The world isn’t safe and never has been. Read the headlines– financial collapse, terrorism, unemployment, rising crime, drugs, water shortages, distrust of government, all of which should give us pause to reflect on our future if we are realists. If these are not enough, the new clips from Ferguson, Missouri may give us pause to reflect. These are just some of the main reasons the prepper community exists and flourishes. Fear of the future, which is unknown, is a common human emotion. We all desire to be safe and secure, but can we ever really be? Will civilization, as we know it, end in our lifetimes, and if so what can we do about it? We have prepared, stockpiled, learned to garden, honed our firearm skills, learned hunting and trapping, but have we prepared mentally and spiritually for the future that we may face? It’s true the world isn’t a safe place and will probably never be, but that has always been a part of life. Ask the farmers in Oklahoma during the dust bowl day or the original Pilgrims who came over with an axe and shotgun and built this nation. There are always uncertainties and the fears that follow. So should we prepare? You bet. Should we be ready to leave when disaster strikes? We certainly should have a plan. How then should I mentally prepare myself, my family, or my community to be better prepared to meet an uncertain future? To do that we need to understand what drives us and how to interpret those drives.
Uncertainty and fear– the ugly twins we never really wanted. We have the gift of imagination, even from an early age. I’m realizing this more from my grandchildren. Imagination helps us dream big, drives our creativity, and makes our world more exciting but also much more scary. We learn from an early age that the world is not a safe place. The ability to fear is natural to us. It is something that we inherit and don’t actually have to learn, although it is re-enforced in today’s society, which in intent on developing fear in our lives. Fear attacks us because it attacks what we value. For instance, if we value family, then every headline will have us double locking our doors or packing our bags. If we value money, then every drop in the market will warn us to sell our stocks, buy gold and silver, and head for the hills. If we value safety, then every headline will bring worry about our safety and how to protect my children. We have made our plans, prepared our bug-out bags, but are we mentally and spiritually prepared? Our family has been thinking a lot about this by watching an old TV series, that had a short life span, named Jericho. Every series finds the people innovative, energetic, solving huge problems, but they’re unprepared mentally and spiritually as the events unfold. I won’t spoil the series for those of you who haven’t watched. However, while the innovation and problem solving are great, the poor mental and spiritual preparation has them questioning themselves constantly. Having a proper understanding of fear will help us to understand ourselves and what we cherish most in this world and what we will do to maintain control. Sun Tzu, a wise Chinese General, in his treatise on The Art of War made his famous statement “know your enemy and know yourself and you shall not fear a thousand battles.” We have spent a great deal of time and effort knowing what we believe to be our enemies but spent so little time in understanding our make-up as human beings and how we react to fear and the unknown. Without a proper understanding, we can never truly be prepared and will continue to run from one problem to another.
We like to be scared, and we learn this from an early age. From the stories we tell around the campfire to the nightmarish tales we tell as teens, to the thrills we seek at the amusement park most of our lives we choose to be afraid. We actually train ourselves to be fearful, which can impact our adult perceptions on the reasons to flee. A sense of fear makes us feel alive; remember your first time on a roller coaster or the high-speed thrill ride in your first car? As we mature to adulthood and read the newspaper or watch the evening news, we realize the threats to our freedoms and that our way of life seems at risk. This produces in us anxiety, as well as the need for preparation, because what we value seems to be at risk. Since we live in a somewhat free country and have the ability to make our own choices, that should resolve our fears, but it doesn’t, because now we have the increased pressure of personal failure, especially on that decision on when to leave.
We shouldn’t be alarmed from fear’s presence, because fear is resident in every man, woman, and child in the world, although it manifests itself in different ways with different people. The story comes from the Bible, Genesis 3:7 and following when after sinning in the Garden their vulnerability or as the Bible put it their “nakedness” left them vulnerable, estranged from the Creator who just earlier before enjoyed their fellowship and community. The very next verse tells of the results of that transgression: separation, fear, hiding, and blame shifting, which is as common today in every man and women as it was back in biblical times. Why is this important for our consideration? First, if we have no peace with God, we will always be on the run, vulnerable, and fearful. This condition will cause us to make poor decisions. Think for a moment about what the first couple did– hiding from the Creator behind bushes and fig leafs? This is a camouflage technique that should be avoided at all costs!
We fear losing what we cherish. Having our bags packed is only the first step, though an important one, in preparation. Proper interpretation of the circumstances in which we find ourselves is what is needed before we pull the trigger and leave. Of vital importance is proper interpretation. Remember Y2K? Many left homes, family, and good jobs, fearing the worst. When it didn’t happen, they had to return to normal civilization and resume life as it was with a lot less money and many regrets. There are more than a few that had given up preparation because of the mistakes of the past. Proper interpretation is key to understanding if and when we should leave. One key to this interpretation is being able to understand the fears of life and what they reveal about us. It is essential in mental and spiritual preparation that those things we fear reveal more about us than about what we fear.
Danger and fear are curious twins, which we need to be able to understand and interpret. Danger links us to being vulnerable, needy, and the ability to get our lives in control. Isn’t that one of the driving links to the prepper community? We need to interpret the fears we have of our way of life collapsing and interpret how that makes us vulnerable. We may ask ourselves some questions like what is it I love or desire so much that I’m willing to leave all I cherish behind? If you are a person to whom relationships are of utmost importance and you can’t stand silence, you might want to understand that before you flee to a place where you are very alone. Our fears are instructive and point to the things we really care about.
