Have you ever been intrigued by people who have a desire to be storm chasers? They make it a priority to study and track tornados. Although some people do this as a hobby, many embark on this task for the purpose of studying how the storms form and their behaviors. These people are not insane (though I sometimes wonder) nor do they operate recklessly. They know the destructive forces of the storms and exercise due diligence in their own safety. They embark on these chases to gain understanding of the storms so that plans and strategies can be put in place for early identification and disaster planning.
One of my favorite disaster movies of all time is “Twister” (1996) which is an adventure film based on activities of some storm chasers. Although I enjoy watching a good disaster movie like this, I personally have no desire to engage in such activity personally. When I see storms coming, I make it my aim to avoid them at all costs.
Unfortunately, when it comes to life, many people approach fear this same way. When change happens and transitions take place in our lives, we make it our aim to slip into avoidance mode and run for what seems familiar and “safe”. When the storms of life begin to brew, we run for shelter and wait, hoping that this too will pass, expecting to pick up the pieces after all is said and done. When the fear of the unknown knocks at the door, people strive all they can to keep the status quo as much as possible.
Some fear is healthy. It keeps us safe and preserves health and life. But fear can be, and often is, taken to an unhealthy extreme where it can be crippling and keep us from achieving the desired end for which God created and purposed each of us. Fear is a debilitating force and can leave a path of destruction in its wake. We need to chase it down and study it so we can understand it, identify it early on, and develop strategies to deal with it when it comes. So, how do we examine our fear to see whether it is at a healthy or crippling level?
First, recognize the reason for the fear. What are you are afraid of? What is keeping you from moving forward on the desired and necessary path of wholeness and freedom? Ask yourself, “Is it keeping me safe and free or is it actually crippling me from achieving my full potential? Most of us know the answers to these questions with little thought. We need to take it one more level and make it an intentional thought in our minds that can be harnessed and made to serve us rather than us being harnessed by the fear.
Second, realize the root of the fear. Why do you possess the fear you hold? Why does the fear have such a grip? I personally have a fear of heights, some would say. It has also been said that it is not the fear of heights but the fear of falling. Whereas the fear of heights identifies the “what”, the fear of falling identifies the “why”. Knowing what we fear is the surface issue. We need to know why we possess the fear if we are to have any hopes of breaking free from its grasp.
Third, respect the rational inspection. Take a good hard look at what is factual behind the fear. Step back from your fear and look at it from the perspective of someone who does not succumb to the fear. As with storm-chasers, they must respect the force of the tornado to a certain level and have a healthy fear of that power, but they do not let it interfere with the task at hand. Respect the dangers that the fear has attached to it, exercise proper precautions, but do not let it deter you from what you need to do and how you need to proceed throughout life to realize freedom and wholeness.
Fourth, refute the irrational perceptions. Once we understand the facts and the rational thoughts behind them, we can proceed to the irrational assessment of the fear. Let’s look at a deeper illustration. We all possess a fear of being hurt by someone else. Nobody likes to be offended or betrayed. Yet, it happens to all of us. Some people move forward seeming unaffected while others build perceptions and make decisions around such occurrences that cripple future relationships. The facts are the same for all: given time, everyone will fail us either intentionally or unintentionally. But we must decide whether we will allow irrational perceptions of the hurt rob us of all the life that comes from loving, human relationships. Assess the difference between the facts and faulty perceptions based of the facts.
Fifth, repackage the reality of the fear. The reality of fear is this: we must stop looking at fear as though it exists in a vacuum. We hold fears for specific reasons. They do not just happen to us. One of the most overlooked realities is more of a trust issue than a fear factor. Fear’s power to grip and cripple is found, not in fear itself, but because we place our trust more in that which is feared more than in the path that lies ahead. Even more so, we place more trust in our area of fear than in God who guides, empowers, and is greater than our fear. Determine where your trust will reside. This will ultimately determine your ability to move beyond fear.
Last, reset your response. Choose to no longer allow fear to dictate your actions. Life will always present fears. Fear is not bad. It is how we choose to respond to fears that can be helpful or harmful, provisional or problematic, entrapping or empowering. Commit to act contrary to your fears. Only as you choose to act accordingly will you be able to master them.
One final point. As you engage in the process of discovering and assessing your fears, take a final lesson from storm chasers and do not face the process alone. The more eyes that are looking out for the storm and working the process, the less chance there is for devastating error. As you examine your fears, it is important to have someone you can partner with in the process. They will see things about your fears that you may not see and can help protect you from unnecessary mistakes. They will help you identify your fears, navigate the dangers, and develop strategies to rise victorious over your fears.
Share your discoveries with us that have helped you face your fears. How have you made your fears work for you?