Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Value of Worry

"Why worry? If you worry, you will die; if you don't worry, you will die. So why worry?" Father Anthony de Mello.
This encouraging tidbit was shared by our deacon this past Sunday, the first week of Advent.
I know.
I have always been a worrier. Not the wring-my-hands, pace-the-floor, the-end-is-near type of worrier, but perhaps a bit more than normal.
I blame it on TV.
When the kids were little, I thought every disease, accident and mishap I saw happen to other children on the news would eventually make its way here. Thanks to PSA's and cardiac rehab center commercials, I was fairly certain my panic attack symptoms were really little heart attacks in disguise. And just thinking about airplane crashes, kidnappings and foreign diseases and hospitals is enough to keep me from sleeping when Clay is out of the country. (Thanks, Lifetime Movie Network!)

Grandma H., in her journals, often criticized herself for her worrying, and cited Matthew 6:

(26) Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (28-29) Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

While I would like to be as a chickadee or a lily, I'm just not.
I know people who say they never worry. Good for them. Perhaps they have a deep and abiding trust in the providence of God. Perhaps they are at some sort of peace that I have never been able to reach. Or perhaps they are simply delusional.
Worry makes us human. It also makes us gray and wrinkled and a little crazy, but it makes us human. Alive. Real. And as any mom (ie, Linda) can tell you, worry isn't voluntary -- it's a product of living and loving.
It's not so bad to be a worrier. Worry is just another word for concern; perhaps at times it is concern amplified to an unnecessary degree, but concern sounds nicer, more controlled than worry, doesn't it?
I choose to follow this equation:
Example: Someone worried about kids standing up and monkeying around in moving vehicles. Concern about childrens' safety led to the implementation of car seats. Car seats save lives. Therefore, good.
Worry/concern about our brothers and sisters across the planet has led to worrisome things like the Peace Corps, Heifer International, food banks, St. Vincent de Paul and adoption of precious girls from China. Good, good, good, good, good.

Instead of telling people not to worry, let's thank them. Thanks for banning the use of DDT and red dye #2. Thanks for making me wear my seat belt and keep a smoke detector in my home. Thanks mom and dad, for being irrationally strict, worrying about my future and keeping me on the almost straight and fairly narrow; while I don't know that watching "Love American Style" turned other late-1970's girls into wanton harlots and strumpets, thanks for worrying that it might.
As has been proven in this family, worry doesn't keep bad things from happening. But it does keep us aware, thinking, and turning pot handles toward the center of the stove.


  1. Momma Coons...I like your post about worry! I agree that often worry/concern can be the root of some wonderful and good changes! I think the problem comes when we let our worry prevent consume us and prevent us from living an abundant life. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


  2. You know what, Worrying must be a Pfaffenberger genetic trait because my mom and sister are BIG worriers. I must have gotten the Abner, C'est La Vie gene cause worrying has never been an issue for me.

    I do like your analogy though that worrying = good stuff. You are smart like that!!