Who’s driving, and why can’t I be in control? One thing of which we can be certain is that the circumstances of life draw us to be fearful. Ever read the headlines? If so you may feel that you want to leave right now, as I sometimes do, just to escape the madness and be left alone! Being part of the prepper community feels like we are always being driven, since there is simply so much to do and never enough resources or time to get it all done. We need to manage our world, prepare, work, plan, pray, learn new skills, build community, and extend relationships. The last one– relationship building– is vital; since we can never do everything ourselves, we better have others around in our communities who can help. Is our busyness self imposed or imposed by others? Are we driven by the ever-changing circumstances, or do we have purpose in our plans? More than anything else, we need to understand what is driving us. Is it a desire for a better lifestyle? Less stress? A simpler way of life? Or, is it fear?
Control is something we all desire but which seems just slightly out of reach. You understand, don’t you? You spend time and money in preparation and when finished with some project, you realize something on the list is still lacking or worse! When something happens, we realize more gaps in our preparations and we begin to plan again; it’s a never-ending cycle. Every level of preparation lifts us to a new state of readiness, but it also brings along the baggage of obtaining new knowledge to manage what we now understand and need to control. Control is something we desire but never fully realize in this life, because basically we are not ultimately in control. We understand we lack control when fear, anxiety, and concern over what may happen or what the future holds brings fears to our heart. If you doubt that, then why are you even in the prepper community? Our community is based off some fear and a lot of common sense, because we know things are not right, at least according to our moral compass. Decisions based off worry or anxiety cloud our thinking and make us vulnerable to pulling the trigger to leave before necessity dictates, only causing us to return to begin again.
There are several relationships between those who worry and the prepper community, which we need to understand, as we make preparation and also to help mature our decision process. First, preppers live in the present for the future, but our preparations are usually based off past events that we have either suffered through or read about. Ultimately, we do not control the future, so details of the future are still cloudy. If you doubt that, think about housing prices the last ten years. Preppers also react to crises in the present and how those will impact them in the future. As adults, we have the ability to use our imagination to envision the future, which doesn’t currently exist normally with all of the vivid details of a modern animated movie. Because of this, we are all prone to veer out of control, imagining the worst, and not using reason in our decision-making process. This is the normal human condition; we have worry, anxiety, distrust, and fear built into our lives. We are desperately seeking control in an out–of-control world. The only solution is to prepare and trust the future to a Sovereign God, who is ultimately in control.
- You will need to understand the link between your personal vulnerability and needs, as they have a tendency to drive decision-making. You need to understand what you need (freedom, less stress, safety, et cetera), since they point to what you value in life, and when those thing are restricted or taken away they drive us to do what we can to protect them. Understanding your needs will point to your personal vulnerabilities and the things we fear and bring some clarity to your decision-making. You will need to ask yourself questions, such as “will my future destination fulfill those needs?” If not then you can be assured that more prepping and fleeing lay in your future.
- You need to understand if you have a need to manage your world? Does the daily newscast add more to your to-do list for preparation? Chances are you are a driven person, and driven people make poor decisions because everything is situation dependent on the current circumstances, the latest news, and/or current trends. It’s better to realize and trust that the future doesn’t belong to us, not that we cannot or shouldn’t prepare, but that we be of like mind to see the signs of the time and what they point to and let them, and not media, drive our decisions.
- You need to develop firm exit criteria about those things that will cause you to leave with your loved ones and/or before you decide. Making a decision to leave is fleeing, pure and simple, and it is important to understand why the decision is being made and under what criteria the decision has been made. Understand what you are fleeing from, your exit criteria, and the kind of life and environment of what you are fleeing to. Ensure your destination will meet the expectations of your exit criteria, write it all down, discuss, and pray about it with your family/community before you go.
- Is your conscience clear? Much can be said about the conscience– that inner guide that tells us when we are wrong and confirms when we are acting right. The Bible is instructive here, “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing but the righteous are bold as a lion.” Lions may be king of the jungle, but if you study the nature of lions they know their vulnerabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. They are strong because they know their environment, know their strengths, and understand the dangers in the areas they prowl. When a strong wind blows behind them, they don’t simply run-away, because like Sun Tzu stated, they know themselves. Those that don’t know themselves will always be frightful and timid and ready to flee at the slightest provocation. Animals, it is believed, don’t have a conscience but do have instincts; we, as humans, have both. So clear your conscience, mend relationship, get peace with God, and live within the law of the land; trust God, and He will clear your conscience so that being righteous you also can be bold like a lion and have clarity in your decision making.
A proposed menu of family discussion items to help in mental and spiritual preparedness:
- Have a family discussion about some of the current headlines and how they impact each member of the family. Identify their fears; then talk about previous fears and how they have played out in their lives. This can help people see if their fears are based in reality.
- Have a family or group discussion about what each person values. How would they react if those values were taken away? How do they react when those values are threatened?
- Discuss the relationship between their personal fears and the values they believe are threatened. Are they based in reality? Will these fears subside when you are at your alternative location? If not, what can be done to alleviate those fears now, before you carry them to another location.
- For those interested in religion, discuss Genesis 3 with your family. Do you see yourself in this story? Are you trying to camouflage yourself from something or someone? Do you run away from relationship, responsibility, or even from God?
- Discuss with your family how each individual feels vulnerable and how the family or group has helped them overcome that feeling. If they haven’t overcome those vulnerabilities, work these out before any major decision to leave.