Sometimes there is nothing to be afraid of. Perhaps most of the time. I didn’t realize how often fear is my go-to approach until one night this week it switched off.
I was puzzling through some non-life-threatening problem that I had invested with a great deal of urgency when it suddenly became clear that there was nothing urgent about it. There are life-threatening situations in this world that may warrant fear—fires, hurricanes, bombs, abuse—but whether the kitchen gets clean or the work assignment gets finished or the person likes me are not among them. Yet I invest these moments with such fraught energy.
I carry around a mostly unconscious, baseline assumption that unless I’m a little afraid, I won’t perform well. As if fear makes everything better. As if life were a performance.
This approach assumes a certain untrustworthiness in oneself and the world. This worldview does not admit the value of failure, the freedom of making mistakes, or, perhaps most importantly, the beauty of one’s self.
We are always changing and evolving along with the rest of creation, and though we participate in that evolution, we’re not in control of it. I think we’re taught that anything out of our control is scary, and that includes our true selves, hidden with Christ in God.
Maybe we have good reason to be scared of our true selves. The more we get in touch with the Love at the center of our being, the harder it will be to continue living as we have been. Our habits of thinking and feeling, the rules we’ve made for ourselves, the criteria by which we’ve reassured ourselves that we’re OK will all begin to feel empty.
But we’ll exchange survival for joy, stasis for dynamism, fear for trust, and self-protection for love. Not a bad tradeoff, all in all.