3 Ways to Overcome the Dragons of Fear and Anxiety

John ThurmanBy John Thurman16 Minutes

Are you managing fear, or is it managing you? Today, you will learn practical ways to manage fear and its cousin anxiety more effectively. The idea for 3 Ways to Overcome the Dragons of Fear and Anxiety came to me while listening to one of my favorite podcasters and thought leaders, Jon Acuff (Fear is a Dragon. Here’s how to fight it!).

“Here be dragons” (Hic sunt dracones) warned ancient mariners and explorers of dangerous and unexplored territories. Another ancient phrase Roman map makers used was “Here be lions!” (Hic sunt leones) when denoting unknown regions.

The message was clear: if you want to try something new, move into new territory, expand your horizons, you’d better be careful!

Some things never change, do they?

Have you ever thought about leaving your current job for a new one? How about starting a new business? Once you announce your plan, well-meaning family and friends warn you of the dangers of moving away from the familiar. They remind you there are dragons and lions out there waiting to utterly destroy you, so you’d better stay in your home port and stay safe.

Well, dragons and lions are all about fear, aren’t they?

Let’s go a little deeper into 3 Ways to Overcome the Dragons of Fear and Anxiety.

Some thoughts on fear.

Fear serves a one-and-only purpose: to keep you alive. It is nothing more than a survival response in its most basic, primal form. Fear can be a good thing. It is a profound biological instinct that can prevent us from doing crazy things that could kill us. For example, if you are working in your backyard and see a snake slithering into the hedges next to your house — well, let’s put it this way, I doubt you are feeling peaceful and calm.

Fear can produce positive energy that moves us forward, helps us make a life change, and gives us a new perspective. But unfortunately, while fear can protect us from pain and harm, fear is not always rational and healthy.

God didn’t create us to live our lives in fear. He created us to live with power, love, and a sound mind. He wants us to live courageously in the time we have between our start date and our end date.

I love the way the Amplified Bible translates 2 Timothy 1:7. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].”[i]

Let’s look at what fear does to us and in us:

First, irrational fear is a very primal gut function. It is a primary low-level brain function. While fear can become disarming and lead to self-inflicted sabotage, we can overcome it. When we think through our fears, we usually discover that those concerns are rooted in irrational thoughts.

Second, fear can make us cowards. Humans tend to frame our fears in ways that soothe our egos. You and I will say something like, “I am prudent and cautious.” We might even say, “I am a little nervous.” Or we say, “It’s not that important.”

Here is a huge life tip:

If you want to start overcoming those irrational fears keeping you bound up, you are going to have to call them what they are.

Instead of saying, “I am not doing this because it makes me nervous,” try saying, “I am not going to do this because I am a coward, and I am scared spitless.” You will be amazed when you tell yourself the truth — aloud. That is the beginning of calling it what it is. Trust me — this is a starting point. When you face your reality, then you can begin to move forward.

Third, fear steals our integrity. It makes us hypocritical. Integrity means acting in a way wholly congruent with our values and beliefs. When we want to do something and believe it is the correct thing to do yet fail to do it because of fear, we violate our core values.

Fourth, fear leaves lament and regret in its wake. You and I have made and will continue to make missteps, mistakes, and faceplants. The question is: Will we repeat the same screw-ups again and again, or will we learn from them and make the necessary adjustments to change the outcome? If you and I allow fear to keep us from seizing an opportunity when it comes our way, that is nobody’s fault but our own. Instead, we can trust that when the Lord brings us an opportunity, He will give us what we need to move towards it. But we have to get out of the boat.

Fifth, when we give in to fear, we give up control; we step away from the steering wheel, which could be deadly. You see, the Lord has given us life and choices. While He will guide us, He will not do the work for us. When we are ruled by fear, we abdicate our responsibility. That is not a good thing. You are the only one responsible for your life. No one else. You and I will give an account at the end of this race, the dash between your start date and end date. I want to hear Jesus say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23 NLT).

Sixth, fear stifles personal growth. There seems to be a universal principle in nature: you are getting better — ripening, or you are ripe and ready to meet your full potential, or you are rotting.

Seventhfear produces complacency. Have you ever noticed when you fear something, you tend to avoid it like the plague? It’s true. What we fear, we avoid!

