Struggling with Our Fears

Dr. John Kennedy, Chaplain Associate

Those who have a WHY to live, can bear with almost any HOW. – Victor Frankl

As we face the rising tide of COVID-19, our minds are flooded with variety of thoughts and not a few fears. That state of mind brought me back to the theme of Man’s Search for Meaning. In his book, Frankl, a holocaust survivor, teaches us that a sense of purpose is critical when we face challenging circumstances. 

All who work in the world of spiritual care, and particularly those who do this in a medical setting, likely have a strong sense of purpose. The current pandemic reminds us of the reasons we have chosen this work. It seems relatively easy to find purpose in such a crisis.

And yet, just as the imprisoned Frankl did, we also experience fear. Fear for our own health and for those we love. Fear of the loss of time and opportunity, the loss of pleasant activities such as sports, concerts, restaurants. Even religious gatherings have been curtailed. 

In a line from his song, The Heart of Life, John Mayer writes, “Fear is a friend who’s misunderstood.

I find this a complex idea to unwrap, but at a simplistic level, our fears can help turn our minds back to examine our purpose afresh. That renewed focus on our noble purpose can help us begin to overcome our fears.

As we struggle with our fears, we also still have our basic human needs. So, I urge you to be thoughtful and intentional about spending a little time each day to focus on your own self-care. In that time, allow yourself to honor the noble work that you do.

Thanks for the sacrifices you are making. Be safe, and be kind and gentle with yourself.

Dr. Kennedy is a Professor of Medicine in the UAB Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine.  He is the Director of Wellness at UAB MEDICINE. Dr. Kennedy was the first physician at UAB to complete a Clinical Pastoral Education internship in 2019. He volunteers with UAB Pastoral Care as a Chaplain Associate.