The Fruits of Fear


This last weekend I had the great opportunity to attend the World Domination Summit (WDS 2014). For those of you who are new to the blog, you’ll see a number of references to it made throughout the year. It’s a community of people built on the values of Community, Adventure and Service, a powerful triumvirate. Once a year we meet in Portland, Oregon to share stories and to encourage and support one another.

Expect to see many more postings from this year’s summit. It was a great experience.

However, today I’d like to discuss a different topic, contrasting today’s experience with those I had just one week ago.

Fear to Inaction

One of themes that seems to have a permanent home in the pantheon of amazing ideas is that of overcoming fear. And, it’s no wonder, fear in one form or another seems to have a powerful influence over many of our lives.

We all have fears to face or flee.

Many times we flee to inaction.

Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.
Charles Stanley

Last year, one of my favorite speakers was Jia Jiang. This year I got to talk with him for a minute or two after one of the meetups. Over the last year, he has come to an even deeper understanding of fear, especially our fear of rejection, that subconsciously paralyzes many of us even in our day-to-day activities. Check out his blog Fearbuster. It’s title is self-explanatory.

Me and Jia Jiang, from whom I've learnd much about fear and human kindness

Me and Jia Jiang, from whom I’ve learned much about fear and human kindness

So, here we are… humans living the human condition. The nights are dark and cold. Fears posture in our minds:

  • Fear of Losing Our Freedom
  • Fear of the Unknown
  • Fear of Pain
  • Fear of Disappointment
  • Fear of Misery
  • Fear of Loneliness
  • Fear of Ridicule
  • Fear of Rejection
  • Fear of Death
  • Fear of Failure

It’s like The Four Horseman of the Mental Health Apocalypse… well, maybe the ten horseman.

So, we work on our fears. We help others with their fears. We strive to someday be able to live, and not just recite the Litany Against Fear:

I must not fear.
Fear is the 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.

But, there is another side to fear. Another power it has lurking in its arsenal of evil. Just as it can push us to inaction, so can it move us to terrible action.

Fear to Action

Today, I went to the movie theater and watched Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It was thought provoking (Aside: If you’ve never seen the original, you should.). Here’s the trailer:

Now I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but needless to say many of the actions taken by many characters in the movie are driven by fear.

Fear with comrades Anger, Distrust, Revenge and Helplessness destroys all in its wake using humans as mere puppets.

Fear is the path to the dark side.
Fear leads to anger.
Anger leads to hate.
Hate leads to suffering.

Our wars are bred from fear, as our many of our societal woes. Fear blinds us to empathy and understanding. It robs us of our ability to see the humanity in our brothers and sisters who do not look, talk or act exactly as we do.

Overcoming Fear

So, we must overcome fear; but how? I have no magic answer for you, as fear takes many shapes and preys on us in so many different ways. Through written history, many have offered advice.

Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of he search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.
Paulo Coelho

Often it is to engage the fear, to look it in the face. Even last week at WDS, this was discussed.

I will simply offer this: the first step, beyond which lies a personal journey. It is simply this:

  • Acknowledge your fears for what they are: fears.

Only then will you be able to begin to overcome them.

I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life.
Yann Martel

Top 10 Strong Human Fears

Jul 20, 2014 10:09

Trev: Excellent post. One thing I have recently noticed is the near universality of the injunction “fear not” when people have heavenly encounters in the scriptures. It seems to be the first words out of the mouths of angels when they meet mortals. I don’t think that scriptural theme is an accident…

Jul 20, 2014 10:38

Interesting post. Thanks Trev. Also interesting reply dhh1128. All food for thought as we first identify fear and seek to move beyond it. I liked the quote about fear leading to hating those that are different from us. I have wondered if some more extreme conservative notions about Islam and immigration are not rooted in fear. These seem like interesting test cases to look at the problem. Where does fear end and prudence begin. As for Planet of the Apes, looks like a very cool movie, though I don’t see myself jumping off any cliffs anytime soon in hopes a rope will materialize part way down to save me at the last minute. Thanks again.

Trev Harmon
Jul 22, 2014 20:12

Thanks for the comments. In my opinion, understanding exactly where prudence ends and fear begins is something we each need to be looking at in our own lives. And, sometimes it can be difficult. People know we have this weakness, and use it against us all the time.

I’ve seen fear used by people on all sides of the political spectrum. In fact, any form of demagoguery preys on the human tendency we all have to fear that which we don’t know or don’t understand. Only by continually checking ourselves, our thoughts, our motivations can we really start to identify it for what it really is.

Caelan Huntress
Jul 24, 2014 15:12

Fear is the mind killer.

At best, it shows us our boundaries; at worst, it limits us to being less than we are capable.

Trev Harmon
Jul 24, 2014 22:33

Agreed. The trick then is to know when it’s one and when it’s the other. I’ve found sometimes that difference is obvious… sometimes it’s not. Time for more self-introspection.

Sophia Sidney
Jul 03, 2017 21:47

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