How to harness the power of positive thinking to fight fearfulness and anxiety
by Norman Vincent Peale — Posted on Dec 11, 2008
There are two kinds of fear: normal and abnormal. Normal fear is necessary for our protection. But abnormal fear is something altogether different. It’s a crippling affliction that produces painful symptoms, such as depression, anxiety and, in some cases, physical illness.
The only fear we should have is the fear of God and doing wrong. That fear doesn’t mean being scared; rather, it’s an awe-filled respect of God and of what is right. We should walk unafraid. But that’s not easy; we have to consciously build up our faith.
1. Practice Affirmation
You may know some people who have become absolutely fearless. These are people of profound faith. "That is what I would like to be," you may say. "I’m tired of being afraid of possible catastrophes, of other people, of illness. I want to be free from fear."
The first thing you must realize is that most of the things we’re afraid of probably will never happen. One absolute and positive way to let go of your fears is to practice the form of prayer known as affirmation—not the prayer that asks for something, but the prayer that affirms. Instead of praying, "O Lord, please deliver me from fear. I’m so upset and anxious." Rather, affirm that God is already doing it, and you will let go of fear.
Believe that God loves and watches over you that He is taking care of you this very moment and, therefore, you need not be afraid.
One of the elders of Marble Collegiate Church, where Rev. Norman Vincent Peale served as pastor for over 50 years, related an experience he had in the hospital. At one point, he was gripped by fear. "But," he said, "I knew that many people were praying for me. So I began to affirm that these prayers were taking effect and that the Lord was hearing my own prayers. As I did this, all of a sudden every vestige of fear seemed to leave me. I was at peace and rest, and felt absolutely confident."
2. Stand Up to Fear
Fear can't really be avoided; it has to be met head on. If you're not willing to go to the heart of what you’re afraid of, fear will haunt you constantly. President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "I have often been afraid, but I wouldn't give in to it. I made myself act as though I was not afraid, and gradually my fear disappeared."
One example of where fear might present itself is when you’re trying something new. When a child enters a new school, or when a man or woman starts a new job, they are bound to be at least a little fearful. But, if they act with confidence and faith, fear will vanish and be replaced with a glowing sense of accomplishment.
3. Let Fear Motivate You
Kenneth McFarland, a wonderful speaker, once told this story: A man who worked until midnight every night usually walked home. One beautiful moonlit night, he thought he would walk through the cemetery, rather than around it, because the way was considerably shorter. He did this for several nights, until the moon began to wane. By then, however, he knew the path through the cemetery, and even though it was absolutely dark, he felt he could walk through safely.
But, one night, as he walked along in the darkness, his feet suddenly went out from under him, and he found himself grabbing dirt and sliding into a newly dug grave. He tried his best to get out, but he was too short and the grave was too deep. All he could do was pull a lot of loose dirt down on himself. Being a practical man, he reasoned that the grave diggers would come back the next morning. So he pulled his coat around him, huddled into a corner of the grave and tried to sleep.
An hour later, another man came along through the cemetery. All of a sudden he too slid into the grave—at the other end—and started making futile efforts to climb out. Finally, as he stood contemplating his situation, the first man spoke up and said, "Boy, you'll never get out that way." But the second man did—like a shot!
You see, this second man (and for that matter, the first one, too) had the potential for getting out of that hole; but the potential needed motivation. This story illustrates that the potential for lifting ourselves up out of defeat is within you, within me, within everyone. It just needs a strong catalyst.
Respect God, do what is right, and you will walk unafraid.