The Ugly Truth about Fear

The truth about fear is it is addicting.

photo credit: Maxime B via creative commons

photo credit: Maxime B via creative commons

There have been times where I wanted to give it up but I keep coming back to it. It numbs the pain of not accomplishing my goals.

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to start something on my own. It’s definitely what has drawn me to writing. I like expressing myself through words and I have the freedom to write about whatever I want whenever I want here.

Often times I find myself writing about something I think is meaningful but will definitely make others uncomfortable. I think it will be good to post on here but before I do I get a sense within my chest I shouldn’t. The fear rests squarely over me. I decide not to post it and experience a feeling of soothing disappointment.

I like the feeling of comfort. It’s not satisfying but it’s normal. It brings an odd sense of peace. The more I choose to resist fear the more it brings me in. Others will always tell you when you fear something it means you should lean into it. I have said this to people. It’s easy to tell other people how they should handle fear. It’s much harder to handle it yourself in the same way.

I do believe anything worth doing will cause some sort of fear in your life. I also believe the feeling of fear can become something which hangs over you like a bad habit. I know fried food isn’t good for me but I eat it anyway. I’m not addicted to it but I like the taste. I know I should write about something and not worry so much about what others think but I want everyone to like what I write. It’s not possible for it to happen and it’s not something I should even seek but I find myself lunging at it like a child chasing seagulls in the sand.

I don’t think fear is something which is ever fully defeated but rather it’s something you have to fight off daily. I’m focusing my attention on it. I don’t want to live a life where I am OK with being afraid.

Searching for Ten-Year-Old Me

I recently finished John Grisham’s first book, A Time to Kill. Near the end of the novel a certain part of the story stuck with me.

photo credit: Michael Bentley via creative commons

photo credit: Michael Bentley via creative commons

As the protagonist, Jake Brigance, was stressed out about an upcoming trial he went to his childhood home. His parents were gone so he was by himself walking around the house. Grisham detailed all the aspects of the house and the yard which had an impact on him. As Brigance looked around he thought about playing football in the yard and riding his bike. It took me back and I started visualizing the home I grew up in.

I remember the large pine tree in the front yard and I remember playing football out front. I remember the stairs where my sister fell and cut her forehead. I rode my dirt bike all over every square inch of it and also hit golf balls from every area. Like all crystal clear memories they are sometimes relevant and often times completely insignificant.

There is something special about the home you grew up in. Thinking about it takes you back to a time and place where your imagination was everything. You didn’t spend time thinking about what you could or couldn’t do you did. I miss that. I miss the unknown. There is something about growing up which makes you feel like you have seen and experienced everything. I haven’t. Nobody has but the more you live the more tempting it is to stop living. I’m tired of that feeling. Tired of not getting where I want to go and doing what I want to do.

Cynicism leads to nowhere. I don’t think about anything in those years growing up except for all of the things I did. I have stopped doing things. I occasionally go to a trendy restaurant or do something social but it’s not the same. I don’t try different things. I don’t live life the way it was meant to be lived. I live it the safe way. I don’t chase after things I desire. I wait for them to come to me. They never come. No matter how long I wait it doesn’t come. It would be perfect if we could have the imagination of a child combined with the ability of an adult. Few can reach it.

In May when Morgan and I were in Jamaica we took a sketchy ride to a non-government sanctioned waterfall. Our “tour guide” was probably stoned and we jumped off waterfalls and cliffs. We crawled through caves and swam in naturally cool springs. I will never forget doing those things. It wasn’t safe. It was uncharacteristic for both of us. It was fun. It reminded me I’m not too old to make memories. It’s never too late to change. It’s never too late to do something completely out of character. Remind yourself of the fearless behavior you had when growing up. It’s still you. Do things which scare you to death. It’s the only way to live.

Why Do We Fear Mistakes?

We are scared of everything. We are as scared of gluten as we are of ISIS. We are turning into people who are afraid to make mistakes.

photo credit: Leo Hidalgo via creative commons

photo credit: Leo Hidalgo via creative commons

You can’t order coffee without receiving it in a cup with writing all over it informing you it’s hot. We can’t order food without being informed of all of the allergies which someone could have a reaction to if they ate the food. Have you ever learned anything from doing something the right way? Have you learned anything about yourself when things went your way and everything worked out exactly the way you had hoped? There are certain situations in which that may have happened, but most of the time we learn by doing something wrong. We learn by making mistakes. The only way to get better is to make sure you are putting yourself out there and taking a risk. We are incredible at pointing out others downfalls. We are energized by it. We are sharks swimming toward blood ready to latch on to the wounded and defenseless.

