COURAGE: the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, intimidation, or difficulty.
FEAR: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.
COURAGE TO ADMIT FEAR
Fear is a psychological response to any real or perceived danger or threat. Perception is reality. If you perceive danger, you feel fear. It is innate. It is universal. The human mind is wired that way. And, for as much as we understand the emotions of other animals, they are wired that way, too. Fear, and knowing what to fear, is one of the ways that we protect ourselves. It is a basic survival tactic. There is no need to be ashamed to admit when you are afraid.
COURAGE TO FACE FEAR
After we admit our fear, we have to determine if our fear is rational, or irrational. Are we in real danger, or is the perceived threat a reaction to an imagined situation?
The first, a rational fear, is a result of impending danger, evil, or pain and calls for an action of protection. For example, if someone is following you, you need to choose an appropriate course of action. Walk briskly. Cross the road, Change your course. Pass your house. Get to safety. Call the police.
The second, an irrational fear, may be a reaction to an incident that happened previously. Or to a dream, or even something we have seen in a movie or heard someone else talk about. Even though the fear may be based upon an actual incident, when it persists, causing disabling panic attacks and interfering with daily living, it becomes irrational. We must know what we fear. We don’t have to understand everything about it to face it. But we have to identify what we fear and face it.
COURAGE TO RESIST FEAR
Virtus timorem resistit
Once we have admitted, identified and faced our fear, we must choose an appropriate action to resist it. At this time, we know we are afraid. And often, fear has paralyzed us to the point of inaction. With this knowledge, we must employ the power of resistance. If we have decided that our fear is rational, our resistance to that fear must be based in action to dispel it. As I stated above, after we recognize the fear and what it commands of us, we use our power to decide upon its resistance – to call the police, to get to safety, to defend ourselves, and so on. We resist fear by acting against it.
In the case of an irrational fear, even though there is no clear and present danger, the challenge may, in fact, be more difficult. Yet, resistance is still the key. For our mental, psychological, and spiritual survival, we have to resist the strong hold of fear. Often, the more that we think about the “what ifs” and the negative feelings, the stronger they become. Instead of resisting fear, we are reinforcing it. I am not implying that we can readily adopt a “not afraid” persona. Not at all. I am just stating that to begin to resist the fear means we must steadfastly commit to becoming unafraid. You can say over and over again, “I am not afraid. I am not afraid.” This does not take the fear away. But it holds up a sign that says I am resisting fear. It is a step toward disallowing fear to take hold and cripple you. Once you begin to openly and loudly resist fear, you are on your way to healing.
“Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North – meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing. We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others. Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel towards pursuing it.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
COURAGE TO OVERCOME FEAR
Eleanor Roosevelt said: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Some of these methods include what we have already done: admit it, face it, stare it down, plan for the possibility of being afraid in a situation and examine and explore the consequences and resist it.
Sometimes we cannot do this alone. We need help. And often the people we are closest to are not going to be able to help us. You can get professional help. Psychologists and therapists have many different strategies and techniques to help you with the aspects of fear, such as phobias, and panic and anxiety attacks. One of these methods is Systematic Desensitization Behavior Therapy, which involves a step by step process to confront your fear. Another is Exposure Therapy, where the therapist exposes you to the very situations that you avoid for fear of having an attack. And counseling, or psychotherapy, can help you cope with any of those fears, rational and/or irrational.
Read: Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard
Learn how Much-Afraid overcomes her tormenting fears as she passes through many dangers and mounts at last to the High Places.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
“My soul is full of longing
For the secret of the sea,
And the heart of the great ocean
Sends a thrilling pulse through me.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I love the ocean. Its power draws me in. The refreshing and invigorating salty scent filling the air, cleanses my soul. The rhythm of the waves flowing in and out again in ageless, timeless serenity calms my spirit. For me, it is a place of healing, centering, and renewal.
I am out of my comfort zone. All of my piles, scraps, and journals have been left at home. My iPhone and iPad are safe from the sun, salt, and sand. It’s hard to write with the wind blowing in my face. It’s even difficult to read. Forced relaxation. Time to wonder. To ponder. To appreciate God’s creation. I am quiet with my thoughts.
Watching children make castles, dig holes, chase gulls. Older kids playing football, soccer, paddleball. Listening to the sounds of running, splashing, laughing. A dog racing into the foamy water to retrieve a stick. A boy and his mother flying a kite. Boogie boards, babies, and bottle nosed-dolphins.
Walking along the sand, I see creatures diving for cover to hide from the sandpiper’s long bills. With the foamy waves swirling around my ankles, I watch a huge flock of seagulls skimming the water, changing direction in perfect unison. Suddenly the pelicans arrive, dipping and diving for food. I pick up a conch, turn it over, see that there is life dwelling within, and toss it back into the outgoing tide.
With the smell of suntan lotion, sea salt, and sweat, I realize I have been writing all the while.
“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach–waiting for a gift from the sea.”
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh