(This post originally appeared over at The Good Men Project)
If we let things terrify us, life will not be worth living. – SENECA
It starts when we’re kids. While still young, we stop trusting our gut and attacking the world as we learn about all the scary things that will stand in our way. We start the life-long journey of fearing things that we will never see. As we get older, we fear things that seem inconsequential to adults, but as teenagers they’re life or death. Getting good grades, hoping that one girl will like us, praying no one will notice the missing Jack Daniels we took from our parents or praying that we somehow fit in.
When you become a man with real responsibilities, fear is a different animal. It latches on to the great things in life – the things you’ve always wanted: family, your dream job, that house by the park, money and your marriage. You don’t see it at first because it gracefully sneaks up on you.
With a baseball bat.
It’s those responsibilities that drive fear in the average guy. The more responsibilities, the better chance fear will consume you. You fear real things: that you’ll be laid off and not be able to feed your family, that you‘ll screw up your marriage and your wife will leave you, that one of your kids will be seriously injured, or that you’ll end up being a terrible father. Very real fears, but all are more likely to happen the more fear controls you. The more it burns in you, the more powerful it becomes.
The confusing thing is that It doesn’t look like fear at first. And for some, it will never look like fear. Fear will get away with a barrage of crimes and never be brought to justice. Instead, blame is placed on fear’s favorite cousins: anger, resentment, anxiety and isolation.
Fear is the family terrorist that no one talks about. It lurks, but is never brought into the light. As men, we cannot admit fear. That is weak. We’re indirectly taught this at an early age. Admitting fear is a flaw that will make you look like you can’t handle things; at the office or at home. If you’re supposed to be the one to protect and provide and you’re scared, you worry the people who depend will lose faith.
Fear also destroys our dreams. We’re afraid to act when there is a time to prove ourselves and risk is high. Instead of going for greatness, we instead choose a limiting comfort that’s all too familiar. We end up leading a life that our 22 year old self would be horrified of. We convince ourselves the worst-case-scenario is something we can’t survive and choose unhappiness over uncertainty.
Unless you recognize fear at its earliest stages, the only time you truly rid yourself of fear is when you’ve lost everything. You finally realize you can survive when the worst happens. Life gave you the best its got and you’re still standing. Almost like when Apollo Creed beat Rocky so badly … and Rocky got up. All Apollo could do was shake his head in dismay. That’s when fear ends; when life shakes its head in dismay after giving you the beating of a lifetime.
And you get up.
(Photo by Fidelio licensed under Creative Commons)