Private Enemy Number One!

Every individual is confronted by several private enemies.  One is boredom, another is a feeling of aloneness, yet another is a sense of guilt.  First and foremost on the list, however, is fear.  There are people who escape boredom, for they live interesting lives; there are some who seldom know what it is to feel alone; and there are some who seem never to carry the burden of a bad conscious.  But fear is known to us all, even to those who seem the bravest.

Fear is indeed, as the late Joseph Fort Newton , Baptist minister and author, called it, the soul’s private enemy number one.  “It is not too much to say that human life is a battle against fear in which there is no truce.”  Of course, this refers to fear that is abnormal, exaggerated, and irrational.  Fear in itself is a life preserver of sorts, a defense mechanism against danger.  It is natural, for example, that we fear disease and take the appropriate steps to guard ourselves against it, eating right, exercising, etc.   But each of us also harbors an irrational fear that is neither life preserving nor emotionally healthy. And so, while it is natural to flee from a dangerous situation; it is not natural to regard normal daily situations as life threateners.

“The one thing in the world I am most afraid of is fear,” wrote the French essayist Montaigne.  That saying was echoed by President Roosevelt during some dark days for our country:  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Man’s greatest enemies are not those life situations which bring the natural fear responses, but those irrational fears that can paralyze thought, poison the mind, warp our judgment, and undermine character.

Robert Frost said that there are two major fears which should follow us all through life.  One is the fear that our friends withdraw their companionship from us, making life unbearable in its loneliness.  The other is the fear of feeling unworthy of whatever Higher Power we consider the Source of life, love, truth and goodness.

These are the sensible fears that enrich life.  It is the foolish fears, on the other hand, that enslave and impoverish life. And yet there is cure for such irrational fears that do seem to grip each of us at some point in life!  To conquer that private enemy number one there is but one answer:  Faith — faith in a Higher Power, that eternal Spirit that at their very center all men share, encompassing peace and joy and an enthusiasm for life itself.

Take Charge of Your Private Enemy Number One!

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