That Fear in Your Gut? It’s Not Going Away

We spend an enormous amount of time trying to live without fear. We read books about being brave, take classes in gaining confidence, and spend tons of money on inspirational books and courses. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – except for the fact that fear is one of the most powerful motivators on the planet. Fear of danger kept early human beings alive. Fear of war kept leaders working at diplomacy. Fear of poverty kept our parents and grandparents working hard. And today, while many of the things we fear may have changed, the emotion is just as relevant – and important.

I see too many leaders living in denial because they refuse to acknowledge the fear that their business, church, or nonprofit is failing. I see others with no self-awareness, because to face their shortcomings would create too much fear.

Certainly there are overblown fears. When what I would call a “healthy” fear is replaced by an unfounded or out of proportion fear, that’s a bigger issue that needs to be dealt with in other ways.

But for most of us, most of the time, we need to embrace it. Look at your fear in the face. Understand where it comes from. Your fear is the canary in the coal mine. It’s the early warning sign that something needs to change.

That uncomfortable feeling in your gut when you do certain things or make certain decisions shouldn’t be ignored, it should be welcomed.

And here’s the important point: Fear becomes your friend not when it’s gone, but when it’s overcome. When you’ve acted on the fear in a way that solves the problem. When your response to the fear is to fix the reason it’s there.

Fear: Stop ignoring it, worrying about it, or denying it, and start responding to it.

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  1. Director Peter Weir’s 1993 gem Fearless, starring Jeff Bridges, explores this theme in an interesting way. He survives a plane crash, but rather than experience immediate obvious trauma, he becomes convinced of a certain immortality that causes him to overcome all sensible fears and irrationally flirt with death – crossing busy roads, standing on the edge of tall buildings, eating strawberries which he is dangerously allergic to, etc. At the same time he alienates his wife and family whilst feeling compelled to assist another survivor of the plane crash, helping her come to terms with the trauma and grief of losing her baby. In the process, he develops something of a messiah complex.

    Its a very interesting film, with arguably a career-best turn from Bridges (Weir has a habit of coaxing career-best turns from his leads – Harrison Ford in Witness, Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, Jim Carey in The Truman Show, etc). The message of the film is essentially, a bit of healthy fear in your life is good for you.

    Fearless flopped at the time (most of the awards attention that year went Schindler’s List, The Remains of the Day, etc), but it is ripe for re-evaluation. I highly recommend it.

  2. This is very true, and not enough Christian creatives overcome their fear (unless it’s just me).

    I ran across a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson today: “God will not have His work made manifest by cowards.” In my life, I’ve operated in fear far too much. I’ve been far too afraid to take action at times. How do you overcome that fear of failure, especially when someone has to provide for their wife and newborn?

    1. That’s a seriously brilliant quote from Emerson Michael. Thanks for sharing that. And to answer your question about overcoming the fear of failure, I feel a future blog post coming on… 🙂
      Thanks for posting!

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