We are hard-wired for fear, or so says a Swedish physician/college professor. According to Han Rosling, our brains listen for and respond to bad news as a defense mechanism. It is about survival.
As a result, many people feel the world is rapidly “going to hell in a handbasket!” That phrase originates from the early 1700s and is a reference to execution by use of the guillotine. That it is still in use today illustrates the point – we cling to negative connotations and fearful ideas. We are hard-wired to fear.
If the news only reported good things – declining crime rates and fewer outbreaks of deadly diseases, etc. – we wouldn’t pay much attention. However, when the news reports crime, disease, storms and disasters, we hear it, not just at the surface level, but down deep in our souls. Then when the news does report factual things such as a decline in crime rates or a decline in deadly diseases, we are inclined not to believe it.
The world is “going to hell in a handbasket.” That is a common attitude among us.
But what if it isn’t true? What if things are getting better? What if the actual facts of the matter show crime rates are declining, disease outbreaks are fewer and farther between, and the likelihood of being caught in a natural disaster is diminishing? Would you believe it?
This is the point of Rosling’s book, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. Bill Gates called it “One of the most important books I have ever read.”
His thesis is simple. If you will base your attitude about the condition of the world on facts rather than fears, you’ll have a brighter outlook on life and less stress. However, this is counterintuitive for most of us. We are hard-wired for fear.
This is especially true, I think, among evangelicals. We have been told about the great tribulation and other end-time disasters and our very faith is instructing us that things must get worse. And maybe things must get worse, but that doesn’t mean I have to live in fear.
The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear.” I for one refuse to wring my hands and cower in fear over what the world is coming to. I choose, instead, to raise my hands over who is coming to the world.