We are all very sensitive to contagions these days. Covid 19 has changed our world significantly. This brings uncertainty that requires increased skill in anxiety management. However, there are two other contagions that are important to recognize and understand right now: fear and faith.
Fear is contagious! As leaders, we must understand the multiple layers of fear management that we are dealing with. The first layer of this contagion is our own fear. We can directly increase or decrease our fear or anxiety through the internal responses that we choose. As an example, while hiking in Canmore, I see a warning sign of cougars in the area and am confronted with two choices. I can allow fear to take over, or I can do an informed reality check and go on to enjoy a lovely hike.
We also need to recognize that our fear can infect others. Fear is transmitted at a gut level and is the second layer of fear management. This makes personal choices to reduce personal anxiety important. In order to help another, we must be able to steady ourselves. In this way, our own fear management helps others manage their fear and also gives us practical tools to help them. The third layer to pay attention to is the partners that we work with. This could be a co-leader, a spouse, or another significant other. As leaders we can directly influence them in dealing with their anxiety. Finally, when dealing with anxiety in a public setting, we must pay attention to the anxiety level in the crowd. Managing anxiety is not a simple task and this is much more complex for leaders.
The most important contagion is faith. Several years ago, my family had opportunity to ride a large catamaran on the Pacific Ocean. The captain of the boat told us at the beginning of the voyage that we had three choices for where we could ride the waves that we would encounter. We could stay at the front and experience the full rises and falls of the waves. We could ride at the back of the boat where the impact of the waves would still be felt but at a reduced level. Those who wanted a very calm ride could go to the belly of the boat where they would find calm. Three areas. Same boat. Three very different experiences.
This is a picture of what it means to walk with Jesus. If we take the time to go to the belly of the boat, right next to the heart of Jesus where we can hear His voice and feel His heart, we experience a much smoother ride. The waves are the same, but the experience is very different. From this place of authentic peace, we influence the faith of many others so that they, too, can experience the waves in faith rather than fear. In this way, faith becomes a powerful contagion that counteracts the contagion of pervasive and sometimes debilitating fear.