Eric Butterworth Speaks: Essays on Abundant Living #89
Delivered by Eric Butterworth on September 26, 1975
“No pleasure is comparable to standing on the vantage ground of truth,” wrote Francis Bacon. You who are reading this lesson are doing so, I suspect, because in some way you have sensed a need to see yourself and your problems and your supposed burdens in the light of the new insight of truth.
A distinguished psychiatrist has said that worry is the great modern plague. The word itself is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word, wyrgan, meaning to strangle. If I were to put my hands around your neck and press with all my might, I would only be doing to you physically and quickly what you do to yourself slowly by your continual worrying. Flying once in a small plane, I heard the pilot say that since visibility was bad, he was going to take us up above the haze level made by dust and smoke to where the atmosphere would be clear and beautiful. He commented to me, “Life is something like that, isn’t it? Down there people are groping in the haze, up here we have clarity, and we can see our way.”
Trying to understand life’s circumstances or other people, or our particular problems through the blue haze of worry is comparable to trying to drive through a fog. Barely able to see directly in front of you, you cannot relate to where you are going or where you have been—you lose your orientation. It is unfortunate, too, that worry has a debilitating effect on life and living. The Mayo institute made a study of one-hundred-and-seventy-six American executives. Their average age was forty-four years. It was found that one-half of them had high blood pressure or heart disease or ulcers, and that in every case tension, anxiety and worry were prominent, significant factors.
Now, here is the important thing: Trouble does not cause worry—you worry by personal choice and personal habit. All too many regard man as a creature at the mercy of chance or fate, and when trouble comes, all he can do is to accept it. “When the Lord sends me tribulations, it is my duty to tribulate.” But, experiences of life have of themselves no identity. They become to us what we see them as being, depending on the level at which we take hold of them.
Shaw made this point of Jesus: “They crucified him on a stick, but somehow he managed to get hold of the right end of it.” That is a succinct comment, is it not? What any problem becomes depends on how we take hold of it, making of it either a crisis or an opportunity. If we decide to worry, it demonstrates that we have taken hold of the challenge at a very low level, endowing it with all sorts of threats that come out of us and not out of the problem.
No one need ever worry. One man queried, “But if I don’t worry, who will take care of my problems for me? I don’t see how anyone can get along without worrying these days.” He made these observations from his bed in a mental hospital, a victim of his own anxiety, so apparently neither could he get along with worrying. To argue that you cannot help worrying is nonsense. Nobody makes you worry; you do so only because you have determined that in that way you will cope with your problems, be able to meet your difficulties.
There is an imaginary installation of a “worry button” on my desk. Finding myself faced with some sort of disruption or difficulty, I make a decision to push or not to push the button, and it is not always the latter, but it is my own decision. Those who claim good reason to worry are really stating that they cannot help themselves, that they have no control over their hand which compulsively reaches over the desk, so to speak, and pushes the worry button. One might just as well say he is in real trouble, so he has good reason to make himself sick, to so upset his mind that it cannot think clearly.
Worry is self-conditioned. It is like addiction to alcohol or coffee or cigarettes—so dependent are we upon them that it is difficult to go along without indulging. Worry for many is a habitual, automatic pattern in times of conflict. Do not let yourself be trapped into excusing the tendency to fear and worry on the grounds of heredity or education or environment or circumstances. Don’t rationalize your worrying; don’t accept the explanation that you have been that way always; it runs in your family or something. It also runs in your family for the babies to commence life as helpless infants, but they all grow and mature, don’t they? So, if you find yourself worrying, I could say, “Grow up!”
This, however, is somewhat simplistic. Worry usually indicates a lack of focus or perspective in our vision. It means we are concentrating on what we have not instead of what we have, dwelling on our weaknesses instead of on our strengths, seeing the hole instead of the doughnut. Thoreau wrote of a delicate wildflower that had grown two feet high on a road between the horses’ hoof prints and the wagon tracks; an inch more to the right or to the left would have sealed its fate, as would an inch higher. Yet, it flourished, never knowing the danger it could have incurred. It did not borrow trouble nor invite evil fate by apprehending it. It takes courage to overcome worry, but what in life can be accomplished without courage and self-discipline? Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself sternly if you are going to go on indulging in whims of fear, or if you are going to acknowledge that you are God’s child?
Remember the beatitude: “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” A French translation is, “Blessed are the debonair’.1. .by this is meant people who are happy because they expect everything to come out all right. Be confident, self-assured, be debonair! Paul Dubois, a Swiss psychotherapist, advised his patients to hold in their minds and to repeat over and over again such words as invulnerable, unconquerable, fearless, victorious, wonderful, vibrant, inexhaustible, limitless, and to do as he does—upon rising in the morning, go to the window, throw open the sash, and repeat these words over and over, filling your mind with that which leaves no room for worry. So, fill your mind with truth, turn your mind to God in the face of difficulty. Get hold of life’s experiences at the right level. Don’t think about problems, think about God.
We are told, “They that wait upon the Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” To wait for Jehovah does not mean to sit down and do nothing. It means to plug into divine current and thus receive the power to proceed. All the help of God that is necessary to solve any given problem, to meet any need whatsoever, is wherever the problem or need may be. The supply of God is always right where we are, and it is always what we need.
Therefore, the unfailing antidote to worry is the concept, the consciousness, the practice of prayer. Paul says, “In nothing be anxious, in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” He is telling us not to worry about the problem, rather pray about it. In most cases of extreme tension, we are either going to worry or to pray. The choice is ours, but we do have a choice—worry or prayer, which will it be?
The aftermath of worry is physical depletion and mental and physical tension. We are going to either worry or pray. The aftermath of prayer on the other hand is inspiration and strength. We are considering prayer in a higher context, and it is important to know that in prayer we remember the truth—we contact the situation from the highest possible level. Prayer means letting go of animosities and anxieties and other limitations and taking the situation on faith with the vision of greater possibilities. Then, as we let go and release the problem, we center on the realization that there is no power but God; there is only one presence, one infinite process. Then, things begin to flow, and we flow with them. We feel secure and relaxed, and worry goes out the window. How wonderful it is to know that we need never again worry about anything!
© 1975, by Eric Butterworth