Fruitful and Unfruitful Fears

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Fear is a natural response to the possibility of losing something good. When it prompts us to act in defense of the many fragile blessings entrusted to our care, fear is a healthy part of the divine order.

As with any passion, the trouble comes when fear overpowers reason, rather than following its governance. In some cases, the remedy may simply be self-discipline, training our emotions to conform to reality instead of plunging us into imaginary distortions thereof.

Since the nature of reality is complex, however, it is also necessary to cultivate right reasoning about the objects of fear. The world is full of many goods, some higher than others, and not all of which can be enjoyed simultaneously. In practice, we must always be prepared to sacrifice lesser goods for greater, and the less urgent for what is more necessary.

Charity is the virtue that directs us to love God above all things and to love others in relation to him. Because the order of charity is intricate, so is the order of healthy versus unhealthy fear.

How are we to discern one from the other? In the book Interfearence: The One Thing That is Limiting You . . . And How to Conquer It, Devin Schadt offers a concise, clear, and practical guide to thinking about and addressing the damage fear may be inflicting in our lives.

When he is not posting generous comments on this blog, Schadt serves as the executive director of the Fathers of St. Joseph, “an apostolate that labors for the restoration, redemption, and revitalization of fatherhood.”

In this handy booklet, he interweaves the wisdom of Scripture, the theology of St. Thomas, and his own experiences as father, man of faith, and sagacious friend to numerous struggling souls.

Through a series of meditations and anecdotes, these pages guide us through a gentle but thorough examination of conscience, prompting us to consider where fear may be driving us into habits of miserliness, vanity, sloth, cowardice, despair, or resentment.

The self-knowledge this book fosters is a major step toward acquiring the virtues God wants to cultivate within us. I hope it is no “spoiler” to remark that the ultimate solution Schadt recommends against distorted fears is to kindle our trust in the Lord through “responding to His promptings and [taking] the calculated, prudential risks that He is asking of [us].”

Christ advises us to replace our fear of “them that kill the body” with fear of “him that can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Mt. 10:28). Essential as it is, however, fear of eternal death bears fruit only when it flowers into a filial fear that strives to please God by becoming the reservoir of grace he created us to be.

This book is a valuable guide for ensuring that our hearts remain fixed where our true treasure lies.

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