Sunday, July 6, 2008

Why Worry

The Burden of Worry

I have often quoted the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance worker, Corrie ten Boom, in saying “Worry doesn’t relieve tomorrow of its sorrow, but empties today of its strength.” (In reality, there are sources that attribute this statement to other people, but because of my admiration of this woman, I choose to attach her name to it). With that in mind, I wrote the following back on 26 September 2004:

People generally recognize the negative impact of worry – with its increase of stress levels and anxiety, but many still engage in it. At times it seems almost like a familiar comfort for the worrier.

In reality, of course, worry is simply paying in advance for something we don’t even want. If we don’t want it, why pay for it, and why pre-pay? But there is another fault with worry that causes it to border on self-indulgence.

Worry is indeed a very selfish thing. When a person engages in worry, where is that person’s focus? Is focus directed toward the betterment of other people? No! In fact, the worrier’s attention is all self-directed. The worry centers on the feelings of the worrier. True, it may at times involve a person that the worrier cares about and the worrier’s desire that nothing bad happens to that person, but it still applies primarily to the worrier’s feelings.

Let us contrast this to a higher plane of life. Does a righteous God feel worry? Did Jesus suffer the effects of worry? No! Not even in His mortality, while looking through His own glass relatively darkly did he display worry. He showed love, genuine caring, real concern, but never worry. In fact, he chides Martha for her worrying about Mary’s lack of help in the kitchen: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things (Luke 10:41 – note that “careful” at the time of the King James translation carried the meaning that “worry” later assumed).

As the Apostle Paul explains, “the greatest of these is charity” or love (I Corinthians, 13:13). Mormon demonstrates that love is a power akin to faith. These three remain: faith, hope and charity, but the greatest of these is the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7). Love implies pro-active action; concern is focused outward toward some other entity. The locus of control remains internal, but the attention directs itself away from the self.

Worry, however, remains self-directed, focused inwardly. As such, it acts as a parasite, feeding upon and cankering the soul. The word “worry” originally had the meaning ‘to strangle.’ Our indulgence in worry may be momentarily satisfying, but like many self-indulgent acts, worry is, in reality, self-destructive. We simply strangle ourselves.

Cigarettes provide temporary physical pleasure but cause hideous physical harm. Worry likewise provides temporary spiritual/emotional pleasure, but creates long-lasting damage to the spirit. That makes it an act of self-loathing. Given that we cannot love another any more than we love ourselves, it is supremely selfish – counter to the love of God.

Divesting ourselves of worry makes us happier and more God-like.

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