We watch documentaries and swear we won’t eat out ever again. Then we get hungry and go to Wendy’s. We swear next month we will get back in shape. We look into gyms to join and diets to start but we end up putting it off again and again. Meanwhile we get on Twitter or Facebook and like and favorite snarky comments and laugh at people who have made mistakes so we don’t have to focus on the failures of our own life. It may sound raw and cruel but if you look at the reality of your life you will probably see some truth in it. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I will eat a bowl of ice cream while making fun of someone for being overweight and unhealthy.

The reaction to Cecil the Lion’s death was what started my realization of this. Obviously a wrong was done. It was a tragic event. Try to put that out of your mind and just think about the reaction. Reading about it you would assume the dentist from Minnesota was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Someone posted a sign on his office stating, “rot in hell.” His life is over. His family has had their life ruined. The people he employed lost their job. If you think about it you have probably done something which could have resulted in as much scrutiny as he has received. You likely didn’t get caught and you likely justify it by saying others have done worse or done the same thing. We all could be in the same situation he’s in. Is that a world we want to live in? I’m not sure it matters because I think it is our reality and I don’t see it changing.

I believe this causes a bigger issue. We want to avoid mistakes at all costs so we live as safely as possible. We don’t take risks in our career, we don’t pursue passions, we don’t do anything to rock the boat because we know if we do nothing risky at all, we will not face criticism. We can sit back and rely on cynicism to numb our pain.

The reason we fear mistakes is because we constantly live in fear of being the one who everyone is laughing at. We stand on the sidelines and watch as the chastisement of others is put on full display and sometimes we participate in it.

Do something that matters. Don’t let fear or the potential embarrassment of failure hold you back.

A Year Without Fear

John Lennon’s, “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” is a song you hear a lot this time of year.

As I was listening to it recently one particular line stuck with me. Lennon and Yoko Ono write about hoping the new year is a good one and then there is a line repeated: “Lets hope its a good one, without any fear.”

photo credit: Artem Popov via Creative Commons

photo credit: Artem Popov via Creative Commons

I have lived the majority of my life with a hope like he sings about. I hope I don’t have fear. I hope a situation doesn’t rise up which will cause me to be fearful.

It doesn’t work.

If you ever have a year without any fear you aren’t going to accomplish anything in the year. I was recently listening to Michael Hyatt talk about goals and he had this to say:

I know I’m outside of my comfort zone when I feel that little ping in my heart that says I’m afraid. It’s that little bit of, “I might not be able to do this. It might not work out.” That’s an indication to me that I’m on the right path. Another one is uncertainty. “Well, I don’t know how I would accomplish that.” Let me tell you something. In goal setting, identifying the what is way more important than identifying the how.”

I think fear impacts all of us very differently. Maybe accomplishing something this year as small as applying for that job you want but are too scared to submit your application is what you need to do. There are no insignificant steps when it comes to overcoming fear.

I want to encourage you not to wish fear away. Don’t hope for a year without fear, hope for a year of defeating fear. If you have fear about something, particularly a goal you want to accomplish, that is a good thing. It means you are doing something right.

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you.
Isaiah 41:10

Maybe You’re Like Me

Maybe you’re like me and you are always waiting for something bad to happen. When you get good news at work, you can’t believe it is true. Your mind immediately rushes to think of several different scenarios where this will be a bad thing. When things are going well you pump the brakes of optimism and tell yourself to slow down because this high can’t last forever.

photo credit: Bill Israel via Creative Commons

photo credit: Bill Israel via Creative Commons

Maybe you’re like me and you are a dreamer. You can see your life down the road. It’s wonderful. You see a big house and you are debt free with a thriving professional life. You can envision all of this but the path to get there is as foggy as a cold morning in January. The lack of clarity makes you wish you didn’t even hope. Why can’t you be like others who seem so satisfied with the status quo.

Maybe you’re like me and you struggle with anxiety. Struggle is an understatement. It can cripple you to your knees and make you beg God for another ailment, anything but this one. You bounce through life like a pinball waiting to get thrown faster than the speed of light in another direction with more issues. Waiting to feel like there is something wrong with you even though deep down you know there isn’t.

Maybe if you’re like me you need to hear something. It’s something I need to hear on a daily basis.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7

Not only did God not give us a spirit of fear which cripples us and brings us down, he has given us a spirit of power. Do you feel like you have a spirit of power? Most days I don’t either. I have learned I need to immerse myself with this verse and others like it. God has given me a spirit of a sound mind. I have the ability to overcome anxiety and problems which accompany it.

I still struggle. I still have days where I don’t feel like I can do it. I have to lean into these words. I have to make sure I live and act in the way God has called me to act. He hasn’t called me to be fearful he has called me to be powerful.

So maybe you’re like me and you are getting better. You have issues which come up and they don’t bother you like they did last month or last year. Maybe you realize God has called you to a great life, a prosperous life. Choose to live that way. Maybe you will realize it is the way you should have been living this whole time.