Distinguishing Between Worry and Concern
- January 23, 2020
- Lori Travers
They say that once a mom, always a mom. There’s something about our hearts that remain bound to our “kids” no matter how grown or how far these arrows have launched. Maybe it has something to do with this God-way (odd way?) we grow another human being inside of our bodies for 40 [long] weeks, birthing through unspeakable pain and unimaginable joy, then allowing a continuous flow of life-giving nutrients for the little bundle from our very own bodies.
Yes, it certainly is quite the connection.
And then we’re told to let go.
My son is going through an incredibly difficult trial as I type these words. Having flown the coop many years ago while he was still single, I had to pull back on the temptation to (s)mother him. Lifting up prayers seems like the way to go as [reality check] I have zero control over outcomes in his life. But as he is in the heat of a health challenge, as a mom, I want to do something.
My son is married now and I couldn’t have picked a better counterpart if I had searched the globe over! So my role has undergone some major renovations in the past 4 years. And that is good and healthy, and it’s remained very good as long as he’s been healthy. But my mama instincts got caught up in some high tension wires and the sparks in my brain fired, searching for solutions. Yep, I wanted to do something.
I’ve had some feedback from well-meaning humans who’ve advised, “Don’t worry, he’ll be fine”.
“Don’t worry.” I’ve had to think long and hard about that statement. Am I worrying? I don’t feel particularly anxious, but I want to do something positive. I believe that is called concern. There appears to be a surface distinction between the two words definitively. But practically, there is a much greater disparity between them.
What do we mean by “worry”? Merriam-Webster defines it this way: “mental distress or agitation resulting from concern usually for something impending or anticipated : ANXIETY” Jesus warned us about worry. He used statements like, “Do not worry about your life…” and “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” and “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Taken from Matthew 6, NIV). And Paul reiterated in similar words: Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for everything.” (Phil. 4:6, NLT)
There you have it. We are unequivocally exhorted not to worry. But what about concern?
Here’s a Merriam-Webster’s definition of “concern”: “Marked interest or regard usually arising through a personal tie or relationship”. That’s it! Bingo! Of course I’m concerned. How could I not be?
Here’s what it looks like to me…
When I’m in a state of worry, it produces nothing of value in me or in the ones I love and am worrying about. Worry creates a barrage of thoughts that swirl in my head, repeating themselves over and over again. It can cause knee-jerk reactions, attempting to take control of situations, creating high anxiety in self and in loved ones. It feels chaotic, and chaos is the LAST thing our loved ones need! Worry builds walls.
But when I’m concerned about my loved ones, I care enough to want to act in a positive direction, offering helpful solutions without trying to take over and take control. I remain well aware that God is in control. I can calmly state what my concern is, yet know that my advice might be gently put aside (maybe even if just for now), and in that case, I have presence of mind enough to know that I must take a step back. I keep the lines of communication open, offering helpful information after fully thinking through and not being impulsive. I keep my love on no matter what. Concern builds bridges.
Learning this from the time your children are young is really quite healthy. Learning this in your marriage when your frustration level is through the roof because you feel your spouse is making foolish choices is life-giving. Friendships thrive when they know we truly care when they’re in the thick of the battle and offer help in finding solutions.
It may just be semantics, but for me, worry accomplishes nothing but more strife, while concern is proactively searching for solutions… ultimately trusting in our good God.