Be Not Afraid

It’s a common phrase, isn’t it? Think for a moment. In various ways, how often are you told, or do you tell someone, don’t worry, don’t be scared, it’ll be okay? We say it to children, co-workers, family and friends. Heck, Bobby McFerrin even had a song about it in the 80s, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” My mother loved that song.

Fear is a pretty common part of being human. From being scared of the dark to being scared of not achieving something, there is plenty in life to worry about. And fear can be healthy. Fear keeps you from doing things that might get you seriously injured, such as running out in traffic or sticking your hand in a fire.

But just as too little fear is a bad thing, so is too much fear. You know who knew this? God. Yes, the Almighty himself knew that our fears can be paralyzing. And He wants us not to worry. Here’s a factoid for you: The phrase “be not afraid” and it’s variants occurs more frequently in the Bible than any other phrase. True fact. Look it up.

So here’s your challenge: balance healthy fear with not being afraid. It’s harder than it sounds.

I’ve struggled all my life with this. Not small fears. I’m okay with the dark, clowns, and snakes (although spiders creep me out – eight-legged machines of death I say). Big fears, yes. Fear has kept me from taking chances, from seizing opportunities. What if I’m not good enough, smart enough, etc.? What if I’m a failure?

Most recently, this came up at the taekwondo school. Years ago (and I mean years ago, we’re talking pre-kids here), I looked into doing martial arts, not being particularly drawn to “traditional” athletic activities. I figured here was something I could do. But it didn’t work out. The one place I looked did not get particularly good reviews, and the other places in the area were either not a good “fit” for me, or were outrageously expensive.

But as part of my weekly “Commit to Fit” classes at Oakmont Martial Arts, the topic came up again. I made an off-hand comment on Facebook about hoping they’d let me break a board that night (not a Fit class night). When I showed up to pick up my kids, one of the chief instructors asked if I’d brought my sweats. I said no, I’d just come from work. He said, “How can you take the adult class without your sweats?” I laughed. “I wouldn’t impose on your adult class, sir. I know my limitations.” I thought I’d conquered this in college. Apparently not.

The comment got me thinking: Could I do martial arts? And the fears crept in. I’m too old, too out of shape, too uncoordinated. How could I burden these people with teaching a hopeless case like me? When I shared these fears, the result was a little astonishing and a lot encouraging all at the same time. “Of course you can! It’s never too late to start! We’d love to have you in class! It’s not a burden at all!” This came not only from the chief instructors, but other students, one of them a woman about my age who just started martial arts in the last year.

And that got me thinking, again, about my friend Amy Moritz and her mantra: Good things happen when you show up. Choose to be present. Maybe I could do this. I talked to my husband; he was all for it. I asked my kids how they’d feel about their mother taking martial arts at the same school; they thought it would be cool. Hm, this is looking better.

But you can’t kick very high, my inner self admonished. Your balance is awful. You’re going to look like a fool next to all those people. I mentioned this tonight at my Commit to Fit class. The other chief instructor and another black belt replied, “You only have to kick as high as the knee to be effective.”

And then, like a sign from above, today’s post from Amy’s blog, Byline to Finish Line, appeared in my Inbox. The title? “This week’s lesson: How to be brave.” Clearly the universe is trying to tell me something.

Recently, another college friend on posted on Facebook, “Would you recognize and seize the opportunity if it presented itself?” (or something along those lines). I ruefully laughed and said I’d probably recognize it and watch as it drifted right on by.

But it’s not funny. Not really. Fear that stops you from doing something stupid is good. Fear that just stops you isn’t. Someone once told me, “A decision made in fear is rarely the right one.” How much more could we accomplish if we stopped worrying about what we’d look like, or what people would say, or that we would be “failures” if we couldn’t do something as well as someone else.

How much more successful would we be if we defined our success not solely in terms of how we compared to other people, but how we felt about ourselves?

It’s a pretty intense thought. It’s something that I want to teach my kids, especially my daughter. And since kids learn so much more from our actions than our words, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.

Be brave. Be present. Show up.

Martial arts, here I come.

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