An old adage spoken by some great men, like Albert Einstein, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy among others, is the adage, “You have nothing to fear but fear itself.” It has been made famous by popular culture, and it has been made to sound noble and corny, a turn of phrase to motivate and encourage people. But to we really understand it and why there are so many people affected by fear?
When we confronted with those things we cannot control, which for many of us includes so many aspects of our daily lives, we are confronted with the issue of “fear”. Some see it as too strong a word, that it implies some sort of phobia or anxiety, and that other terms would convey a better definition that is less striking or offensive as the word “fear”. In any case there are many, whether or not they are people of faith or people with no expression or belief in faith, who are ravaged by all kinds of fear.
Many manifest fear or anxiety when they are stressed out by new things they are experiencing, or challenges that they cannot control. It is OK. It is part of the human condition. We worry about everything from the future, to the health and wellbeing of our loved ones, school grades, work performance, our own health issues, and a host of others. But there is a difference between a healthy concern and excessive worry and anxiety.
Dealing with fear
I have found myself over the years dealing with aspects of anxiety and fear and at different stages of my life I have used different approaches and tools to deal with my fear issues. Let’s take a look at a few samples from my own life, beginning at the beginning of my own true self-awareness. Self-awareness is really a great place to begin. As we enter into our teen years we begin to discover who we are as boys and girls, we begin to deal with situations and develop the tools to deal with challenges to fear and anxiety.
As I kid I found myself challenged to try and fit in. I was the eldest in our family, and I was also an only child. My brother Paul was next in line to me and he died at age two and I was five. It left a void and a break in the birth order. There was almost a five year gap in age between my sister Jacqueline and I, and an eight year gap between my brother Stephen, and an eleven year gap between my brother Jonathon and I. I was in a family, but I was essentially an only child. It affected my growing up and my development as a teen and young man. The anxiety and fear the death of Paul caused was subliminal but manifested many times in how I would try to relieve the stresses in my family dynamics, especially how my mother handled situations and even the sibling issues in our family home. I always sweated profusely trying to remedy other people’s issues and problems, even as a pre-teen.
The fear of success
This affected me too, in high school and trying out for sports. I was above average but did not think highly of myself. I would excel but not see myself as being competent or good enough. Too many times, rather than try and fail, I would just quit. It was all rooted in the fear of success, more than the fear of failure. This fear of success has haunted me in much of my own adult life, be it at job opportunities or career advancement, or even in church and parachurch opportunities. I was the master of my own underdoing believing the lies of the enemy, that I was just not good enough, and that no matter how much I tried, I would never be good enough. All those thoughts were lies wrapped up in the fear of success. It has taken me years to get over that kind of fear. I am trying daily to master that part of my life and see myself as deserving of success and that all my hard work will reap rewards in my life. I am not defined by my work, but my work reflects who I am and my worth more than the measurement of my work and achievements. I have intrinsic value and God looks at me as He does with you, as a person of worth and value, not because of what you can do for Him, but simply because He loves you and I.
Facing the fears and traumas of life
Once I began to process much of this line of thinking in my own life, I began to look at fear differently. I have had to face all kinds of fears head on, fears of a child that is battling cancer, to fear for my own health of late. My wife was concerned for me because of my blood sugars and my apparent disregard for my health. I have changed the last couple of years and taken matters in hand to better control my blood sugars, and I returned to the care of caring family physician. My doing so helped to alleviate my own wife’s cares and concerns. She did not want to be left an early widow by my own neglect of my health.
Lori still doesn’t want to be a premature widow even now as I deal this current health issue. We have spoken out load about of anxieties and our cares and concerns. That is the most wonderful thing about having a loving and trusting relationship with your spouse. You can bare your heart and your soul and walk this journey emotionally and spiritually together. Lori’s eyes welled up when she spoke this week about this very thing. I choked up myself and spoke about not wanting to die. I want a longer life to be shared with my wife and children and hopefully grandchildren if and when they come. Crisis like this, in a person’s life causes you to reflect on your life, and where you are at, not to depress you, but to compel you to action.
I refuse to wallow in self-pity, and choose to be inspired by those who have endured and persevered.
Just today, in the Buffalo News, there is an article about one of the Bills draft picks, Karlos Williams, a rookie running back, a 230 pound, 6’ 1” frame of a man, who has received inspiration and keeps himself motivated by a young kid that impacted him. Speaking of this young boy, Kase Powel who die of brain cancer at age 4 in March 2014, Karlos Williams said:
“You can fight a hot day in camp,” Williams said. “You can fight a minor surgery. You can fight pain. You can fight all of that when you see a kid go through chemo, go through treatments and still keep an up-tempo spirit about life. Every time I felt bad, every time I was sore, I look at my wrist and ask, ‘Would Kase want me to quit?’ No. Would Kase want me to give up? No.
Bills rookie, Karlos Williams scores touchdown on his first NFL play.
I read that today, and my eyes well up with tears and I think of my own little girl, Carragh, who battled cancer for seven of her nine years on this earth, suffering and persevering through three relapses, chemotherapy, radiation, and a host of other treatments and procedures to extend her life. Carragh taught me not only how to die, but how to live, and that is what Karlos Williams is talking about, overcoming adversity and never giving up and losing hope. I found this to be true with my daughter Carragh. She battled and believed to literally her last breath that God could raise her up as He had done before.
Choose to live a life filled with an attitude of gratitude
So here I am today, facing the unknown about my own health. I could be ruled by fear, fear of death and dying, fear of my health being compromised further or worsened. Or I can choose to be courageous and brave and choose to fight and live. I choose life. I choose to be positive. I choose to see life as an adventure to be lived, even in severe challenges to health and wellbeing. I choose to live and work hard to overcome adversity. Half the battle is attitude and by that I mean a good attitude. The other half is gratitude. I choose to be thankful for the life I have already lived, and for the blessings I continue to have in my life. I choose to walk in gratitude, and to express that thanks to God, and to all the people who continue to grace my life and share in the journey of life with me.
Today, take a few moments and reflect. Think of something that you can be thankful for and express thanks to that person, or give thanks to God for that thing or person you are thankful for. Today, at this moment, lay hold of this moment, and decide you are going to have a positive attitude, and that you will embrace the challenge to live positively in this moment, and look to each successive moment as another domino that will fall in the right direction because of your positive attitude.
I hope your day ends well and that your weekend will be an exquisite experience of fullness of life, a life filled with an attitude of gratitude.