In his book Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear, Scott Bader-Saye unpacks Thomas Aquinas’ writings on “Fearing what we should not.” (pg. 52-56) There are three parts of fear that we should pay attention to:
1. The Magnitude of the Threat
2. The Immanence of the Threat
3. What it is we Love that is threatened. Should it be loved? Is the threat directed at things that we shouldn’t be quite so attached to anyway (ie., excess wealth, food, entertainment, power, esteem)?
Aquinas lays out different scenarios wherein “an evil object” has one or the other of these characteristics but not all together. Put another way, there are three possibilities wherein the threat is big but not likely to happen soon, will likely happen but is not big, or finally is big, will happen, but not to something I need to
excessively love anyway.
In my twelve step work I often list those things that I’m afraid of so that I can see them for what they are. On today’s list forinstance, would be a phone call I have to make wherein I’m fearful of answering questions about my work, fearful of what that person will think of my performance, or my situation. Running through Aquinas’ questions makes me realize that the size of this thing, and its likelihood of hurting me personally are actually quite small. I may fear an unkind tone of voice, but words only hurt when I let them.
I follow up the first list with a second list of things I’m grateful for. This helps me realize that, in reality, I am cared for by God and that my fears do not possess me, my Creator does. If I’ve done them right, these lists restore rationality and place me in mind to reach out to others.