How to Overcome Your Fears and Lower Your Anxiety

“Many of our fears are tissue-paper-thin, and a single courageous step would carry us clear through them.”  — Brendan Francis

I adapted some steps from The Art of Manliness: Day 29 of 30 Days to a Better Man: Conquer the Fear.

Change Your Perspective On Fear

Fear is only harmful if you think it is. Fear is a natural process that, if left unchecked, will cause us to live timid, restricted lives. Truthfully, in life, there is zero growth without risk. So instead of pushing back fear as an all-consuming, nerve-racking experience, see it as an adventure, a journey that will take you out of your comfort zone and into a whole new life, bringing a sense of joy and adventure. If you have ever conquered a fear, you know it can be exhilarating. So why not try to scare yourself just a little today? You might like the outcome.

Adjust Your Perspective On Risk

The honest taproot for many of our fears about trying something new is the possibility of failure. What if I get rejected? What if I lose? Well, you could. But you will never know until you try. If you don’t take the risk, you are guaranteed to fail.

Maybe it’s time for you to update your risk criteria.

Act with Courage

Teddy Roosevelt put it this way: “Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”[ii]

Kill Fear with a Faith-Filled, Logical Thought Process

Fear is usually a function of a lack of confidence and low self-esteem. Many people are afraid because they think they will fail. But if they do it anyway — if they try to overcome their fear instead of letting their fear limit them — they find they can do it. Fear should not keep us from working.

“The Lᴏʀᴅ is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”  (Psalm 118:6 NKJV)

Think about this as we begin the freedom-from-fear journey together. Unfortunately, fear receives way too much airplay. Fear is the big bad boogeyman fed by negative contemplations and re-runs of painful past events.

Fear is primarily mismanagement of our mental capacities.

As we move into this potentially life-changing material, let me share five factors that, if used, will expedite your abilities to push back fear:

1. Faith. The belief that God is on your side and that He does not make any junk. Faith that He who started a good work in you will fulfill it. Trust that God is a mighty God of second chances. As a growing, sometimes struggling Christ-follower, I sometimes waver at this point. I know the truth in my head, but sometimes my heart is resistant to trust.

2. The support of real friends. Friends who will both love and challenge you. Friends who will hold you accountable. We live in a unique time in history. On the one hand, we have more connectivity to each other than ever, thanks to smartphones and social media. On the other, researchers state that loneliness is at epidemic proportions[iii]. Next time you are out for dinner, take a moment to observe how many people are more engaged with their devices than with each other.

I love technology. It is a big part of my private counseling and consulting business. But research tells us one of the most cost-effective ways to overcome fear is to connect directly with family and friends.

3. Time. You didn’t get this way overnight, and you will not be done with it within the next three weeks. The good news is, you have started the journey by picking up this resource.

4. Doing What You can. May I give you a word of advice? Pray about the issue. Then do your part to make the changes.

5. An optimistic worldview. I’m not talking about pie-in-the-sky, but a worldview that has a future-focused path. It means my past failures do not condemn me; I am not relegated to what I will do with my life based on some test, skill set, or family heritage. Instead, it means I have a future I can choose, and with God’s grace and work, I can have a different life.

As you look at pushing back fear, I want you to realize you are intentionally designed to leave your mark in the world. So here is my question for you: Will you, through God, refuse to let fear keep you from having a considerable impact on your life and the lives of others? Or will you live a life of regret? I don’t want to sound egotistical, but I hope there are a ton of people at my funeral, not to praise me, but to demonstrate the power and influence of a life that wanted to minister to people for the Kingdom of God.

Action Plan

What about you? Are you ready to use one or all of the factors to conquer the Dragons of Fear and Anxiety?

What will you accomplish between your start date and your end date?

Ancient Wisdom

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

[i] 2 Timothy 1:7, Amp Bible YouVersion
[ii] Teddy Roosevelt, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7969076-each-time-we-face-our-fear-we-gain-strength-courage. Accessed 2 Feb 2021
[iii] Clay Rutledge, (January 16, 2018). https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/01/digital-age-loneliness-public-health-political-problem/ accessed 10 Feb 2021