As someone who has always had a fear of change, I often assumed that my reason for wanting things to stay the same was because the alternative must be worse.
If I switch schools, I won’t make any friends there.
If I move off campus, I’ll wind up in a dumpy, spider-infested house.
If I take this job, I won’t have as much time for writing.
If I end this relationship, I might regret it later.
All of these fears seemed completely legitimate at the time, but in looking back I can see that none of them were well-grounded. (Well, the off-campus house I moved into did have a centipede problem. There’s some significant trauma there.) But overall, my worst-case scenarios did not play out. In fact, some of these changes were the best decisions I made.
Can you relate? Do you find yourself wondering what could go wrong if you step out on a limb?
The death of family members. The foreclosure of a home. Taking a job that leaves no time for your family. Some of these give us a choice, whereas others don’t. While I think it’s normal to dread what could happen to you, dreading the possible results of your own choice can create a special kind of anxiety. If something goes wrong, you will consider yourself responsible. You will have no one to blame but yourself. That can be paralyzing. In this sense, I think a fear of change can get in the way when making important decisions.
Do you say no to new situations because you actually see red flags or simply because they are new?
Do you pass up opportunities because you are afraid of losing the stability you have now?
Do you rule out new ideas simply because they are not familiar?
I have to answer yes to all of these, which gives me a grim diagnosis: a chronic fear of change.
If this is you, you might be wondering this too: What do I do about this fear?
Well, fear is often a good impulse that prevents us from entering dangerous situations—so we can’t always disregard it. Nor should we let it rule us. God is pretty clear about that one (2 Tim. 1:7).
Is my current situation one that I could gladly keep for the next year?
What are my frustrations with my current situation?
Is the type of change I am considering one that will grow me or inhibit me?
This is a very incomplete list of questions, so please share some of the questions you ask yourself in considering a major change. What this list does, though, is force me to evaluate my current situation realistically. There are certain things I love about where I am now. But what do I lose by refusing to trade those in for new growth opportunities?
Contentment recognizes the joys and benefits of the present without rejecting the possibilities of the future. But complacency rejects the possibilities of the future out of a desire to maintain the status quo because it is familiar—not necessarily because the status quo is all that amazing.
Whether you find yourself overly cautious or overly spontaneous, let’s remember this: fear is a visceral reaction that can either preserve us from disaster or prevent us from succeeding. As such, we would do well to engage our minds in the analysis of potential changes, so we can recognize whether we fear a specific change for valid reasons or simply because it is unfamiliar. This can be challenging, which is why we should also involve other people in the consideration process. People we trust. People from different perspectives, from different age ranges and experiences.
Can you tell I’m preaching to myself here?!
What’s your perspective?
How do you cope with change? Do you usually embrace or resist change?
Are you more of an agent of change or are you usually the one responding to change you can’t control?
What are some difficult decisions you’ve had to make and how did your expectations compare with the outcomes?