Between the Lines: Epiphany 3: January 22, 2012

Text: Mark 1:14-20

Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

anxiety

Image by FlickrJunkie via Flickr

When I do Bridgebuilder™ conflict resolution consulting with congregations and non-profits I spend several hours helping the leadership and congregants to understand emotional systems.  A primary focus is upon the difference between reacting and responding during anxious times.  For example, anxiety is ever-present.  It never goes away and it can always escalate. When we manage our anxiety, we are able to stay in our head.  Our ability to use our neo-cortex (the “thinking” part of the brain) to help us name whatever makes us anxious, mull things and possibilities over, ask questions, and then make mature choices rules.  That’s true even in an emergency requiring “immediate” action.  Just witness how professional first responders are trained to go thoughtfully toward a life-threatening situation when everyone around them is running away from it. 

In other words, when our anxiety is not managed in a “threatening” situation, our reptilian brain rules and it hijacks our thinking functions.  We merely react instead of responding by entering a fight or flight mode.

I’ve often thought about these two possibilities when reading this week’s passage.  Had the brothers considered leaving for a long time and now the moment to do so had arrived?  Or were they in a really bad place in terms of family, job, prospects, etc. and this was an unforeseen, immediate escape route from their anxieties?  Looking at it both ways helps me see the cost versus the promise having reacted anxiously out of my gut and emotions instead of responding thoughtfully to a situation, problem, or challenge during “life-threatening” circumstances.

– Caren Goldman

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