There can be no courage without fear.
–Jimmy Wofford, Olympic rider and coach
I think about fear quite a bit, possibly because I am afraid of—or at least intimidated by—many things. You name it, I’m afraid of it: pain, death, economic collapse, failure, success, change, no more cranberry orange scones at the grocery store, etc. It wears me out, having to gear myself up to face so many things. Lately I’ve been thinking, wouldn’t it be great if I wasn’t afraid of anything? It sounds wonderful on the surface, but…
Fear can be good.
That’s right. Fear can be good. Here’s why:
Fear makes you more compassionate. If you’re never afraid, you’ll find it hard to impossible to understand and empathize with those of us who are. From lack of understanding and empathy, it’s only a step or two towards contempt or belittling others. If you’ve been afraid and conquered your fears, you can offer kindness and encouragement to others. I’m much more likely to listen to someone who’s felt the way I do and worked through it, than I am to someone who can’t understand why I’d be afraid of that.
I’m certainly not saying we shouldn’t try to overcome our fears. We’d never learn or grow if we always remained safely ensconced in our comfort zones. I am saying that we shouldn’t come down too hard on ourselves or others if and when we’re afraid. Instead, offer kindness to ourselves, and gentleness and understanding to others. Then perhaps we can all walk courageously forward together.
Fear makes us feel our humanity.