Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Fear and courage

"Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the strength to act wisely when we are most afraid." (Mary Fisher, AIDS activist)

"Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." (Deuteronomy 31:6)
A combination of books I am reading has led me to consider fear and courage. So much of what we do (or don't do ) is a result of fear. And often the greatest fear is what might others think?

A story revolving around World War One showed me the essence of the above quotes. Men went into battle deathly afraid of the circumstances, without an iota of reassurance that things might work out just fine. It was war. People died. People were wounded. People were captured. People were left alone. People lost loved ones. There was no mincing the effects of that era. And yet the men took courage and fought for freedom. And, perhaps even more courageous, their mothers and loved ones let them go. Yes, as a mother now, I understand the strength it took for mothers to watch their sons enlist to fight a war thousands of miles away. Not one of our Canadian forefathers was forced to fight; every man could have refused, every mother pleaded with him not to go. It seems to me that wartimes define courage.

And now I am reading about facing our own battles and enemies: our fears. Those things that prevent us from being the very best we can be. I feel almost ashamed at my own fears: what others might think, failure, embarrassment, missing a crucial element in raising my children. What are these in the face of standing on the front lines staring death in the eyes? What are these in the face of sending my children to stare death in the eyes? I know I have my own set of weaknesses, challenges and trials, and they are not to be minimized, for they have been designed for me that I may overcome them and be strengthened. And yet I have swallowed a good dose of perspective this past week.

I read an interesting comparison between fear and war: we need to fight our enemy that is fear just as a general fights his enemy in the battlefield. Avoidance or being ill-prepared is no way to assure victory. These steps seem so practical and achievable and sensible that I would be remiss not to jot them down here. Who knows but that I will return to this entry time and time again to remind myself just how to conquer my own great enemy of fear:

1) Name the enemy - what am I afraid of?
2) Describe the enemy - why am I afraid?
3) Risk assessment - what is the worst possible thing that could happen? What are the odds that actually might happen?
4) Develop your tactical plan - what will I do if those worse things do happen?
5) Identify your troops and resources - who or what will help me?
6) Finalize your battle plan - where do I start?
7) Add your primary advisor - the Saviour (see bible verse above)

These kinds of exercises always seem to require so much time and effort, when really I could simply go on as I have been. I can just avoid that fear, because I've been getting along just fine this far. Haven't I? I can just leave out those things that might lead to failure, embarrassment, etc.
Of all sad words of tongue and pen
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"
(John Greenleaf Whittier)

An avoidance of things that might lead to heartache
Inevitably also means an avoidance of that which might lead to joy.

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