Photo by ManicMorFF on Morgue File
People are afraid of all kinds of things: spiders, the dark, or being enclosed in small spaces. Tell us about your greatest fear — rational or irrational.
If there is nothing to fear but fear itself, then fear must come in many different and varying guises. Though some may dispute it, I do not think all fear is unhealthy or misplaced. Certainly, some fears must be overcome. Some fears are, in fact, irrational and can be a hindrance in one’s life. But fear, like many things, is not one-dimensional: it is multifaceted.
My wife has a fear of snakes. I know many who share this fear. For my wife, any snake is a rattlesnake! Her philosophy is to kill first and ask questions later! My approach is a bit different. I do not kill a snake unless I know it is poisonous. If it is not, I let it go. In fact, behind our house is a pole barn my wife’s grandfather built many years ago. Last year while cleaning it out, my dad and I ran across a rather large chicken snake. My dad asked me what I wanted to do with it. I told him to put it down and let it be. My thinking is that I would rather have a useful serpent in the barn, killing mice and rats, then have those little creatures infesting the barn.
So, what is it I fear? Well, let’s see . . . I don’t fear snakes or spiders or any other creepy crawler. I don’t fear the dark; I actually like it. I often sit in my house, when the family is away, with lights and TV off and just enjoy the stillness and quiet. I don’t fear black cats crossing my path, or the number thirteen or walking underneath a ladder. I don’t fear ghosts and goblins or any other supposed paranormal creatures.
So, what do I fear? I suppose I would say I fear things more tangible, more practical than these other things. I fear failing as a father to my girls. I fear not being a good husband to my wife. I fear being less human than God created me to be. I fear failing at the calling God has placed on my life.
I fear ignorance and apathy. I fear selfishness and bias. I fear a judgmental spirit. I fear complacency and a lethargic attitude.
But, as I mentioned earlier, I do not see in these fears, and others like them, a negative. I see them as something that helps keep my feet to the ground and my hands on the wheel. They help to keep me motivated and moving forward. They help to remind me, that if I do not trust and follow the Lord, I will have a natural tendency to turn inward with a gravitational pull toward my own world, to the neglect of any and all around me.
Not all fears are unhealthy. Not all fears should be eradicated from our lives.
I have had those other fears that I felt were unhealthy or a hindrance. How have I dealt with those? For the most part, I have faced them. When I was a child, like many children, I had a fear of the dark. So, what did I do? I placed my self in darkness. I embraced a dark room and found there was nothing to fear.
I once was afraid of public speaking. I had reasons to have such a fear. I was a delayed speaker as a toddler. When I did start speaking, I had difficulty annunciating certain sounds and diphthongs. My mind would often times be faster than my mouth, causing me to stutter or become tongue-tied when trying to communicate. To illustrate how much I feared (and loathed) public speaking, in high school (11th grade to be exact) our English/Lit. teacher would have the class memorize a few poems throughout the year. Of course, the kicker was you had to stand and recite the poem before the class. I memorized the poems (I have always enjoyed poetry) but when the day came to stand and recite, I remained seated! I would intentionally take an “F” for a grade, instead of facing my fear of public speaking. One day, the teacher called me to her desk after class and asked me why I would not recite the poem. She said she knew that I knew the poem and could not understand why I would intentionally take an “F” as a grade. I told her the long and short of it and she allowed me to recite it to her and gave me an “A”.
When I was seventeen, I became a Christian. At the same age, I began preaching. I have always said God has a sense of humor. He creates me as an introvert with speech development issues as a child and then calls me to preach!
How did I overcome my fear of speaking in front of people? I simply got up in front of people and started speaking. I did this enough to realize the only fear was the fear itself.
Some fears are more difficult to overcome I know. Some fears are instinctive to help protect us form potential dangers. These help us survive and to be cautious of those things that can harm us.
But fear can sometimes be a healthy thing . . . a driving force that helps us to be more than we could be without them.