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Pastor of Griggs in Greenville, SC. I write about the gospel, the church, and the soul. 

Avoidance

Avoidance

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We can live lives of adventure or lives of avoidance but we can't live both.

Avoidance is a term used by mental health professionals to categorize a certain way we naturally cope with anxiety. It's pretty self-explanatory. We are afraid of something, we avoid it. Problem solved.

However, over time, things get more complicated for avoiders. Avoidance seems like a simple way to cope with our fears at first, but then it grows.

Take agoraphobia, for example. Agoraphobia literally means "fear of the marketplace." In overly simple terms, one with agoraphobia suffers panic when they feel they are too far away from home. So they start to avoid getting too far away from home. At first, they may not go out of the state. Then, they really don't like being out of their city. Eventually, it's to the office and back and that's it. Finally, some who suffer from agoraphobia cannot leave their home without suffering a panic attack.

Another good example can be found in social anxiety. Socially anxious people may avoid parties. Eventually, they may avoid going out with groups. Further down the line, there may be only a few people they can be around without panic.

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." -Psalm 56:3

Identifying what you avoid is step number one. Defying your fear with adventure is step number two. Otherwise, the Psalmist might have said, "When I'm afraid, I lay low."

By "adventure" I mean engaging a situation you're afraid of, which requires trusting God. You do not want to do this alone. Depending on your level of anxiety you should be tackling your fear alongside a trusted friend, counselor, or therapist.

You also don't want to dive in head first, but rather engage your fear very, very gradually. If you're terrified of speaking in public and sign up to give a Ted Talk, you may experience such a great panic that you give up right away. So start by giving a brief presentation to a couple of kids in Sunday School, or something even smaller if needed. Eventually, you can work your way up to something bigger. Like avoidance, adventure also grows.

The goal is not to become perfectly comfortable with your phobias. It's ok if that never happens. The goal is simply to make progress. The goal isn't to end up enjoying what you used to fear. Again, that may not be possible.The goal is to be able to withstand what you fear so that, if you encounter it, it doesn't deicide what you do and don't do with your life.

Make a plan today. How can you start adventuring into what you would normally avoid? 

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