Fear is a powerful emotion. It is also fluid and subtle and may disguise itself behind a variety of masks. It is easy to tell ourselves that we are not afraid; we are just concerned, we are just checking, we are just trying to be responsible. Some of us work pretty hard not to use this “F” word. It feels a little better to not say it out loud.
Last night I was with a group of parents at our Elementary School. The room was packed with moms, dads, administrators and teachers discussing the upcoming 6th grade Field Trip. This is the Mother of all Field Trips in our school. It is an out of state event with chartered busses; a boat ride and three nights away from home in a pretty rustic setting. The 6th grade kids could not be more excited. The 6th grade parents could not be more anxious. Everyone in the meeting was working hard to not use the “F” word. Throughout the presentation and discussion there were questions of every kind and detail from the Parent group. The trip leaders provided lots of reassuring information, handouts, pictures and testimonials from prior years. It was a well-organized and effective meeting, but behind and below most of the questions and most of the answers was a thick and slippery layer of Parental Fear.
Fear is an important emotion. It is designed to alert us to real dangers and to help us survive an immediate threat. Fear in the right context may save our life. Fear in the wrong context will steal our life
Ten years ago I was at a Young Life Summer Camp helping counsel and lead a group of Special Needs High School Students. On day four we took this amazing group of kids through a very challenging Ropes Course. This course was designed for able-bodied adolescents and was significantly more difficult for kids with Special needs.
Chucky was a 16 year-old in our group who was adamant about doing the course. We made the modifications we could but Chucky appeared overwhelmed as he completed the first section. He was shaking and crying from the struggle. I began making plans to bring Chucky down from the course, it was clearly too much for him. Chucky refused to come down; instead he took several deep breaths and began the next section. During the next 90 minutes Chucky willed himself from station to station crying and shaking the entire time. I made multiple attempts to bring Chucky down from the course that day. He refused all of them. Exhausted and excited Chucky got to his finish line and completed the course.
My debrief with Chucky went like this:
“ Chucky, you looked really scared on the Ropes Course”
“ I was really scared”
“Why didn’t you let me help you, I could have brought you down?”
Chucky looked me square in the eyes that day, he told me that he didn’t stop because,
“It was only fear”
Chucky used the “F” word that day. The truth is Chucky has faced and overcome more fears than I can know or imagine. He is no longer afraid to be afraid.
When I grow up I want to be like Chucky.
Let’s give our daughters and ourselves permission to name our fears. Let’s risk saying it out loud to one another.
Then lets take a deep breath and finish the course.
When your knees start to shake remember, it’s only fear.