Worry is a Misuse of Care

August 26th, 2013

things you worry aboutThe sign outside the church worried me, “Don’t let worry kill you. Let the church help!”

It made me think about the purpose of worry. When we worry about someone, is it for us or for the other person? Parents are notorious worry warts. Good friends can worry up a storm. Basically, anyone who cares will worry. But is it helpful? Or could we extend the church sign to include others, “Don’t let worry kill you. Let your family and friends help!”

We could do with less worry, and more genuine care. Worry is a misuse of care, a projection of fear.

Worry often feels like judgment.

It goes something like this. “I’m not sure what will happen to you if you leave that job and go out on your own. What if you can’t make a living?” Or else it might sound like this, “I’m so worried about you taking that trip. What if you get lost? What if you get robbed? What if, what if, what if…………?

Concern is a natural part of love. But we aren’t helping anyone by feeding self doubt. We should be honest about worry and in the process we could affirm the other person’s courage and potential.

A healthy expression of worry might go something like this;

“I admire your courage to leave that job or take that trip. If it was me, I don’t know if I could do it. I would worry about running out of money. But if anyone can do it, its you. Go for it!”

Worry is so often a projection. I’m worried about YOU because I have doubts about MYSELF. It seems so clear when its put like that, but in the heat of the moment worry convinces us that its pure concern.

Worry speculates, and always on the downside.

Dan Zadra, author of inspirational books such as “Where Will You Be Five Years From Today?”said, ‘Worry is a misuse of imagination.”

Worry is usually based on speculation about what might happen in the future, maybe based on what happened in the past. It doesn’t make it true. In truth, another person’s choice might be exactly right for them, even if it wouldn’t be right for you. Love people enough to trust them. Trust may be the ultimate expression of love. Trust people to know what’s right for them, and keep your worries to yourself.

Concern is a gift when its expressed well, a curse when expressed as self doubting worry. As a gift, we can say to each other, “Honestly, I’m concerned. I SO want you to be well, to succeed, to thrive and I totally believe in you. When you put your mind to something, you WILL make it work. I have some anxiety about your decision, but this is MY issue. Its because I love and care for you SO much. You have my full support, and I own my worry as my own.”

How do you know when concern is turning into worry? I heard the expression, “I chew on concern. I choke on worry.”

When you feel concern, chew on  it to get a feel for the real message. Are you projecting anxiety because of your own fears? If it feels like you can’t breathe through your anxiety, there is a good chance the oxygen has stopped flowing to your trust. Your concern may become irrational or over dramatized in this state.

BEFORE you express anything to another person that may squash their self belief, clear your own airways to make sure you don’t inflict YOUR suffocating anxiety on them.

Get Creative With Worry

If you’ve chewed well on worry and feel convinced that you are NOT projecting your own fears and there is genuine danger for your loved one, get creative. Come up with creative ways to move forward that are affirming. It might go something like this,

“I believe in you and I trust you. If anyone can make this work, its YOU. But I’ve got this nagging feeling about the trip you’re taking. Let me buy you the super secure money belt just as a precaution. It might just be me, and I might be wrong, but it can’t hurt, right?”

Get creative about solutions. Offer productive ways forward.

And above all, let your main expression of concern be trust, confidence and optimism. Anything less is short selling the relationship.

Subscribe to Grapevine Back to Grapevine page

  1. julie says:

    I respectfully disagree.  It is human nature to worry.   I believe a healthy dose of worry shows you care.

  2. Heather says:

    Someone dear is so frequently expressing their worry that I and a few others no longer share so much with them. This is partly  we don’t want them to suffer in their anxiety, and also because their over-concern is so tiring to carry, like diving weights when you’re trying to stay afloat. I hope I can remember this  piece when I need to. Trust, confidence and optimism. Thanks.  

  3. ian says:

    Julie, is it human nature to worry, or human nature to care? Care is love, worry is fear. its all a balance, and maybe the key word in your comment is healthy, Be well Julie

  4. [...] is a challenge for all of us at times. I wrote about the way we confuse concern with worry here. Often worry is just a projection of our own fears and [...]

  5. Anjana says:

    Perfect timing!  It’s like you read my mind – Thank you.  I was worried (or rather caring) about my daughter..NOW you have answered most of my questionsThanks heapsAnjana

  6. Patty says:

    I needed to read this! I have hurt my relationships with my children due to my anxiety -> worry. It is like putting weights on a person who is struggling to stay afloat. And, as I read this, I clearly saw how my self-doubts and past failures are fueling my worries for my children.I like the balance in this a article as it does not say to suppress the concerns/worry  but rather sit silently with it and speak only when I am sure it is a legit concern and not a projection. 

  7. ian says:

    thanks for the comments. Worry is so widespread. I don’t want anyone to feel guilty for worrying. Give yourselves credit for having BIG hearts and huge love. Rechannel the worry into something more trusting and supportive. Love to all.

  8. Eve says:

    I feel loved and trusted when someone encourages me rather worries about me. To me that says that they are not sure and they don’t think that I’d be able to whatever that is. Even if it is projection of their own fears (which in “my” story it is their projection). However, I prefer feeling trusted and encouraged much more, it simply feels better, there’s a better vibration to it.

  9. Stafford says:

    Timely words as always, Ian.  You bring to mind what Eckhart Tollle says about worry – “it pretends to be necessary.”  Worry is an illusion that produces negative results because 1) it serves no useful purpose; and 2) it cannot bring about any change.  Sounds tough, but it’s true.

  10. CharInCincy says:

    If one’s life is consumed by worry, one will be too exhausted for all of the good!~

  11. Niles says:

    Ian, great article.  Thanks for reminding me that worry is a waste.  Keep on stretching us beyond our comfort zones!