Fear in Moderation
According to the Oxford Dictionary, fear is defined as: “An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” We respond to physical and emotional danger through fear. It is a way of protecting ourselves against these kinds of threats. Fear can be a good thing. But sometimes too much fear can be debilitating.
I know someone who is terrified of bad weather. We live in Minnesota, which means that we have our fair share of thunderstorms and tornadoes. And even though this person has never even come close to seeing a tornado, every time there’s a severe thunderstorm watch, her emotional response is that she is certain that the severe thunderstorm watch will turn into a tornado warning. She paces up and down while watching the weather channel, ready to flee into her basement at a moment’s notice. If there’s a tornado watch, her fear practically paralyzes her. And if the tornado sirens do blare, she is inconsolable because she is certain that a tornado will tear through her neighborhood, down her street, and whisk her house away with her in it. This is how afraid she becomes. So whenever there’s a severe thunderstorm watch, I know that I’ll be receiving a call from her, and I do all that I can to reassure her. I talk her through it, but she’s never truly convinced that everything will be okay until all the warnings and watches are cancelled. This is a case where too much fear is debilitating.
But what about those who don’t have enough fear? Is there such a thing? Yes. I have seen it, first-hand. I worked for twenty-five years as a registered nurse in the operating room. And I can’t tell you how many young men’s deaths I witnessed; those we couldn’t save on the operating table because they had been in motorcycle accidents but had not been wearing helmets at the time. They suffered fatal brain injuries which might not have occurred if had been wearing those helmets to protect their heads. They didn’t have enough fear.
As for me? I used to be afraid of dying. I thought about this today; that is, I thought about when I used to have this fear of dying, and it was at a time when I was young, just starting out in life. I was a young wife, a young mother, and I had my whole life ahead of me. I had my children to raise, I had a wonderful marriage, and a job that I loved. But now, I’m not afraid of dying anymore. I’ve been through a lot of pain and suffering in these last ten years, a lot of illness and poor health, and I’ve faced death a few times already. I’m just not afraid anymore. I’ve had a wonderful life. I’ve had and still do have the love of my life. I’ve raised my children and they are amazing. And it’s not that I don’t still have things to do, because I do. It’s just that I know that when I die, it won’t be the end for me. I do believe there’s something better waiting for us when we die, so maybe that’s why I’m not afraid. Of course, my faith has a lot to do with that.
The fear that I have is a fear of heights. I was never afraid of heights when I was younger, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve become more afraid of heights. I don’t like looking out the window of a second-story house. I don’t even like to stand on a chair to reach the top shelf in my kitchen cupboard. But what’s really weird is that even though I’m afraid of heights, I have dreams that I’m flying! Now talk about irony! I thought that maybe having flying dreams meant that I was trying to conquer my fear of heights, but I looked it up and what they really mean is that a person has gained a new and different perspective on things, and are representative of your own personal sense of power. Hmm … I wonder if that means I’ve gained a different perspective on my fear of heights?
I think a person needs to have a healthy sense of fear. We need to be able to respond to the threats of danger and protect ourselves. That’s why it’s a built-in response. But we can’t let it go into overdrive, either. Everything in moderation. That’s the ticket. So don’t be afraid to be afraid, but don’t let it rule your life, either.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Fear is the father of courage and the mother of safety. ~ Henry H. Tweedy