Elizabeth Gilbert Explains the Difference Between "Worry" and "Concern"

Worrying is about as useful as diving under water to breathe. We don't achieve anything by doing it.

But today, author and pearl-diver for wisdom Elizabeth Gilbert pointed out on her  the very important difference between being "worried" and being "concerned".

It comes just a day after she posted a request for "some extra loving prayers"—no doubt starting an avalanche of worry from her countless supporters.

But as she explains, that's not what's needed.

"Less worry," reads the image accompanying this new post. "More concern."

"The word 'worry' comes to us from the Old English verb 'wyrgan', which means 'to strangle'. The word "worry", therefore, shares a similar root to the word 'wring'. Both words mean to seize something by the throat, and choke the living breath out of it."

It's easy (even natural) to worry about the people you love. Especially when you believe they're more vulnerable than you, like, say, your children.

But worry is a wedge that achieves the very opposite of what the worrier wants. It drives the recipient of your worry further away, as they try to close themselves off from your anxiety.

So Gilbert, as only she can, comes up with an alternative. Concern.

"Concern is a beautiful word. It has nothing to do with anybody getting strangled. The word 'concern' comes to us from from the Middle French verb 'concerner', which means 'to touch', or 'to belong to', and THAT word, in turn, came to us, from Late Latin verb 'concernere', which means 'to sift' or 'to perceive'."

Her point is immediately clear.

"Do you see how much more lightness and grace there is in concern, than in worry?

All I want, in the end, is to care about everyone and everything I love, while still being able to breathe."

Worry can't do anything, especially not bring you closer to another person, and Gilbert knows it.

"So...this is what I've been asking myself lately, whenever I get upset about myself, about another person, or about a situation in the world: Am I choked with worry? Or am I ready to take a deep breath and become, instead, concerned?"

Concern, she acknowledges, is more difficult. But it means so much more.

"When you're concerned about somebody, it's because you feel that they belong to you, and you want to reach out and touch them, and (most importantly) you are ready to SIFT through the situation carefullyTo sift requires patience, wisdom, and a light touch…[It] takes more work than strangling, but I believe it's worth the careful effort."

You can read the full post here—we promise you'll feel better for it.