One of the greatest pieces of advice ever given is this: Seek to live from love, not from fear. Over the long run, a few important things are true. Love expands us. Fear contracts us. A life mainly guided by fear is a small, shrunken substitute for what it could have been.
But most of us can’t completely avoid the experience of fear. And in this world, we probably shouldn’t, anyway. So. In order to deal with it properly, we need to know its purpose. And here’s a surprise.
The purpose of fear is to make us act. It’s not to make us freeze.
Think about it: How many times do we ever find ourselves explaining someone’s tremendous success in a challenging situation by saying, “She froze. That’s why she prevailed.”
The deer in the headlights doesn’t escape danger by becoming motionless. The purpose of fear is to motivate action – often avoidance, sometimes preparation, always a new level of focused concentration. When we’re trying something new where great gains or losses are at stake, fear will often arise. It’s a certain form of emotional energy. The question then becomes: What do we do with it? Sometimes, it properly makes us stop and think and then proceed no farther. Often, it makes us stop and think and then proceed better. Courage can listen to fear but doesn’t misunderstand it as nature’s ultimate Stop Sign. Courage can be counseled by fear, but is never undermined by it.
When you next feel fear, let it make you act. Don’t react in paralysis instead. Act. The right action may be a higher level of thinking, which, after all, is an action in its own right. Or what’s called for could be a matter of physical movement. Fear isn’t always our enemy, simply something to be overcome. It can be a stimulus to act properly, with consciousness, and focus. It can guide us to adapt, adjust, and act well.
It always signals the unknown. And the unknown is where the amazing can be found.
Just don’t let fear stop you from acting at all. And remember, still, that the highest motivation is love. And perfect love, as we’re told, casts out fear, even if it first feels it, and listens, and acts – it just never lets fear be the final word.