The top 10 fears in America – any of them yours?

By Chuck Norris

In October 2022, Chapman University published a report that surveyed adults on 95 fears.

The institution’s blog explained that Chapman University’s Survey of Fear (CUSF) is “an ongoing project, now in its ninth year. Conducted annually, it follows trends over time and identifies new fears as they emerge. The survey is a nationally representative sample that gives us insight into what terrifies America.”

Unfortunately, it turns out that the majority of Americans suffer from tremendous fear. Many – perhaps as high as 85% of the population – live with a sense of impending doom. This is a classic sign of clinical anxiety.

“This year’s topics range from fear of being the victim of mass shootings, to fears related to Jan. 6th and the violent overthrow of the U.S. government to fears related to immigration and gun control. Fears are ranked by the percent of Americans who reported being afraid or very afraid,” CUSF reported.

So, here are the Top 10 Fears of America (2022):

1. Corrupt government officials – 62.1
2. People I love becoming seriously ill – 60.2
3. Russia using nuclear weapons – 59.6
4. People I love dying – 58.1
5. The U.S. involved in another world war – 56.0
6. Pollution of drinking water – 54.5
7. Not having enough money for the future – 53.7
8. Economic/financial collapse – 53.7
9. Pollution of oceans, rivers, and lakes – 52.5
10. Biological warfare – 51.5

A general overview of the present CUSF report shows us that Americans’ fears center on five main topics: corrupt government officials (No. 1), harm to a loved one (Nos. 2 & 4), war (Nos. 3, 5 & 10), environmental concerns (Nos. 6 & 9), and economic concerns (Nos. 7 & 8).

But what sits at the heart of most of them (Nos. 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10) is the corruptive and power-hungry role governments play in our country and world. Anyone shocked?

“Fear of corrupt government officials has remained the greatest fear for yet another year since first landing in the spot in 2015. The fear, however, has experienced a steep drop from 79.6% (2020/21) to 62.1% (2022), the lowest it has been since 2016.”

It reminds me how, despite establishing what I consider the best form of government (republic) on the face of the planet, America’s founders never considered government to be the hope and answer to humanity’s ills, wars, social problems or even our independent quests for life, liberty and happiness. Those were endowed to us by our Creator and only attained by His providential hand.

Having just passed President’s Day and George Washington’s birthday a week ago, I couldn’t help but think again how Washington described his own impending post as our first president. He delayed it. He tried to do anything to avoid it until he couldn’t any longer.

He actually explained: “For myself, the delay may be compared to a reprieve; for in confidence I can assure you with the world it would obtain little credit that my movements to the chair of Government will be accompanied with feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution.”

He went on to describe government in this way: “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence – it is force! Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

Washington also explained, “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

Back to America’s fears and the various generations in America, each one has their particular age-oriented fears, too.

Here’s an example chart of older Americans’ fears, ages 55+:

Chart: SeniorLiving.Org

And check out these changing fears of elementary kids through the decades:

Decades ago, in 1960, researchers at Johns Hopkins University reported that the greatest fears of grade school children were: 1) animals, 2) being in a dark room, 3) high places, 4) strangers, and 5) loud noises.

Thirty-years later, in 1990, kids were afraid of the following: 1) divorce, 2) nuclear war, 3) cancer, 4) pollution, 5) being mugged.

Roughly 30 years later still, in 2018, 42% are afraid of being a victim of a random mass shooting (up from 16% in 2015), and 57% of teens worry about gunfire erupting at their schools.

So, how are Americans to overcome their fears, many of which are created or exacerbated by governments?

One wise bit of advice comes from one of the best-known generals in U.S. military history.

During World War II, a military governor met with U.S. Gen. George Patton in Sicily. When he praised Patton highly for his courage and bravery, the general replied, “Sir, I am not a brave man. … The truth is, I am an utter craven coward. I have never been within the sound of gunshot or in sight of battle in my whole life that I wasn’t so scared that I had sweat in the palms of my hands.”

Years later, when Patton’s autobiography was published, it contained this significant statement by the general: “I learned very early in my life never to take counsel of my fears.”

Instead, we need to ask and receive advice from wise counselors, like those at John Hopkins University: Hospital for Children. They recommend the following to overcome fears and phobias:

People can learn to overcome phobias by gradually facing their fears. This is not easy at first. It takes willingness and bravery. Sometimes people need the help of a therapist to guide them through the process.

Overcoming a phobia usually starts with making a long list of the person’s fears in least-to-worst order. For example, with a dog phobia, the list might start with the things the person is least afraid of, such as looking at a photo of a dog. It will then work all the way up to worst fears, such as standing next to someone who’s petting a dog, petting a dog on a leash, and walking a dog.

Gradually, and with support, the person tries each fear situation on the list – one at a time, starting with the least fear. The person isn’t forced to do anything and works on each fear until he or she feels comfortable, taking as long as needed.

A therapist could also show someone with a dog phobia how to approach, pet, and walk a dog, and help the person to try it, too. The person may expect terrible things to happen when near a dog. Talking about this can help, too. When people find that what they fear doesn’t actually turn out to be true, it can be a great relief. [Why I love the acrostic for fear: False Evidence Appearing Real.]

A therapist might also teach relaxation practices such as specific ways of breathing, muscle relaxation training, or soothing self-talk. These can help people feel comfortable and bold enough to face the fears on their list.

As somebody gets used to a feared object or situation, the brain adjusts how it responds and the phobia is overcome.

Often, the hardest part of overcoming a phobia is getting started. Once a person decides to go for it – and gets the right coaching and support – it can be surprising how quickly fear can melt away.

Speaking of melting away, there’s a little verse in the Bible that reads: “Perfect (or mature) love casts out all fear.” I totally believe that love and faith can also (maybe even ultimately) chase away fear, by that I mean primarily God’s love and our faith.

Pastor and author Rick Warren explained it well: “Fear is a self-imposed prison that will keep you from becoming what God intends for you to be. You must move against it with the weapons of faith and love.”

When we face fear with faith and love, when what we believe in is larger than our fears, phobias will lose their power. That is why Napoleon Hill once said, “Faith is fear in reverse gear.”

That is also why 80-year-old author and teacher Neil T. Anderson concluded: “Fear and faith cannot coexist in our hearts at the same time.” I believe that.

It reminds me of my most-loved quote from my hero and mentor, John Wayne: “Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway.”

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