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Financial Crisis: A Time For Caution, Not Fear

Mal Fletcher
Posted 11 October 2008
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This is undoubtedly a time for caution and reassessment; but it is not a time for crippling fear.

The cover of this week's European edition of TIME screams 'London's Sinking', with a warning that the global economic crisis threatens to 'overwhelm' Europe's financial capital.

Meanwhile, trillions (yes, trillions) of dollars have been wiped off the value of stocks and shares worldwide in the past week or so.

One TV financial advisor says that we've seen two big emotions in all of this market turmoil, greed and fear. 'We've seen the greed over the past five years,' he adds, 'now we're seeing the fear - and the fear is much worse.'

Caution is always healthy - it encourages wariness even in the good times and reappraisal during the tough times. Being cautious allows us to keep a watchful eye not only on the external environment of our lives, but on the inner world of our own priorities and attitudes. These attitudes in turn shape so much of the external reality we see and touch.

Fear, on the other hand, cripples us; it blinds us to opportunities that might exist to improve our situation. Fear paralyses us, so that even if there is light at the end of the tunnel, we're unable to press forward to reach it.

At a time when some of us are facing major financial loss, we have every right to be concerned and probably even perplexed as to how the situation arose in the first place.

Yet we shouldn't let fear overtake our ability to look for a better tomorrow, or to search for the solution to problems.

In a social sense, there are some positive sides to our collective fears. A certain amount of fear makes us more alert in the face of trouble. New strains of flu virus, for example, push us to find new cures.

Yet any benefits are usually short-lived and some have a dangerous flip side. Fear of sickness can become a contributor to more sickness, for example. And fear of financial calamity can prevent us from being generous toward others; discovering the pure joy that comes with investing in something beyond our own self interest.

Most of us will never see the worst-case scenarios that some commentators are speaking of at the moment. Yet many still live against a backdrop of persistent, unspoken fear.

Living in fear means living with constant tension; it wears us down. Sustained fear causes our adrenal glands to secrete more than the normal dose of certain chemicals, which exhausts our nervous and immune systems. We get sick faster - both physically and mentally.

Persistent fear reduces our self-esteem and leaves us with a paralysing sense of impotence and fatalism. It kills our confidence. We stop trying new things; we stick to the predictable instead. We stop experimenting and growing.

It seems to me that faith, of one kind or another, is the only true antidote for fear.

Some people will get through the present difficulties because they have great faith in themselves. Others will survive because, fundamentally, they have faith in their fellow man; they believe the markets will eventually right themselves.

Still others will find courage in a religious faith. At times like these, many people turn to religion for strength and for hope.

Recently I visited a rapidly growing young church in the city of Kiev. In what was, just over a decade ago, a staunchly communist nation, this church has grown to a considerable size. And its people, many of them young people, have an infectious joy about life, despite the fact that many have little in the way of possessions and nothing in the way of stocks and shares.

Communism fell partly because it denied the spiritual aspect of human nature. It tried to solve problems with a purely materialistic approach, which said if you change a person's material circumstances, you change them.

Of course, pure market capitalism is often guilty of the same mistake - albeit with a different emphasis. It values people according to their material wealth; which means it makes them feel devalued when 'things' are hard to come by.

But there are higher measures of value and higher sources of security than either the state - in the case of communism - or the markets - in the case of capitalism - can offer.

People like those I met in Kiev have found in their Christian faith an opportunity to face up to major challenges, to ask the difficult personal questions that will help them move forward under pressure.

Of course, many still equate adherence to a religious faith with weakness. They hark back to Marx who said that religion is the opiate of the masses.

But look at history: Christian faith alone has led some pretty ordinary people to change the world, often in the face of terrifying opposition.

Self-confidence is all very nice, but it's so fickle - because I'm so fickle. It seems to me that faith calls for a very different brand of confidence, different because it's not based on me at all.

As we try to navigate the stormy waters of financial downturns, perhaps we need to dig for something deeper than our own self-confidence; to reach higher than the fears we face.

Copyright Mal Fletcher, 2008

What’s your view?

Does the current economic crisis inspire fear in your mind?



Keywords: credit crunch | economic crisis | recession | worldwide recession | depression | fear |

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