Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Fear in Action

Ask me if I'm afraid, and I will tell you that I'm not - and I won't be lying when I say that. Fear, as in the type of fear that just sits around being afraid of anything, is a pathology. I do not spend my life sitting around being afraid. 

But put me in the moment that requires action, and...well, ask me again. 

Fear is not really something that can (or should) be disembodied. Again, that would be a pathology. We might call it neuroticism of a sort. The truth is that overwhelmingly, most of us are not spending our lives afraid in our neutral moments. We're only afraid at the moment that action is required. 

I'm not afraid, in my head, of skydiving, but put me in a plane with a parachute strapped to my back and all of a sudden, I'm a bit scared. 

I'm not afraid of driving through the mountains, but put me on the edge of one behind the wheel and all of a sudden, I'm nervous.

By the way - do you do this, too? I'm trying to find words that indicate a bit of anxiety or nervousness that go just so far, but not all the way to fear. We say things like "nervous," "anxious," "timid," ... anything but "scared." Anything but "afraid." We label our emotions as literally anything but "fear" because for some reason, fear seems so stupid to us. 

And it's because we think that fear is so radical. It's so extreme. In fact, it's so extreme that it really only gives us two options in response to it - shrink entirely backward and fall into ourselves or find some kind of superhuman courage and barrel through it. Fear doesn't leave us, we don't think, with very many "rational" responses, so...anything but fear. 

It's so strange, this thing called fear, though.

I can sit here and tell you I'm not afraid, and I can be honest in that. Then, you put me in the moment, and I'm very clearly afraid. So afraid that perhaps I don't even take the opportunity that the moment gives me. Maybe I back out completely, give up, turn around, go home. But as soon as I get home, where I have the space to process the idea in my head, I come very quickly to the conclusion that I am actually not afraid. And I am still not lying when I say that

In all of the courage that I have in myself, in all of my rational mind that understands the world as it is, in all the faith that I have in the goodness of God, in the quiet of my own home, I am not afraid. 

But take me to do it again, and I'm just as likely to back out the second time as I was the first. I'm just as likely, on the edge of doing whatever it is, to declare that I can't do it. Something in the pit of my stomach stops me just the same. 

It sure seems like fear. It sure feels like fear. 

But...I am not afraid. 

And this is why fear is so silly. This is why it's so hard. Because it doesn't seem to matter all the time what we know or what we believe or what we trust or how sure we are in any of these things; put us in a moment to choose against fear, and...we're unlikely to do so. 

And then spend our lives justifying why we didn't, with the top of our justifications being that, actually, we weren't afraid. 

No matter how many persons saw us nearly wet ourselves. 

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