Fear serves a purpose; it keeps us safe. Recognizing fear and acting on it allows us to avoid danger and keep us out of harm’s way. It tells us when to stop and helps us realize our limits.
I ponder if I have a problem with fear and the lack thereof. A while back, probably as an adolescent, I watched how fear would paralyze some people; some would become immobile, others overly emotional, still some would turn and run. It was not impressive. I made a conscious decision not to be paralyzed by fear. I began to compartmentalize the emotion, rationalize every step of my behavior to get to the point I could perform through the most trying experiences. I became very good at overcoming fears until it become a norm, I took it in stride, and the instinct become almost non-existent. Instead, I replaced fear with faith. I put a large amount of faith in others, equipment, and my own skills to keep me safe and get me out of danger.
Repelling a large wall in Fort Benning was supposed to be a crucible of sorts and “getting down the wall” has become a metaphor for overcoming fears in life. I never once gave a thought to not performing the task. I always knew I’d go down the wall and when it came time to actually look down and begin the descent, I don’t recall fear setting in. Instead, I put my faith in the rappel master, belay man, and two strands of rope. I locked eyes with the jumpmaster, transferred all sense of responsibility for my safety to him, and executed per his instructions. I finished the obstacle in what seemed like an instant.
I ponder what I’m missing in dismissing fear. My experience at the rappelling tower stands in stark contrast to others that had to face that wall: some froze, still some caved to the fear and didn’t even try. I did not get the same feeling of accomplishment as those that were afraid did. Am I missing the point of the experience? Am I cheapening the experience?
Or maybe I’ve already learned that lesson on how to overcome fear?
I know how to replace fear with faith (and a fair amount of levity). Taking fear in stride as I do, I lack that sense of danger to tell me when to stop and some of my decisions have gotten me into trouble. Without fear, I have said some things that may not have been said otherwise, coming off rash or immature, and negatively affected others perception of me; something I didn’t want to happen. Consciously addressing this over the years, I’ve become better at gauging the situation, adjusting accordingly, but scared? Never.