I’m afraid my daughter might grow up not realizing how much I treasure her. I’m afraid my wife might not know how much I really love her. I’m afraid I will get to the end of my life and realize that I’ve wasted many of my days chasing things that don’t matter. I’m afraid of insignificance. I’m afraid of not being awesome at everything I attempt. I’m afraid of people who would do me and my family harm with no concern whatsoever to the consequence of their actions. I’m afraid of the consequences of some of my actions. I’m afraid of getting passed over and left behind. I’m afraid my life doesn’t matter and my contributions aren’t significant. I’m afraid of getting cancer and dying before I’ve lived the life I always imagined for myself. I’m afraid of knives and guns. I’m afraid of not being liked. I’m afraid of snakes and poisonous spiders and velociraptors… yeah I went there. You would too if you happened to be a child the first time you saw Jurassic Park… those terrible bird-like buggers are some nasty creatures.
I’m afraid of all those things and more, but I don’t let fear paralyze me.
A real man knows that he’ll always have fear. No matter what he does or who he is, there will always be some things that cause him fear. And he’s OK with that because a real man knows how to experience his fear.
He doesn’t shy away from fear. In fact, he doesn’t even try to resist it. He wants to experience the feeling of his fear fully. He acknowledges the presence of fear and seeks to understand its cause. He knows that fear, much like happiness or anger or any other fleeting emotion is just that… a fleeting emotion.
A real man stares fear right in the face, tries to understand it for what it truly is, and then he acts.
And in most cases, it doesn’t even matter what he does. In fact, most of the time, the sheer feat of action in the face of paralyzing fear is almost always enough to overcome whatever it is we dread.
Are you afraid of velociraptors? Then do what I do. Every time I feel that fear creeping in, I get online and make a small donation to the American Society for the Prevention of Velociraptor Attacks. My $5 or $10 doesn’t do much, but it does do a little. And when we’re fighting fear, a little action goes a long way.
Once I’ve donated to the cause, what they do with the money is pretty much out of my hands at that point. And like most things I fear, I realize that I have no control whatsoever over what happens next. Maybe my $5 is the $5 that finally puts an end to velociraptor attacks. And maybe it’s not. But either way, no matter what I do, if a velociraptor wants to show up at my doorstep this morning and hunt me down on my way out to my car, then so be it. It’s out of my control.
And it’s the same with pretty much everything else I fear. I can do things to avoid, prevent, or overcome my fears, but once I’ve done my part, the outcome and everything else that happens is out of my control in the end.
If I want my life to matter and I’m afraid of insignificance, I need do significant things. If I’m afraid my wife and daughter don’t know how smitten I am by them, I need to show them. If I’m afraid of getting passed over and left behind, I either need to speed up or slow down and realize that life is not actually a race. If I’m afraid of not being awesome at everything I attempt, I need to attempt less or lower my expectations. If I’m afraid of chasing things that don’t matter, I need to start chasing things that do. If I’m afraid of getting cancer and dying before I’ve lived the life I always imagined for myself, I need to start living that life today. If I’m afraid of things that are beyond my control, I need to realize that I’m not really in control of anything anyway.
A real man does not shy away from his fears. He welcomes them with open arms and uses them as motivation for action.
I still haven’t figured out what to do about my phobia of knives and guns, but if you have any suggestions, you can find me in the snake house at the zoo staring down a few of my other fears on the safe side of a pane of four-inch glass.