Once in a while I hear someone say that living a life totally free from fear is impossible. They even illustrate that theory with a metaphor. They ask, “when you cross the street, do you look both ways before you step out into the street?”
Well, of course we do! But that’s not fear, that’s caution, and there is a difference.
Caution tells us to look both ways before we cross the street. It tells us to investigate the company we are considering for our retirement plan. It tells us to stick our hand under the running water in the shower before we step in. It tells us to compare products before making a purchase decision, or to compare interest rates before committing to a loan.
Fear tells us to stop dead in our tracks. Or it tells us to run like crazy. Or it tells us to fight back. When we are judging anyone else or anything else for anything at all, we are in fear. Fear separates us from our fellow human beings, and it also prevents us from experiencing all the joy that life has to offer. Fear tells us to believe what the dogma says, even if something inside of us is quietly telling us not to, because if we don’t something bad might happen. Fear keeps us from being true to ourselves. Fear causes us to do what everyone else is doing, to wear what they wear and say what they say, even if secretly we don’t want to do that, or wear that, or say that. Fear causes us to do things we would not otherwise do. Fear is the activator of everything negative in our lives.
Can you tell I don’t much appreciate fear?
Some folks will tell us that fear is there for a reason, that it is genetically bred into us, because back when we were living in caves we needed it to protect ourselves. Well, we aren’t living in caves anymore, and while I acknowledge the existence of that adrenaline rush that happens when we are threatened or excited, I still think there is a difference between fear and caution.
So what do you do if you recognize that there is some fear going on within you? I’m assuming you want to be rid of the fear in your life of course. If you like being judgmental, not doing the things you want to do, doing things you don’t want to, and limiting yourself, then stop reading here. But if you want to be rid of the fear in your life, here are some helpful tidbits.
1. Recognize fear for what it is. It is what some people call the ego, trying to protect us. But it disguises itself as judgment. Or you will finding yourself saying “I can’t” when you really want to say, “I can!” And the infamous “yeah but….” is a dead ringer for fear.
2. Know that fear and love cannot exist in the same place at the same time. Some people say that fear and faith cannot exist in the same place at the same time, but faith is a misunderstood term and the subject of another blog post, so I’m going to stick with love. Love demolishes fear in one fell swoop. I’m not one to quote the Bible, but I’m going to refer to it here, because in 1 Corinthians it says that one can have all the faith in the world, but if one doesn’t have love, one has nothing. It goes on to say that love does not envy nor boast, it isn’t self centered, it thinks no evil. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. It is eternal.” So if you are feeling fear, stop, get quiet, find the love. It is there within you. It’s in the beauty around you, in the trees, the mountains, the oceans, the rivers. It’s in your pets, it’s in the face of a smiling child. It is in the warmth of the sun and the quiet of the snow falling. Love is everywhere, you have but to recognize it.
3. Know that fear crops up when we are feeling threatened. When you feel fear, ask yourself, “do I think I’m going to lose something or not get something I want?” Notice those are outside things. I think the greatest creator of fear is attachment to outside stuff, whether it be people, belongings or circumstances. What part of you would change, or be less than, if you lost that outside something? I submit that nothing would. Your essence of goodness remains, always, no matter what happens on the outside.
4. Practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is probably the greatest spiritual tool we have. Forgiveness does not condone other’s behavior, but it does provide you with relief from fear, especially if you forgive yourself. Do not judge yourself harshly. Do not judge yourself at all. You don’t let others judge you, why do you allow yourself to judge you?
5. I changed my mind. I am going to briefly mention faith here, but just briefly. I found I couldn’t not mention it in a discussion about fear. Faith is not belief, nor is it something you get from belief in an outside entity. That’s a faith that I find fleeting at best, and false at worse. Faith is a feeling, a knowing, that is based on experience. Faith is that feeling of comfort that comes from knowing that inside of you, all is well, no matter what happens on the outside. Faith is that essence of hope that comes from seeing that, with all that has happened in your life, something good has come from it.
6. Be open at the top. If you are being called to make a change in your life, don’t be afraid of the unknown simply because it is unfamiliar. Don’t stay with an abuser because it’s all you’ve ever known and that is more comfortable than the unknown. Don’t stay in your addiction because you don’t know what it could possibly be like in your life without it. Do honor any callings that come to you. If you are being called to take a new job, take it! In ministerial school, we are constantly thanking one another for answering the call. Most of us, myself included, feel we are being called and we are answering the call. Most of us don’t know where we are going to go with this, or what we are going to do with it, but we can’t not answer the call because we’ve done our spiritual work, we heard the call, and we are compelled to honor it. If you stop and listen, your body and your inner wisdom will tell you where to go and what to do. Don’t be closed to that wisdom.
Be open, practice and express love in your life, see the spiritual in everything you do and everywhere you’ve been, and you will be free from fear. It’s a wonderful place to be!