My post today is one of those that can apply to anyone, homeschooling or not. In fact, if you are living and breathing, this post applies to you (and since you’re reading this, I assume you’re living and breathing…)
If you are homeschooling, however, this post also serves as a lead-in to my next post on “the secret to homeschooling success.” So make sure, if you haven’t already, to sign up for my e-mail newsletter or RSS feed so you don’t miss that post!
Fear is a Part of the Human Condition
I could get into a theological discussion about how fear entered the world as part of the Fall, but the point is that all human beings experience fear, and we likely will until the day we leave this earth.
The purpose of this post is to share with you some of my own experiences dealing with fear and the insights that have come to me through those experiences. To be perfectly honest, even if no one reads this post, I’m still glad I wrote it because putting these thoughts in writing has encouraged me. I hope that some of you may find these words encouraging as well.
Many years ago I had a severe problem with anxiety attacks. I won’t go into all the details, but after a couple of very traumatic years in my life I was having anxiety attacks on a regular basis. In 1999 it reached what you might call a “crisis.” I was preparing to attend my 20th high school class reunion – I was packed and ready to go in fact – but was paralyzed with fear. Simple, unnamed fear. As I sat in my bedroom that day, with hotel reservations made and everything ready for my trip, I found myself frozen by fear.
Generally speaking, I believe God guides us through our life by his Word and his Spirit in a quiet, gentle way. He wants us to grow in our trust in Him, so he doesn’t shout out commands to us or put obvious signs in our way on most occasions. But this was one of those occasions in my life when God spoke to me loud and clear and what he said to me was that if I didn’t get in my car and GO, I was going to end up in a very bad place. So I got in my car and drove to Miami. And ended up having a wonderful time.
Limiting Fears vs. Practical Fears
The kind of fear that I was experiencing in that moment is what I call limiting fear. For the purposes of this post I’m going to discuss the difference between “limiting fears” and “practical fears.” Understanding and recognizing the difference is incredibly important.
Practical fear is just that. It’s practical. It’s the kind of fear that makes you stop and look both ways before you cross the street. It’s the kind of fear that makes you (or should) insist that you know where your children are and what they are doing at all times. It’s the kind of fear that makes you go to the hospital if you should happen to, say, have an accident with your new chain saw.
Practical fear is an important and necessary part of life. In fact, it may very well save your life. This is not the kind of fear that you want to battle. This is the kind of fear that you want to listen to, and act upon.
But there is another kind of fear we ALL face in life which I call “limiting fear.” Limiting fears enslave us. They put us in chains and tell us that there is no way we will ever achieve anything important. For homeschoolers, these limiting fears tell us that we can’t possibly teach our kids everything they need to know. For someone considering returning to school late in life, those limiting fears tell us that we can’t possibly keep up with the young’uns.
Everyone faces limiting fears in their lives. How we deal with those limiting fears, whether we allow them to enslave us or not, will determine much of what we accomplish and how much fulfillment we have in our lives.
When I referred to my problems with anxiety attacks before, I need you to understand this was not a small problem in my life. It was huge. These attacks would come on unexpectedly and they often made me wonder if I was going crazy. What finally enabled me to get a handle on them, believe it or not, was listening to several tapes from The Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety (yes, the infomercial people).
What I learned from those tapes was that the reason I was having anxiety attacks was because my thought processes were feeding those anxious feelings, creating a vicious cycle. As soon as I would have an anxious thought my mind would say, “Oh no, what if I have another anxiety attack?” Just that thought was enough to get the process going. I learned the key was to realize that, if I didn’t feed the fear, eventually the anxiety would pass. And it did. I still get anxious from time to time. Some of the chronic health issues I deal with can actually cause anxiety. But when those feelings come, I say to myself, “This too shall pass.” And it does.
Fear, Fear Everywhere…
There are many fears we face over the course of our lives. The fear of failure. The fear of rejection. The fear of being alone. The fear of being unpopular. The fear of the future. The fear of failing…again.
Most of our limiting fears fall into two categories: what we achieve in our lives, and our relationships with others.
We hear a lot of talk in our society about how we should “follow our dreams” or that we should “accept failure” because if we keep at something long enough we’ll eventually succeed. We also hear a lot of talk about “being your own person.” We’re told that we shouldn’t conform…that we need to “think outside the box.”
But how many people really do those things? How many people are willing to take unpopular stands and risk rejection? How many people are willing to put the work into being successful even after they have failed…and failed again?
Truthfully, most people don’t think outside the box. Most people conform to some norm within their particular segment of society. Most people are too afraid of being alone and unpopular to really take a stand on anything of significance.
I’m going to assume that if you are still reading this post that you don’t want to be one of those people. I’m going to assume that you actually want to make a difference in the lives of others. That you care more about living a life of substance than being popular, and that you are determined to not let failure keep you from achieving those things in your life that are important to you.
I’m here to tell you that there is hope for you! There is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a way to defeat the limiting fears in your life, whatever they may be.
The answer is: fight.
I have a blog post bookmarked on my computer. Unfortunately, this post is no longer live because the blogger who posted it, Paul Cunningham, has moved on to bigger and better things. But I keep that post bookmarked on my computer anyway because, for me, the title alone says it all:
The Battle with Fear is Won in the Trenches.
You don’t win the battle with fear by surrendering to it. You don’t win the battle with fear by retreating from it.
The only way to win the battle with fear is to face it. To battle it. To stare that thing down. And then, whatever it is that you are afraid of, do it anyway.
I love the movie “Galaxy Quest.” In fact, it’s on the list of my top ten favorite movies. One line that comes back to me over and over again is Captain Taggert’s catchphrase: Never give up, never surrender. You’d be surprised how often I say those words to myself when confronting a difficult situation. Partly because it puts a smile on my face (thus releasing some of the tension of the moment) but also partly because I need to hear those words: Never give up. Never surrender.
If you want to defeat limiting fears, giving up is not an option. Surrender is not an option.
Since those days when I battled debilitating anxiety, I’ve had many other events in my life that have brought their own element of fear. In fact, I’m right now in the middle of possibly the most challenging experience of my life, and fear has been rearing its ugly head pretty regularly. But I have learned something over the years and it is that, whatever situation I am facing, the answer is not to run from the battlefield. The battle with fear is won in the trenches. The battle with fear is won when we stare that fear boldly down and say, “Make my day.”
Limiting fears put you in chains and make themselves your master. Don’t let them. Fight them. Tell that fear that it is a lie. That being unpopular is not going to kill you. That failure is only temporary. Call that fear out. Stare it down and say, “Make my day.” Then watch it run.
If you’ve learned anything from your own battles with fear and feel like sharing them, that’s what the comments section is for. Let us know about your battles and victories. I, for one, would love to hear your stories.