Many times we hear the saying, “Do not fear”, or one of the relative sayings, “Don’t worry about”, “Don’t sweat it”, “No bother”, and so on. Webster’s Dictionary defines fear as “to be afraid of”, which essentially boils down to an idea that causes a physical act. If you fear heights, you avoid high places; if you fear spiders, you don’t go near the basement or any other cobweb attracting areas; if you fear emotional pain, you may not go on a date.
There are a whole slew of songs and examples I can go through that would point out fear, but what is the use? Fear is – at the root – just an idea. A powerful idea no doubt, but an idea that can be dealt with and excused just like any other idea; the trick is to identify fear and the moment.
Recently I experienced fear on April 15th, 2013, when I raced in the Boston Marathon. I was in the city’s center when the two bombs went off. I experienced the fear that swept through the city and saw firsthand what it can produce. I saw fear freeze people, making them unable to move or perform any action; they were “frozen with fear”. I saw fear cause selfish acts of closed and locked doors. I saw fear cause a stampede of people, crushing others underfoot. Fear didn’t help the situation, fear exacerbated it, and it fed fuel to the fire. Others who feared identified it, and dealt with it. Those were the people who were in action and dealing with the problem; tying tourniquets, applying first aid, directing traffic moving out of the city center. They were in control, dealing with the situation as it was happening, and not fearing what could happen; they dealt with the present situation, not the future.
If there was one lesson I wish we all could learn from this past incident it is simply, “Do not fear.” Fear serves no purpose but negativity. Do not be afraid to attempt a 5K run, try a new fitness class, pick up a new hobby, go on a date, take a vacation, call an old friend; for if we fear these things of life, then we fear living.
One of my favorite books, Dune by Frank Herbert, captures the essence of fear and how to deal with it through this mantra: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”