach a feeling of calm about the future without falling complacent? Well, if I get calm ‑‑ and this is a great question because normally we have this conflict. The easiest way to be calm about something we normally worry about is to stop caring. And that’s really the question. Is there a way to feel calm without becoming complacent? Can you feel calm and yet feel full concern for a situation?
So either we worry, which is unhealthy, or we stop caring, which is very unhealthy. Can we care without worrying? And the answer is absolutely yes, although it is a life long journey to learn how to do this and I encourage everyone to go on this journey. We must go on this journey. It actually makes us very powerful people as we grow on this journey of learning slowly but surely as we evolve to worry less while being fully concerned about the situation. And we do this by integrating our belief in God into our tangible life.
Integrated belief. That means when we integrate our belief in our life. We call that in English faith. Or as Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes, faith is not certainty; it is the courage to live with uncertainty.
So when we can actually learn to take steps in an environment of uncertainty knowing that I am doing the best I can do and this is actually what God instructs me to do, if that’s such a situation, but even if not, as long as I am taking all of the wisdom that God has given me and I’m making the best choice I can make in this situation, which is the best I can do with this situation which God has given me, then I know that I am doing my best, there’s no need to worry because, as your husband says, worry does not help, it actually distracts greatly. And you will make the best situation when you’re not worrying.
How can you measure your faith? Very easily. By how much you worry. When we worry a lot, we know our faith is low. When we begin to worry less, that means that our faith is growing unless, of course, we are turning into a complacent person. But assuming that we’re not really concerned about doing our best, we’re not worrying, that means our faith is growing, which is fantastic. Is this easy? No. Should we strive for this? Absolutely. This must be on our radar and part of our goals. And part of all of this is accepting what is in our lives as coming from God for a purpose and doing everything possible to change it to the future.
So these are the two keys. We have to accept what is but not with resignation but also with a mission to change it for the future. So when I accept that this is the situation now, I’m not worried, I’m accepting that this is clearly what God wants from me right now and then I say, how can I do everything possible to change it for the future?
And the best ‑‑ the best, simplest way to sum this up is whenever you have a situation, ask yourself why is God doing this for me as opposed to asking why is God doing this to me. When you ask why is God doing this for you, you’re acknowledging that God is putting this in your life for a purpose and there’s great value here.
Now, how do you know if when you begin not worrying as much it’s faith or maybe it is complacency? How can we determine when it’s just complacency or it’s really faith? Or, when our spouse tells us to stop worrying so much just have some faith, well maybe they’re just being complacent. How do we know for ourselves ‑‑ because our spouse needs to know for themselves ‑‑ how do we know for ourselves whether it’s faith or complacency?
The answer is very simple, if we are not worried, we are calm but we are still motivated to do something, that’s a sign that we are having faith. But if we are not worrying and we’re not motivated to do something, there’s a very strong likelihood most likely it’s complacency because that’s exactly what complacency is.
So it depends on where our lack of worry comes from, complacency or faith and trust. And another quick point in regards to relationships is that our concerns are for different things, so sometimes some concerns that my wife has may be very different than the concerns that I have; and the concerns that I have may be very different than the concerns that my wife has. And I have a tendency, of course, to be very faithful about my wife’s concerns because I’m not concerned about them and that’s really complacency. And it may work vice versa, I don’t know. But, you know, every relationship is very different.
The point is that we all need to assess for ourselves whether we’re being complacent because we’re really not concerned about it or whether we are not worrying because we have faith and that’s indicated by how motivated we are to still change the way things are for the future.