Monday 12th September 2022

What's the only a cappella song to reach #1 on the US Hot 100?

The answer is Bobby McFerrin's 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' from 1987.  This might have been a catchy tune in its day, but is it good advice?

Evolutionary science alerts us to the fact that we are hard-wired to worry. A constant state of alert probably helped the odds for our ancient ancestors!  Occasional worry over the future is a normal part of life.  We naturally worry about tests, about how a first date might turn out, or how well we might perform.

Worry can energise us into further action if it is held in its place. That’s why we need perspective.  Community (whānau, friends, teachers etc.) should help with perspective.  We all have the unhelpful 'going over it and over it' kind of worry, as well as normal everyday concerns.  Learning to tell the difference is helpful.  Tolerating normal everyday worries without fixating on them, builds our capacity to manage and navigate everyday life.

Many thoughts and emotions can be immobilising especially when our imagination drifts to worst-case scenarios and anxiety about our self-worth.  Most of the time, our worries don’t come to anything, because worry is often heightened by our imagination and fears.

Of course, as someone has said worrying about the future doesn’t prevent tomorrow’s troubles, it can however rob today of its joy.  So what we want here is perspective. Good friends and healthy community can help us see our worries in perspective. As importantly, they can help us to not get bogged down in them allowing them to stop us doing anything by keeping active and putting time into other things.

Learning to live with everyday worries without them controlling us grows our ability to manage life.  When a worry has long term effects which immobilise and are consistently overly fearful, our community can direct us to the right people to help us.

Having said all this, sometimes worry is related to something deeply troubling. We get understandably concerned about what lies ahead for us, loved ones and friends. ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ just isn’t the right advice for this situation. None of us ever want to make light of this kind of worry and it pays for us to remember that we don’t always know what concerns people hold inside.  We can talk however and we can listen, walking alongside people as they go through uncertainty and concern.

Our school is a community. One practical way we can help build foundations for life together is to help ourselves navigate worry. Our ability to manage everyday life grows as we navigate everyday worries without getting stuck in them.

As school community, as friends, as a caring community, we can help to figure out what kind of worry it is, to get perspective, to help each other not be unhelpfully overcome or immobilised, to listen, and to care.

The New Testament book of 1 Peter chapter 5, verse 7 encourages us to take our worries to God, "Give all your worries to him, because he cares for you."  I don't think this implies they are just 'magicked' away, but that God's love offers us rest and security even amidst the troubles we face.