Many people believe the basic fears are fear of falling, fear of abandonment, and fear of loud noises. If, when you were a kid, your mother abandoned you by throwing you out of a three-story window and you made a loud noise when you hit the ground, I don’t think I can help you. The rest of you, read on.
A certain amount of fear is a good thing. It’s normal. Normal fear directs us to look both ways before crossing the street. Abnormal fear prevents us from crossing the street. Denying our fears will cause us to cross the street without looking either way.
Facing fear is difficult but necessary. Face your fears by admitting that you are afraid. Kids are more open about their fears than adults. One kid was really afraid of a big storm. His mother came in to comfort him. He said, “Mommy, will you stay in my room tonight?” She said, “No, I have to stay with Daddy.” As she turned to go, she heard him say under his breath, “Daddy! That big sissy.”
A little girl who was afraid of the dark went into her parents’ room and told her mother she was scared. Her mother said, “It’s okay, sweetheart, there’s nothing to be afraid of, God is in there with you.” The little girl went back to her bed and as she climbed in she said, “God, if you are in here, don’t you say a word or you’ll scare me to death.” Kids are open with their fears.
Why should we face our fear? Living with fear has consequences. You’ve heard the expressions “scared stiff” or “scared to death.” Fear makes you frail. At a symposium, a physician spoke on psychosomatic medicine. The doctor said, “In spite of what they say, almost all chronic patients who see a physician have one problem. That problem did not start with a cough, chest pain, or hyperacidity. In most cases, the first symptom was fear.” Fear makes you sick.
Not only that, fear makes you fumble. When you’re afraid, you have a tendency not to do well. The pressure is so great that it causes you to mess up.
It’s like the guy who was out of money. He decided to rob the bank because he couldn’t think of any other way to get money. He didn’t know anything about robbing banks, so he practiced what he would say over and over. He got the sack to put the money in and a revolver, and then practiced sticking the sack over a counter and pointing the gun in someone’s face saying, “Don’t mess with me. This is a stick up.” When it came time for the real thing, fear took over, and he handed the lady the revolver, raised the sack, and said, “Don’t stick with me. This is a mess up.”
Fear can also make you frantic, causing you to be paralyzed to inaction or, instead, causing you to make a terrible mistake.
Remember the children’s story “Chicken Little”? Chicken Little thought the sky was falling. She told Henny Penny the sky was falling, and the animals stampeded. At last, they met Mr. Fox, who offered them refuge in his den. Because of their panic, they accepted, and Mr. Fox had a feast.
Fear can also make you look foolish. A friend of mine was a starter on the football team his sophomore year. He fielded the opening kick-off, broke through the defensive line, and started running down the sidelines. As he was running, he glanced to his right and saw the shadow of somebody chasing him. He ran faster, but the guy stayed right behind him. To avoid being tackled, when he got close to the goal line he dove into the end zone. He looked back and there was no one behind him. The stadium lights were such that it was his own shadow he was running from. People end up running from their own shadows and doing foolish things. If you don’t face your fears, they will bully you into a life of protection instead of progression.
Have you ever had to deal with a bully? When I was in second grade, I had a bully in my life who would knock me down, push my books off the desk, and call me names. I was so miserable. Finally I got sick of it and decided to face the bully. I turned to her and said, “Look, I’m tired of this.” You know what? She stopped.
Abnormal fear will make you frail, fumbling and frantic. It will make you do foolish things and eventually cause you to fail.
One time when I was taking a snow skiing lesson, the ski instructor came by and knocked me down. I asked him why he did that and he said, “I noticed that you have made a lot of progress until today. Today, you’re making no progress because you are trying to keep from falling. You’re not enjoying this, and you’re tense. I just wanted to show you that falling isn’t that bad.”
Are you really enjoying life, or are you just trying not to fall?