By Jenny Fulton
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7, NASB
It’s a well-known marketing fact that fear sells. This feeling is no joke. It increases our breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure and renders us incapable of thinking logically and critically about a given situation. It triggers a “flight or fight” response. It moves us like nothing else to make impulsive decisions and/or spend money in order to make that unwelcome feeling go away.
Think about the headlines, commercials, and advertisements you see. Many, if not most, of them will start off by presenting a problem, generally something you should be afraid of. If you weren’t afraid of it before, here’s your chance to be afraid of it now, so that the marketer can offer you the solution to the thing you weren’t afraid of before but are now so afraid of that you’ll purchase their product, buy into their ideology, or, at the very least, click on their article.
Examples of Fear-Based Headlines
- What Not To …
- Fear: making mistakes, not being seen as “cool” or relevant
- Reality: If you like it, it’s probably not a mistake, and there’s such diverse opinions that not everyone likes the things designated as “cool.”
- 5 Mistakes to Avoid When …
- Fear: making mistakes
- Reality: It’s ok to make mistakes. Oftentimes, you learn and grow from them. Depending on the article, those “mistakes” are arbitrary.
- 5 Harmful Effects of …
- Fear: getting hurt, causing hurt, hurt leading to death, losing someone you love
- Reality: Almost everything in this world can hurt you if used in the wrong way. While it’s good to have a degree of awareness, worrying about the things that could hurt you won’t improve your health or your overall quality of life.
- 5 Reasons Not To …
- Fear: doing the “wrong” thing, getting hurt, causing hurt
- Reality: For every reason not to do something, there’s a reason to do it. The difference usually comes down to your faith, personality, priorities and convictions.
- 5 Ways to Protect Yourself/Children From …
- Fear: getting hurt or someone you love getting hurt or dying
- Reality: Again, while it’s good to have awareness and be proactive when necessary, it’s also important to recognize that only God can fully protect us and our loved ones. Trying to control everything in order to prevent pain isn’t helpful and it won’t work.
- 5 Things to Know About …
- Fear: you’ll miss out on knowing something important if you don’t read this article!
- Reality: Your life will probably continue on just as it always has if you don’t read the article.
- Limited Time Offer…
- Fear: you’ll miss out on something great if you don’t act now
- Reality: Nothing is a limited time offer. Bottom line: they want your money, so they’ll offer it again at a later time.
- What Your … Isn’t Telling You
- Fear: someone is intentionally holding out on you in a way that could hurt you in the long run
- Reality: The information is likely either common sense, something you could learn by researching your topic of interest or isn’t that important.
Fear-based advertisements are similar and will generally play off three common fears: making mistakes, missing out, and getting hurt.
What kinds of fear advertising have you seen lately?
How to Respond
As I indicated earlier, marketers and those with a specific agenda capitalize off the fears of others to meet their goals. However, we don’t have to succumb to it.
The Bible has much to say about fear and how to overcome it.
- 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV): for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
- Joshua 1:9 (NASB): Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
- 1 John 4:18 (NASB): There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
- 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NASB): Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you
- Isaiah 41:10 (NASB): Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
From these passages we can see that fear does not come from God. Therefore, if something has been fashioned with the intent of creating fear or capitalizing off the fears of others, it isn’t of God. Secondly, we can see that we don’t need to be afraid because God loves us, is always with us, cares for us, will strengthen us, and has given us a spirit of power, love, and self-control.
Practical Steps to Counter Fear Marketing
Once you become aware of these fear inducing tactics, there are some practical ways you can prevent them from gaining the upper hand.
- Stop! The moment you sense that tingling of fear, that increase in your breathing and heartrate or your breath catching in your throat, stop what you’re doing. Stop reading, stop watching, stop listening.
- Identify the Feeling. Take a moment to recognize what you’re feeling. Is it fear? Acknowledge it. Is it anger? Don’t try to ignore it. Try to figure out what you’re feeling and why you might be feeling it.
- Name It. If you’re feeling scared or anxious, identify what it is you’re afraid of. Is the advertisement triggering a fear of making mistakes, of being hurt, or of missing out?
- Take It to God and Leave It There. Take your fears to God and leave them at His feet. For example: bring Him your fear of dying or of losing someone you love and exchange it for the confidence that He alone holds the keys to life and death, trusting also that life is more than our breath in this world.
- Let God’s Peace Fill You. With your soul and your fear laid bare before God, allow Him to fill you with the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
- Read the Bible. The Bible affirms God’s words to your soul and helps cement them in your heart and mind. It is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
- Revisit the Issue. With your heart empty of fear and filled with peace, revisit the issue with a clear mind that is better able to evaluate the input of information. Do you really need to read that article? What is it saying? Do you really need to buy that product? How should you respond to the information?
We don’t have to be afraid. Fear is not an indication of caring anymore than calmness is a sign that someone is unaware or doesn’t care.Tweet
On the contrary, having the calm presence and peace of God gives us a greater soundness of mind, enables us to be more effective critical thinkers, heightens our ability to care about others, and helps us better love and respond to the needs around us.
What fears have you identified lately? Are there any verses that have encouraged you and helped you trust God with your fears? I’d love to see them in the comments below so that others might also be encouraged.