Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.
― Corrie Ten Boom
Blessed is the person who is too busy to worry in the daytime and too sleepy to worry at night.
― Leo Aikman
Pop is a worrywart. Dictionary.com defines worrywart as “a person who tends to worry habitually and often needlessly.”
Yea, that’s me.
I’ve spent my whole life worrying about pretty much everything.
Growing up, I worried about:
- making good grades
- finding a spouse
- whether or not I was going to have children
- whether or not I was going to get through graduate school and become a psychologist
- whether or not I was going to make a good enough living to put a roof over my family’s head
- whether or not I was going to have grandchildren before going to the Great Beyond
- whether or not my health would go south on me
- whether or not I’m going to hit a golf ball safely on the green
- whether or not traffic is going to be bad
- whether or not my clients are going to get better
- whether or not people are going to like me.
So, it is with some degree of fear and trembling that I’m giving you advice on how not to worry – given that I worry all the time.
First, make a distinction between anxiety and worry. We’re supposed to be anxious about things in life that pose a genuine threat to our physical, emotional, relational, financial, and spiritual health. If someone is walking toward you with a knife and a menacing look, for goodness’ sake, be anxious. Worry is the unhealthy mental component of anxiety where you take what you’re anxious about and ruminate and obsess about what might happen.
- Second, while appropriate anxiety is healthy and functional, worry is always unhealthy and dysfunctional. All worry does is make you sit down on the floor, curl up in a fetal position, and hope the threatening situation will go away. The Dalai Lama XIV was right when he said, “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”
Third, worry is really bad for your physical and emotional health. When I was growing up, I used to hear people say, “Joe worried himself into an early grave.” That happens. Oscar Auliq-Ice noted, “Perpetual worry will get you to one place ahead of time – the cemetery.” Marty Rubin said, “Death kills us once; worry kills us every day.” Both are painfully true.
- Fourth, most of the things you worry about never happen. We psychologist-types call that “borrowing problems from the future.” Mark Twain said, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.” Sadly, most of us are prone to think “worst-case scenario” about what the future might hold and imagine all kinds of horrible things coming our way. The vast majority of the time they don’t happen.
- Fifth, worry is a form of pride in two key ways. First, it reflects that we think we have control over the things. We don’t. As June Hunt said, “Worry is most often a prideful way of thinking that you have more control over life and its circumstances than you actually do.” Second, when you worry, you’re presuming to know more about the future than you do. Terence McKenna said, “Don’t worry. You don’t know enough to worry. That’s God’s truth. Who do you think you are that you should worry, for crying out loud? It’s a total waste of time. It presupposes such a knowledge of the situation that it is in fact a form of hubris.”
- Sixth, worry negatively reflects on how we see God. Worry presumes that God doesn’t know what’s going on and isn’t looking out for us. Nothing could be further from the truth. As George Foster rightly said, “Worry is common, it’s not good for us, it accomplishes little, and it dishonors the God who cares for us. Worry may be our most enduring form of unbelief.”
- Seventh, worry often leads to inaction. Whereas threatening situations trigger a much-needed fight or flight response in our bodies, worry triggers a freeze reaction. As Michael Corthell put it, “The worst worry habit is sitting in your worry doing nothing…sweep the floor.” When you find yourself worrying, get up and do something, even if it is relatively small.
- Eighth, don’t worry alone. We have a tendency when we worry to pull away from others because it’s embarrassing to admit something is getting to us. John Ortberg noted, “Never worry alone. When anxiety grabs my mind, it is self-perpetuating. Worrisome thoughts reproduce faster than rabbits, so one of the most powerful ways to stop the spiral of worry is simply to disclose my worry to a friend.”
Munchkins, worry seems like it’s constructive, like it’s doing you some good, but it’s not. As Wayne Bennett wisely observed, “Worry is like a rocking-chair. It gives you something to do but gets you nowhere.”
If you can do something about a situation, there’s no need to worry. If you can’t, there’s no need to worry.
Let yourself be anxious about the threatening and dangerous things that happen in life, but please, refuse to worry about them.