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The Appetite of Fear

Fear Stops LifeLast week I told you about the first auto accident injury case that I tried in front of a jury.  I won the case despite being up against a trial attorney who had more than 30 years of experience, compared to my two years of experience.  I told you about how I was like a fearless teenager who takes risks he shouldn’t take and jumps into situations he shouldn’t be involved in.  Because of my youthfulness and lack of experience, I didn’t have any fear of going up against the older more experienced attorney.

Now, 28 years later, I have a much greater appreciation for the risks involved in putting a case in the hands of a jury to decide.  I’m aware of what can go wrong and I can easily anticipate the dangers that lie ahead of me.  When I go to trial, I prefer the older experienced attorney to the young buck who doesn’t know what he’s doing.  Why?  Because the young buck can be dangerous.

Unlike the older more seasoned attorney, the young buck doesn’t have a reputation to worry about and protect.  He’s out to build up his own reputation and is willing to work day and night to prove he’s superior to his opponent.  Because of the young attorney’s lack of experience, there’s a strong likelihood he’s going to do something reckless — something that could completely throw off my strategy or that may gain the sympathy of the jury.

An experienced trial attorney is fairly predictable.  He knows the rules and, for the most part, stays within the guidelines.  If I’m well-prepared, I can usually anticipate what he is going to say and do.  On the other hand, I have no idea what the young inexperienced attorney who is trying to make a name for himself is going to say or do.

If you’ve ever seen the show, Les Misérables, you’re familiar with the group of men who start a revolution to overthrow the government.  Every one of them ends up getting killed except for Marius, a young man who is saved by the father of the girl he loves.  Most revolutions are started and fueled by young men who ignore the risks involved in attempting to take on well-armed soldiers who are capable of crushing them.

The terrorists who hijacked and drove our planes into buildings on September 11, 2001, were young men.  So were the two brothers who planted bombs at the Boston Marathon earlier this year.

The one thing all these men had in common was their youth, inexperience, idealism, and foolishness.  Because of their inability to fully appreciate the dangers they were facing, in some respects, they could be described as being fearless.

I wonder if that’s one of the reasons Christ chose 12 young, inexperienced, idealistic men to be his apostles.  Maybe He thought they would be more fearless than the older wiser men who had reputations to worry about and protect.

So what is fear?  We can discuss it in terms of the dictionary definition which states that it’s a strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger, but that definition only scratches the surface.

At our very core, we desire to be loved, accepted, and respected by others, especially our family members, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues.  Fear sets in any time the approval and validation of those individuals is threatened.

When we’re young, we don’t have a lot to lose by taking risks and being fearless.  We have not yet had the opportunity to acquire enough money and assets to give us a sense of security.  We have not yet had the time to develop a reputation in our community or in the business world.  We are only at the beginning stages of building lifetime relationships.  As the years pass by, we create security and stability for ourselves by acquiring money and assets, we establish a favorable reputation for ourselves, and we develop valuable long-term relationships.

We start getting used to security.  Although we may not realize it, we’re no longer willing to take even the slightest risk without first demanding a guaranteed result.  We have trouble stepping out of our comfort zones unless there is a guarantee that we will succeed.  If we are forced to do anything that we perceive as a risk, we are overcome with fear.  We fear losing our money, our livelihood, our reputation, and/or the love, acceptance, and respect of our family members and friends.

Fear has an insatiable appetite.  It is fed with destructive thoughts.  The person who is seized with fear focusses on the worst possible outcome.  He wishes things were different.  He complains and talks about all the things that could go wrong.  He blames others for his problems.

The more we think and talk about what we could lose, the greater the fear becomes.  It can become so powerful that it paralyzes our ability to think and act rationally.  It shuts down all of our creatively.

Contrast the behavior of a fearful adult with that of a child.  How does a child think and behave?  He’s willing to try something new with no guarantee of success.  His attitude is, Why not? I have nothing to lose.  He’s not worried about losing money, his reputation, or the love and acceptance of his family members, friends, and acquaintances.  That’s not even on his mind.  He’s focused on creating new possibilities for himself.  If what he’s trying to accomplish doesn’t work, so what?  His reaction is, Hey, I’m just a kid, who cares?

In the eyes of God, we’re all children.  Do we really trust Him like a child trusts his loving father?  Do we really believe in our heart and soul that God will be there to assist us, guide us, protect us, and if necessary, bail us out?

Whenever we procrastinate, make excuses, or avoid necessary conflict, our behavior can always be traced to fear.  Regardless of how we feel, we must be willing to acknowledge that fear and move forward with humility, courage, and creativity.  That’s what a true child of God does.  When we move forward in that way, we are emulating Him.  And we’re behaving as though we really were created in His image and likeness.

Next week I’ll talk about some practical ways to deal with fear.

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One Response to “The Appetite of Fear”

  1. Sister Roberta Houlihan, C.S.J. Says:

    Dear Harry and Georgette – In my memory, I don’t have any recollection of being afraid. Understandable during childhood years, as you explained here, What amazes me is that I can’t recall any ADULT times, either. I could never understand the “Fear of God” leading to Wisdom. I’ve replaced the term “fear” with “awe” in the margins of my Old and New Testament, whenever “fear” has appeared in the text. I look forward to your next week’s writing!
    Just had a flash of a scene on the ferris wheel when I was probably 4 or 5. Mary, 2 yrs older was with me; the bar was above my head and I was “skinny”. I remember saying, “Mary, I’m going to fall out!”. She put her hand across my waist, and I was OK. Is that a case of real “fear”? I also, a year later, picked up a “sick” rat by its tail. It was content, and I had a play thing – until the neighbor said, “Honey, drop that!!!!” I couldn’t figure out why she was so upset! Love you! Sister Roberta

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