Column: Only worry about the things you can change
Our columnist the Rev Dr John Smith talks this week about the ‘worrying’ we all do...
I have spent my life trying to help people who worry; worry that significantly affects the quality of their lives, making life more difficult for them, more difficult than it should be.
Worry, of course, can be protective. An elderly person anxious that they might fall on the ice will take more care or even stay at home.
A young person worried about their safety might seek company on their way home at night.
Worry can take us to the doctor’s surgery because of a mystery lump or unexplained symptom. It is protective and normal.
Worrying is part of the way in which we work through things. It aids our emotional adjustment.
What will happen now I have cancer? What will I do if I have another heart attack? Will I work again? How will I care for my family?
All very natural thoughts, but if suppressed they might do us emotional harm.
Sometimes people who worry will need professional help and there is absolutely nothing wrong in that. Worry can be as normal as breathing.
We take a new job, buy a new house... have we done the right thing? What if it’s a mistake?
In these circumstances, worry enables us to check things out, make sure we have the facts, stop us flying in the wind and saying to ourselves “it’ll be all right” when, perhaps, if we really think about it, it won’t be.
More difficult still are the worries that prompt us to change: I drink too much, I don’t take enough exercise, I eat rubbish, I weigh too much.
Worries like these are like a warning light in the car... ignore it at your peril.
And what of the worries about which we have no control? Some are close to home: will our children’s marriages work out, for example. The working out, in the end, must be left to them.
But some are far beyond that... climate change or Brexit, for starters. Yes we are partly responsible for both: the fuels we burn and our never-ending consumerism all contribute to climate change. And we did vote for Brexit in the referendum.
Whatever we say or do will make little difference unless we ALL ‘do’ and ALL ‘say’.
So that leaves us feeling powerless. What will become of us? Why didn’t they warn us? What if I do want to do something? What if I want to change my mind?
And, if I can’t, that will leave me worrying even more and that will do me no good at all.
And do I worry?
Yes, of course I do!