Fear is the mind's way of warning us of a threat or possible pain and injury. It can trigger a fight or flight reaction, meaning fear is manifested both psychologically and physically. It is an important protection for our safety and well-being.
It is also a limiter. Fear can prevent us from trying something new or different. It can keep us locked in a cycle that no longer serves a purpose. It can hold us in a rut that stifles our growth. It limits our potential.
This second category of fear is what this post is about: the fear that can squash our creativity and development, can restrict our fun and happiness, can make us miss so much in life.
I write this post primarily for my benefit, though I hope you will find something here to stimulate you, too. Too often I allow fear of extra work, or trying something new and a bit challenging to keep me locked into a familiar pattern. In those instances where I finally break through the self-imposed barrier, I find a tremendous benefit on the other side.
Examples? Well, Satisfying Journey for one. Even though I like to research a subject and then write about it, and I am inclined toward teaching, it took me at least a year to launch this blog. The fear of public failure, of not having much to say, of running out of enthusiasm for the subject, all delayed things for too long. Once I hit the publish button and worked out the initial stumbles, it is obvious to me how much I would have missed had I listened to the voice of fear in my head.
An important hobby of mine is ham radio. I have had fun talking to others around the world for over ten years. But, fear of all the things that this hobby requires kept me on the sideline for too long. It can be an expensive hobby so I was afraid of wasting the money. A federal license is required to become involved in ham radio. Could I learn enough to pass?
This is a hobby primarily for those who know electronics and like to build transmitters or receivers from scratch. That is not my strength. As I researched the hobby I discovered that many hams are like me: they buy equipment from dealers and enjoy the conversation or "thrill of the hunt" more than the technical side of things. Ham radio clubs are always looking for those who like to lead meetings and organize outings; after just a year of attending I put my leadership skills to work and served as president of a local club for three years.
If I had given up before I began over the possibility of failure, my irrational fears would have kept me from a very enjoyable decade of experiences.
RV travel is another good example of a fear that almost kept Betty and me from a tremendously pleasant part of our life. Buying an RV is not something anyone should do without a lot of thought and study. We bought a used unit for just under $30,000, inexpensive by RV standards. Newer, larger motorhomes can easily cost well over $100,000 - sometimes several times that amount. Fuel, maintenance, camping fees and insurance can add up quickly. Driving a 30 or 40 foot RV through traffic, into the mountains, or even into a gas station is not for the timid.
About four years ago we faced down our fears and hesitations and bought R.T.(Road Trip) the RV. The freedom and joy that decision has brought us has been priceless. We don't travel as much or for as long as we thought we might, but we have found a good balance. While the grandkids are young we like staying close to home most of the time so we can enjoy them and their family whenever we choose. As they enter their teen years and have less time and interest in sleepovers and time with gran and grandad, R.T. will start to rack up more serious miles and time away from home.
Prison ministry was an important part of my life for 5 years. As I have written before, the first time going behind prison gates is terrifying. The facility I visited the most has been the scene of two major disturbances over the past few years, luckily never when I was there. Stepping past the fear to begin to minister to some incarcerated fellows was an important part of the growth of my faith. I trusted God was putting me in a position that I was meant to be. That didn't guarantee my safety but quieted my mind.
Fear can keep one safe from physical danger or risky behavior. It can bring our senses to full alert. It can also cause us to cower when we should leap forward. It can build a wall around us that doesn't keep us safe, it just fences us in.