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Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Last week I participated in a couple meetings where responses to anxiety were discussed including the “fight, flight or freeze” response. If you are not familiar with it we have come to know that in times of anxiety individuals or groups tend to respond/react in one of three ways:

  1. Fight - Pursuing the source or initiator of the anxiety.
  2. Flight - Retreating from the anxiety 
  3. Stay neutral or do nothing or might even get stuck by the anxious situation. 

It seems to me that anxiety abounds in our country these days as we try to find our way through a pandemic infection of a virus that has spread quickly throughout the world causing an alarming number of deaths, serious illness, fear, questions, stay at home orders and this new term “social distancing.” All of that has moved us to being home more, enjoying time together, and for some, opportunities for home projects and exercise. But for many this has been difficult with new ways of life including unemployment, working at home while homeschooling, too much time together at home, too much time alone - and continued anxiety and fear about what’s ahead. What will be different? What of this will become normal? What more might change? 

“Fight, flight, freeze” has found its way into these times - hostility toward stay at home orders and masks, and government response or the lack thereof. Congregations are trying to decide when it is best to open for public worship as they have been scrambling to stay in touch with their people, navigate online worship and serve their community while they are also concerned about funding the mission to which they are called. Anxiety abounds! For many calming the anxiety has been part of the response, trusting the process, doing what we can do within ourselves and with those around us, trusting our God who has brought us through change and transitions before as God’s grace has helped us to “freeze” from fighting and take “flight” in His comfort and promises for all times. 

To add to all of this, last week another “disease“ raised its head - the disease of hatred, divisiveness, racism and violence. I have seen this disease and those descriptors throughout my life growing up and living in the south for over 65 years. I continue to respond with sadness and anger inside of me. It sickens me and disturbs me to my core. I’ve learned that anger is an emotion and all emotions are ok and normal. But what we do with our anger and sadness is not always ok. My head and heart understands that it might feel right to respond to hatred with hatred and violence with violence. But then what have we gained and who has lost and now what more division have we caused and the hatred and racism continues to grow. 

I believe  that we are ALL loved by God our Creator - Ephesians 2 says “we are God’s handiwork.” My mom was a seamstress and I think of the detail and works of art that she created in her sewing. That’s what God thinks of ALL of us. God calls us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” I can’t change policy or political leaders or single handed stop the hate but I can live and trust the grace of God that saves me and I can live love for ALL God’s people and I can support others who are trying to live as God’s handiwork showing and sharing that same grace that fills us and empowers. No anxiety or disease of this world is larger than God’s love for us ALL. That’s what I can do as God works in and through me.