Faith & Trust

Why do More People Suffer from Fear in this Generation?


Dear Rabbi,
Why are there so many people suffering from fear?


This is a big question. First of all it really hurts that there are so many people living in fear that it seems wasn’t the case in earlier times. There are many reasons for this and I once saw an article from one professor who claimed that the security situation here in Israel is the cause for this fear. It’s clear to me that this is not at all true that the poor security situation puts anxiety into people. When the Jews lived in the diaspora their lives were far more difficult. They were dependent on the kindness and benevolence of their non-Jewish hosts and lived in fear of pogroms and it would seem that Jews would have felt more fear at that time than in the present.

What makes more sense to say is that there are 2 main things that contribute to fear in our generation. The 1st is the education we and our children get to have faith and trust in G-d which is far less than in previous generations. To the extent a person has faith and trust in G-d that is how calm he will be and he will feel less fear. When a person truly feels that everything G-d does is for the best he is not worried for he is in good hands.  

The other factor that contributes to fear in our generation is viewing violence on TV and the internet. A child watching a movie will see violence and murder, aggression, profanities, cruelty, treachery and evil thousands of times by the time he becomes bar mitzvah. G-d created us with a soul that can put up with tension up to a certain point. It may be a very high point but when a person exposes himself to violence and tension too much he may get to the point where it’s like the straw that broke the camel’s back. A person shouldn’t tell himself “I’ll watch a movie and it won’t affect me”.
People do get tense even though they know it may be fictitious and it’s only a show. Telling a child it’s not real doesn’t matter. Murder on the screen is the same as murder in the street.

An adult sits at home and watches a woman washing dishes. The music becomes intense as only Hollywood knows how to do. We see the door open and someone in black clothing with a knife sneaks up on her. She doesn’t see it but we do. The music gets even tenser and we tighten up in knots from tension as he comes up and almost stabs her. When we’d watch this our heart would start racing? Why? We’re at home in the calm of our own home. It’s all a show. And even if they stab her it’s fake, the cameramen are there and if he’d really try to kill her they would stop him!

So why does our heart race from this? The answer is that people get tense from these things. That’s what the movie is supposed to do. But even someone who saw so many movies that he is jaded and the tense scenes don’t move him at all, he’s insensitive and his heart doesn’t race at all from this still doesn’t matter. When a person is exposed to evil, even if it doesn’t affect his heart rate it still reinforces in him that the world is an evil place which is totally not true.

Our lives are much nicer, sweeter and more pleasant than what the movies portray. The movies portray the whole world as an evil place where everything is bad, everything is dangerous, people hurt each other and you can’t trust anyone because everyone deals treacherously with their friends and aren’t faithful to them. So a person takes these ideas his subconscious and conscious internalized and he starts to fear. One time when he experiences difficulty in life he suddenly collapses and he doesn’t relate it to the tension and distrust he carries inside him.

Therefore someone who wants good mental health for himself and his family and live a calmer life with less fear should do these 2 things; First of all he should learn many books and listen to many lectures about faith and trust in G-d and then he will strengthen himself and his family in the idea that everything G-d does is for the best.

The next thing a person must to is the ‘avoiding the bad’. He should refrain from watching programs with destructive content. That way he will avoid burdening his soul with tension and the idea that the world is an evil place.


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