"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Thursday, July 7, 2016

What Fear is Teaching Me about How to Succeed

By Micky Wolf
I’m not talking about succeeding in terms of becoming successful with regard to acquiring stuff, goals, or titles.

Why bother then, you may wonder. Because what it’s taken me the better part of a (long) lifetime to understand is the way fear can inhabit our actions and behaviors at the deepest foundations of our being. And in the process, stop us in our tracks before we ever consider its basic purpose—fight or flight.

It’s what I have come to see—in others as well as myself—as the importance of giving ourselves the blessing of time for discerning how we are going to respond at the first stirring of the emotion and feelings. Visualize, with me, as that being life-in-the-cloudy space that precedes any action. It is uncomfortable. Unsettling.

Too often our reasoning goes that if I don’t allow myself to feel it (I’m talking about being in denial now, not suppression) then I don’t have to make a choice or take action. 

Unfortunately, that’s the point where we have already made a choice, often without realizing it. Ignore it and it will go away. Sometimes. More often, not. 

Fear can serve us well if we know to wield it in love. But that isn’t going to happen if we insist on denying its presence in the tiniest manifestation. If we hope to make the best choice we must resolve to persevere through the cloudy space until we have clarity about why this emotion was stirred up in the first place.

For example:

David (not his real name) shares about his hopes and desires for a deeper, more meaningful relationship with his wife, and yet he resists even considering what that might mean in practical application. Why? By his own admission he believes she needs to change, not him.

But that’s not his real issue, as straightforward as it may seem.

The real issue for David is fear. Entering the fray, so to speak, of emotional weather that 
surrounds his desire for intimacy with his wife would mean he will likely need to make some changes of his own. What he’s really afraid of is that God will show him how he needs to be part of the solution, rather than shifting blame or full responsibility for “what could be and isn’t” to his wife.

Change, for most of us, is downright frightening. Maybe not hurricane, train-wreck, economy-crashing terror, but unpleasant and upsetting at the very least. So we settle for life as it is—slogging around in the cloudy space ad infinitum. We’re familiar with our warts and weaknesses, our goodness and our strengths. Why mess with it if ain’t broken?

Well, fellow sojourner it may not be broken, but what if is meant to be better? Not selfish, what’s-in-this-for-me better. Better as if living a more whole, holy, and vibrant life in the time we’ve been given?

The emotion of fear (like all those the Divine has given us) is meant to be wielded in in service of Truth and goodness. When we resist its presence in the tiniest seeds of uncomfortable feelings that it can produce, we close the door on possibilities and potential.

There are times when the purpose of fear is to prompt us to flee. And that is good.

There are times when the purpose of fear is to prompt us to stay and fight. And that too, is good.

Nevertheless, the sad fact is we may never know which choice is the best if we refuse to recognize fear by its presence in the first place. And then stay with it for the wisdom and insight it can teach us about choosing well and succeeding. In anything.


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