sharks and coconuts

great-white-shark 6455_600x450Here’s a  useful statistic I learned this weekend: you are three times as likely to die from a coconut falling on your head as by a shark bite.

What a relief! Shark’s don’t actually eat people, either. They just kind of nibble on you to sample the goods, but we really aren’t ideal food for them. Humans, when eaten, tend to cause sharks ill health effects, ranging from high cholesterol to acute feelings of regret and ennui.

In fact, shark-bite fatalities are incredibly rare: about 4.2 deaths per year worldwide. If you do the math, that means that for every one of those,  13 more people are reported to have been bitten by sharks, but were in fact attacked by coconuts and we all know that’s pretty embarrassing.

So why are CocoShark Metrics important to us?

It’s a good example of how our fears and anxieties tend to be dramatically disproportionate to reality. True, context is everything, and I’d rather swim in coconut-infested waters than the shark version. And if you’re one of the unlucky folks to be bitten by a shark, most scientists will attest to the fact that it will really, really hurt.

But more often than not, our fears play us for chumps. We stay out of the water because of what might be in there, ironically finding places of safety beneath the shady coconut trees.

It’s natural to be afraid of the unknown, especially when we’re facing change. Whether in our churches, families, or communities, our anxieties tend to makes us acutely aware of the things that might bite us, even when the worst case scenario has very little to do with what’s actually likely to happen.

When fear of the unknown takes over, it’s worth thinking clearly about what we’re really afraid of, how likely that thing is to actually happen, and most importantly what we’ll miss out on by letting our anxieties rule the waters.

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About bernardowens

I am an Episcopal priest who serves St. Andrew's Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.
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