There Is No Tiger

I recently had a meeting that I was very anxious about. I worried I had done something wrong and was going to be in trouble.

I played and replayed different things I wanted to say in my head. As I headed for the meeting, I could feel the adrenaline making my heart pump faster and faster. I knew if I went into this meeting highly anxious, I might say or do something I regretted.

So I prayed.

Then I watched a video by Neal Foard called “The Best Bartender in Chicago.”

Foard had just done a terrible job at a sales meeting with his bosses present. He didn’t know if he would still have his job the next day and couldn’t sleep, so he went down to the hotel bar.

A Polish woman he thought was the bartender poured him a drink, and he noticed a tattoo on her wrist. He asked her what it meant.

As Foard retells it, she said, “20,000 years ago, odds are good you get killed by a tiger, or bear, or you fall through the ice. And we’re here because back then, we learned to freak out about danger because everything was trying to kill you. But 20,000 years later, we have a bad meeting, we freak out. You know? But it’s not going to kill us, OK?

“It says, ‘nie ma tygrysa.’ ‘There is no tiger.’”

Foard told her, “I think you may be the best bartender in Chicago.”

I played the video two or three times before I got to my meeting.

I wonder if, in his divine nature, Jesus knew about how evolution had trained us to freak out about things, even if they weren’t immediately life-threatening, when he said not to worry (Matthew 6:25).

A heart throbbing and supercharged with adrenaline is an excellent thing to have when you need to swim out of a frozen lake or escape from a tiger, but it’s not very useful for a difficult conversation, or to most modern-day problems most of us face regularly. In fact, it’s probably the opposite of useful.

I wonder if Paul knew that when he wrote Philippians 4:6, which says not to be anxious about anything, but to instead pray about everything.

Of course there are times when it helps to mull over a problem, and sometimes it seems like we just can’t help but worry, but sometimes praying can help ease our brains out of fight-or-flight mode into a mode where they can solve our more modern (and less instantly-deadly) problems.

Oh, and my meeting went fine, by the way.

This column by Rev. David Schell appeared in The Herald-Palladium on May 14, 2022.