I was typing up some Bible study notes for my husband the other day, and one phrase jumped out at me: “the best defense against the dark.” That would make for an interesting series of blog posts, I decided. Not a Bible study, or even necessarily religious in nature (though no doubt I will sometimes make references to faith and Scripture) – just thinking about what defenses we have against the “dark” things that come into our lives.
I’ll start with the last one on that list, because fear is an element in just about all the others. Fear of the (unknown) future, fear of what others will think, and fear of failure are a large part of what makes it difficult to face those other kinds of “darkness.”
My thoughts go first to Harry Potter’s classes on Defense Against the Dark Arts. (How could they not, for anyone who has read the books?) If you have not read them, or don’t remember the Professor Lupin’s lesson on dealing with Boggarts, here is a link to the relevant passage. (You’ll need to scroll down past the part about Potions class with Professor Snape.)
The Boggart appears as whatever the person it faces fears most. The defense against a Boggart is the Riddikulus charm, which makes the Boggart appear comical instead of fearsome. The resulting laughter will defeat the Boggart. It also helps to have companions when facing a Boggart, because each person has different fears and it won’t know which shape to take.
I don’t know how many young people reading the Harry Potter books realize how much wisdom is wrapped up in that passage. Humor really is an effective way to deal with fear. And having other people with you always helps, too.
I’m not sure I can think of a time when I have used humor, myself, to deal with fear. I tend to take things pretty seriously, and exaggeration for comic effect does not come easily to me. I’m sure I’ve been the beneficiary of others who have provided that humorous release from tension for me, however. So the part about it being good to have other people with you is definitely true.
Later in the same Harry Potter book, Professor Lupin teaches Harry another spell, specifically as a defense against Dementors (which are Harry’s greatest fear). The Patronus charm invokes a silvery shape which acts as a guardian against the Dementors, projecting positive feelings of the sort that the Dementors normally suck away from humans. Unlike the humans, the Patronus does not give way to despair, so it defeats the Dementors.
I’m not sure if the lesson from this is more about holding on to positive attitudes and feelings as a defense against despair, or about needing a force more powerful than you are. In any case, for the Christian, God is our Guardian. He is the source of all that is positive, and He certainly is not vulnerable to any attacks of despair. Scripture reminds us over and over that God is our best defense against all enemies.
Some of the other defenses against fear are adequate information (since fear feeds on our worries of what might be) and keeping busy with what we know we can deal with. Another is to remind oneself of the many occasions in the past when the shadow cast by fear turned out to be far bigger than the reality of the situation.
What other defenses can you think of against fear?