The fear of change is ingrained in our nature. Our heredity and genetics teach us to resist change mainly to ‘always feel in control’. Thus, we fear a job transfer, a career change, a new boss, a new group, a new residence, strangers, travels abroad, and so on. This is normal behavior. We are built this way. But when the normal fear of change becomes irrational, persistent and unduly intense, it turns into a full-blown mental illness. That illness is called Metathesiophobia. It is often linked with Tropophobia which is the fear of moving.
People suffering from Metathesiophobia may simply not want anything that is different from what they already have. They reject every change in their routines. They create their ‘comfort zone’ and are unwilling to move out of it. They prevent everything new from interfering with the status quo of their comfort zones. In order to avoid change, people may break relationships, tell lies or invent excuses. This can affect social, personal and professional life. It can also weaken one’s will to live.
But comfort zones are not risk-free. For instance, take the case of the sick man at Bethesda. It might have been more reassuring for him to stay put at the poolside. Assuming that the situation at Bethesda stayed unchanged in the long term, the man would continue his vegetative life there to suffer an ignominious death sooner than later. But the very assumption that status quo would stay intact in the long term is just wishful thinking in the real world. Changes are inevitable. When changes eventually hit Bethesda, the sick man would just perish without a choice or chance to go out into the beautiful world that lay beyond the confines of the poolside colonnades. Jesus was asking him to make the choice.
We are the sum total of the choices we have made in our lives. Like the invalid man at the Bethesda pool, we too have the choice to take a chance to search and discover a new and better life in the unknown or stay put at our comfort zones and rot to extinction. We might opt for status quo. But remember that changes strike without waiting for our consent or convenience. It is, therefore, wise to anticipate changes and stay prepared to face it. This is the lesson of Bethesda. This is also the lesson that the motivational business fable ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ by Dr. Spencer Johnson seeks to teach. This tiny book was a New York Times business bestseller that sold over 26 million copies worldwide in 37 languages. Let me close with a summary of that thought-provoking tale:
‘Who Moved My Cheese’ is a simple parable that features four characters: two mice, “Sniff” and “Scurry,” and two little humans, “Hem” and “Haw.” The names of these characters are indicative of their nature. All four lived in a maze. The mice and humans paired off to search for Cheese through the complex labyrinths of the maze. After a while, both human and mice pairs converge on a cheese-filled corridor named “Cheese Station C.” From that day, all four lived in the maze happily enjoying the huge stock of cheese they discovered in “Cheese Station C”.
After hearing what Ham said, Haw was once again gripped by the fear of failure. His hope of finding new Cheese started fading. So every day, the Little people continued to do what they had done before. They went to Cheese Station C, found no Cheese, and returned home, carrying their worries and frustrations with them. They tried to deny what was happening, but found it harder to get to sleep, had less energy the next day, and were becoming irritable. Their homes were not the nurturing places they once were. The Little were having nightmares about not finding any Cheese. But Hem and Haw still returned to Cheese Station C and waited there every day. Hem said, “You know if we just work harder we’ll find that nothing has really changed that much. The Cheese is probably nearby. Maybe they just hid it behind the wall.” The next day, they tore through the wall. But there was no cheese.
Then one day Haw began some soul searching. He realized the folly of paralyzing fears of change and the unknown. He decided to move on rather than sit crying over the cheese that would never be coming back. “If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct”, he chiseled on the wall of “Cheese Station C” for his friend to ponder. Then he left “Cheese Station C” and entered the maze.
Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again: They Keep Moving The Cheese.
Jesus asked the sick man at the Bethesda pool, “Do you want to get well?” The man had the choice to answer in the negative and rot to his death. He also had the choice of answering in the affirmative to go on an adventure into a new world of exciting opportunities. The choice was his. The choice is ours too. Remember, “Our lives are a sum total of the choices we have made” (Wayne Dyer).