Martin Luther King Jr., who in his last years had every reason daily to fear for his life, said,
“COURAGE FACES FEAR AND THEREBY MASTERS IT
COWARDICE REPRESSES FEAR AND IS THEREBY MASTERED BY IT.”
These are mighty words spoken by a mighty man who lived them; had he not lived them, our country would be a different place today. How many people do you know right now who walk forward toward that which frightens them? My favorite definition of courage is “fear that is faced.”
I recognize fear as one of the greatest robbers in my life when I let it. I often realize that if my thinking patterns had not been stretched and altered by faith teachings, I would have crippled those I love by trying to “protect” them from everything outside my little world. I realize that that is not reasonable thinking, but I still have to fight those protective thoughts.
Fear has a power of its own; thoughts of catastrophes and snags and slights and mistakes can literally almost talk to you, and what they say cannot be believed. How often have you had the desire to lasso those close to you and keep them at home? These thoughts have a way of rearing their heads this time of year as children are outside more, teens are on the road twice as much and the “leaving for college days” approach.
When my children were preschoolers, I had the mistaken notion that I could protect them if I could see them. I went to great lengths to keep them under my roof. I was very hesitant to let anyone else drive them or take them places. When all of us were at home, I was content; fear had a way of taking over when we were scattered. How can that kind of fear rob a person? Our minds can cause us to base decisions on erroneous thinking. In my case correct thinking would have been that children need experiences beyond that of one person to learn to cope and to have skills. Also, our children need to “catch” from us the kind of faith that gives them freedom to walk without fear. Faith can be contagious. Fear is definitely contagious! If you don’t believe that, hire a babysitter who is afraid of bugs and storms and see how long it takes your non-fearful child to become a person with life-long fears of bugs and storms. One of the greatest things that you can give your children is the belief that the world is a wonderful place of adventure just waiting for them to discover. I have tried to change my parting remark to, “have fun” instead of “be careful.”
Fear of the unknown has robbed us all of something. Because of this fear, people don’t go off to school, don’t take trips or new jobs or join an organization or pursue their dream.
Fear of the future often paralyzes people and keeps them from enjoying the present. That is an awful price to pay. Every day is precious and is a gift meant to be used in a meaningful way and to be enjoyed.
The fear of making mistakes (and what people might say about that) is the biggest robber in town. We will never know what was not accomplished because of this fear. If Martin Luther King had decided to let fear stop him from what he believed to be right, millions would have been affected. How could we ever measure what this fear has kept us from accomplishing?
Another fear that takes joy from us is the fear of rejection. This fear keeps us from walking toward meaningful relationships and keeps us from expressing our real thoughts and dreams. When we let anything hinder in these areas, we miss so much. No one willingly walks toward rejection, so fear of rejection stops us cold.
Fear of being called a fanatic has robbed its share of folks also. Somehow it is a great thing to be a sports fan(atic), but such vocal enthusiasm in any other arena of life seems to show somehow questionable judgment or intelligence. Does it all boil down to the fear of what others think? Wouldn’t that be a shame? “Others” are most often people who don’t even care about us, and we surely don’t need to put them in the driver’s seat of our actions!
If we have “caught” irrational fear from those raising us or those who have been influential in our lives, let’s learn to recognize this enemy and stop it in its tracks. We need to remember what Mark Twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
(You can reach Pat Bryson at firstname.lastname@example.org)