Recently, Barbara and I were traveling and stayed overnight at a hotel. The next morning I got up and went down to the lobby to get us breakfast. It was around 9 AM on a weekend morning and there were plenty of people in the lobby getting breakfast as well. After gathering some food, I headed back to the room. There was a young girl just ahead of me headed down the same hallway. I would guess she was between ten and twelve years old. She was apparently nervous about me walking behind her and kept looking over her shoulder every few steps to see where I was. One time, she was so intent on assessing if I was staying far enough behind her that she almost ran into the wall.
I could relate to her and her nervousness. I have found myself in similar situations both as a youth and an adult where I was in close proximity with a stranger in a place that I was not familiar with wondering if this person had ill intent. My heart went out to the little girl and even though I normally walk fast, I intentionally kept a distance so she didn’t worry too much. The distance that I followed her was just down one hallway and she continued around the corner as I came to my room. It probably was a maximum of 30 seconds total but I suspect, based on her physical signs of anxiety, that it seemed like an eternity. My suspicion is based on of all of the other times in my life when I have found myself in that same exact place. Unsure. Anxious. Afraid. Contemplating someone else’s intentions. When I got to the room, I sat down and made a couple of notes to share because I think all of us have been in that same place. A place where anxiety or fear has created moments of panic based on unrealistic probabilities.
Bad Rarely Happens
As a matter of fact, I would say that the unknown is rarely bad. We spend a lot of time worrying about things we are unsure of, unaware of or that are just new to us. Out of all of the times that I have been around a person that I did not know or that made me nervous or fearful, I have yet to be attacked or harmed. But with all of the experience I have with not being harmed, it has not stopped me from being afraid of the possibility. We spend a lot of time worrying about things that almost never happen. The unknown cripples us because we think of everything that could go wrong instead of enjoying what could go right. I could relate to that girl. Fear has overtaken my mind more than once worrying about something that rarely happens. Statistics bear out the fact that millions of people safely walk down hotel hallways everyday. Add to that truth that there is plenty of light and the room is close by and there are lots of other people around. Fear, however, is not founded in all of those safe statistics and facts. It focuses only on the “could-ofs” that can harm us. Our mind leaves us crippled; consumed with what could go wrong but usually never does.
Fear Distracts Us
As I mentioned earlier, the girl almost ran into the wall because she was looking over her shoulder so often. She couldn’t focus on where she was going because she was too busy looking behind her. How many times has fear distracted you from getting where you were going? I can think of times when I was so focused on something behind me that I missed something more important in front of me. If, while driving your car, you spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror, you are bound to have an accident. Fear will often cause us to focus on things that distract us from where we need to go and what we need to be doing. It tends to consume our thoughts and our focus. In hindsight we think how unnecessary it was to worry. That is, until the next opportunity for fear comes along and it takes our attention right away. Don’t allow fear to distract you from what is most important in your life.
It Was Nothing
When you are afraid, it seems to be this big thing that lasts forever. When it’s over, you feel silly because it was nothing. I have no doubt that this tall, strange adult in the hallway took over this young girl’s thoughts while she walked. The entire encounter couldn’t have lasted longer than 30 seconds. When she got in her room, she may have thought to herself how silly it was to have been afraid. The reason I say that is because most of the time when I look back at the things I was most afraid of, they were either insignificant or never came to pass. Fear tends to magnify our circumstances and impending possibilities. However, the overwhelming majority of things we worry about never even happen. In spite of that, it doesn’t stop us from worrying or being afraid. If we could ever view our fear and worry with this perspective, it may help us overcome some of the anxiety we experience.
What would your life look like if you took a bigger view of things? If you realized that bad rarely happens? Where is fear and worry distracting you right now? What are you missing out on because you are afraid of the unknown? The things you are worried about most likely will never happen. Enjoy your day. Enjoy your life. Don’t spend your life looking over shoulder. Enjoy the journey that is before you.