Reflecting on healthy and unhealthy fears


By Deacon Derick Cranston

I remember walking alongside a river with my grandfather on an early summer day. There was a soft gentle breeze; the day was warm but not hot. Cotton clouds wandered across the setting of a baby blue sky. I rejoiced in the moment and was thrilled that a neighbor’s Border Collie had decided to join us. We enjoyed each other’s company in a way that only a young boy and a dog could. I delighted in teasing him by running ahead so he would chase after me.

When we came upon a small ridge, I spotted a flat cement surface, which I knew was a playground. Anticipating the fun we would have, I bolted as fast as I could to get there and to get the collie to race after me. As I rushed onto the pavement, my grandfather’s voice boomed out at me in a string of curses. I froze in my tracks in bewilderment, and wondered what I could have possibly done wrong to make my grandfather so furiously angry with me.

It was then that I sensed something rush past me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a blur of colors and felt the tail end of a car brush against my stomach. It was not a playground that I had spotted. It was a busy highway. I had come within a mere fraction of being crushed by a car, but my grandfather’s angry outburst saved my life.
There are two types of fear in this world; an unhealthy fear that can lead to anger, paranoia and destruction, and a healthy fear that protects and guides us. It is a fear of drowning that makes us cautious around dangerous waters. It is a fear of heights that prevents us from becoming careless and intensely aware of every move we make.


It is the same with fear of the Lord. A reverent fear of the Lord can help us avoid misplaced pleasures, which can cause us to become distracted. It can open our eyes to the oncoming vehicle of destruction rushing towards us, which will crush us if we are not shaken out of our complacency.

Just as a fear of water and heights should not prevent us from enjoying a swim in the lake or the stunning view from a high mountain, fear of the Lord should not prevent us from loving God or finding joy in our life.

God’s love is everything. It gives our life meaning and purpose and helps us withstand the tragedies and suffering in life. A healthy fear is necessary, for it prevents us from being tempted to stray from God’s all-encompassing love for us. Fear prevents a nightmare from occurring and leaves a nostalgic memory of a boy and his grandfather, strolling along the river with a playful dog, on a beautiful summer day.

(Deacon Cranston is pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He can be reached at

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