Nov 242014 0 Responses

You Should Be Very Afraid

FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Jon Acuff says, we need to “punch fear in the face.”

Even I have confessed, “fear leads me too often.”

There is no doubt that fear can be a great enemy to advancement, production, art, and success. Fear can paralyze us, rendering us useless to ourselves, our families, and others.

Many of our fears are built off false assumptions, false beliefs, and false outcomes. (See: Clowns in the Closet)

I have little doubt that many fears should be ignored and we should act with great boldness in an attempt to accomplish our dreams and doing meaningful work.

But on occasion, we should be afraid—very afraid.

Fear is not all bad. Much of it is good. It’s useful. It’s productive. It’s reality.

We shouldn’t ignore all fear. We shouldn’t believe that all fear is a figment of our imaginations.

Many fears should be faced, realized, and our actions should be different because of it.

It is just as dangerous to live recklessly in denial of fear as it is to live apathetically having been paralyzed by fear. Neither action is an appropriate response to reality.

One of the great failures of leaders is not to recognize the fears of those they lead, call attention to it, empathize with it, and assist others through it.

When a leader downplays or ignores rightful fears they are sending the message that they are either oblivious to what others are feeling or they believe those feelings are wrong. The leader is either ignorant or calloused. Neither of which is helpful to the relationship between leader and follower. (See: What Every Parent Should Know as Kids Go to School)

I would much rather a dental hygienist say, “this might sting,” than one who says, “this won’t hurt” when it actually does or says “oh, that doesn’t hurt” when I’m wrenching in pain.

By recognizing my emotion and giving it credibility, a leader builds trust with others and empowers them to do what is right in the midst of discomfort. Whenever we propose an action and recognize the fears which that request creates, it makes it more likely for others to follow us. The pain actually validates the path which the leader has chosen. Yet when a leader lives in denial of those fears, a painful experience can cause someone to question the path the leader has chosen. (See: Trust Is Everything in Marriage)

Life is full of scary things. Unintended consequences can happen. Bad choices can be made. We can fall victim to the seeming randomness of life through disease, crime, or disaster.

If the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, we don’t need insurance, we can ignore medical check-ups, and no one needs Social Security. But,of course, there is much more to fear in life than just fear itself.

Good leaders recognize the fears of others and they speak to it. They name it; they emphasize with it; they reveal how they feel many of the same emotions. But then they state an idea, plan of action, or response which is right in spite of the fear.

When it comes to fear, we must identify within ourselves and others which type of fear we are facing:

Some fear is false. When a fear is false, we must assist a person through the emotions and help them write a proper story.

In freshman speech class, nearly every student is afraid. Yet much of their fears are false. They are afraid they may freeze, throw-up, or say something stupid. All of those are possible outcomes. However, they also fear the class will laugh at them, mock them, and put them through a horrific hazing experience which might forever hinder their lives. These are not likely outcomes. Having taught Freshman speech, I’ve listened to many bad speeches, but I’m yet to have a class laugh at a student. When a bad speech happens, the class doesn’t laugh, they stop looking. They feel so bad for their classmate (usually because they fear making a bad speech themselves) that they stop making eye contact. After the speech no one says anything. While this is not a good outcome, it is not one full of great fear either.

Part of leadership is helping others recognize false fears and replacing it with more likely outcomes.

Some fear is true. When a fear is true, a leader must recognize the emotion, admit the possibilities, and then promote an idea or action which is the most legitimate response to that fear.

When a person faces a serious illness, fear is an understandable feeling. No matter how ready someone believes they are for death, it is still frightening. Many families and some doctors are not very gracious toward patients. Because the family or doctor isn’t emotionally prepared enough to talk about possible death, they do not let the patient confess their fears of dying. This hinders relationships and treatments. It forces some patients to pretend as though they are feeling perfectly fine even when they are not. It creates a sense of isolation and loneliness. A better way is for everyone to recognize a good or bad outcome are both possible. Depending on the illness and treatment they may not be equally likely, but they are both possible. By identifying the possibilities and voicing them, families and medical professionals give room for the patient to tell what they are feeling. It helps the patient process what is happening and keeps them from living in either denial or despair.

Part of leadership is helping others recognize true fears and confront them with appropriate responses.

Fear is a real part of life and leadership. A good leader will recognize its presence within the leader, followers, and the community. They will confront false fears with truth and will meet true fears with honesty and courage. (See: Jesus, Leadership, and the Courage to Serve)

Ignoring fear might be easier in the short-term, but admitting fear and responding properly is a better form of leadership.

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