Go and Do What Scares You

Oh the things we fear… As a little boy, I feared darkness. Having to go out in the middle of the night when nature called, since I lived on an island until I was 7, was always a very scary thing to do. When I was about 11, and we had already moved into a city, I used to sleep outside on a hammock in the patio. One night I woke up and tried to crawl out of my blanket to go inside the house to use the bathroom. What I saw on the wall of my house left me paralyzed with fear — a big, dark, shadowy figure, moving slowly up the wall, ready to jump at me.

I immediately covered myself, in panic, waiting for the kill. Then, for some reason, I was clear-headed and decided I had to fight. I got rid of the blanket and was ready to defend myself. Except, I didn’t have to — the shadowy figure was a kitty cat! Yes, my neighbor’s cat, going to and from on the wall that separated our properties. The street light in front of our houses projected a distorted silhouette against the wall. That was the “monster” ready to devour me!

I have never forgotten that story. And the reason I remember it? That was the night I got cured from my fear of the dark. Somehow, I decided to face my fear and realized that it was only an imaginary one after all. What a big lesson for an 11-year-old! And that lesson keeps on teaching —  most of my fears, most of our fears, are mythological, unrealized figments of our imagination. Get this: after 9-11, they did a study in NYC and found that the thing people fear the most there is being bitten by a snake. Get out!

Life insurance companies prey on our fears. Employers prey on our fears. “Friends” prey on our fears. The devil preys on our fears. If we are not careful, we become victims of our own fiction. Like a scared 11-year-old in the middle of the night, we can end up believing in a monster that does not exist in the real world.

There is no better way to kill the fiction than to step into our fears. Jay Milbrandt, in his book Go and Do (remember, every time you buy a copy on Amazon you are helping G.R.O.W. rescue more at-risk children in SE Asia), which I have written about here, talks about facing our fears. There is a chapter filled with suggestive subtitles such as “Do What Scares You,” “Fear Draws Us Closer to God,” “Learning to Live Dangerously.” Or, as another friend says, “If you are not living on the edge, you are taking too much space.”

Jay recommends that every day we do one little thing scares us. Some examples could be talking to a total stranger or eating a raw egg (my examples). This, of course, is not an invitation to live irresponsibly or godlessly. It is rather a resolve not to conform to the mold, not to settle for the mundane, the boring, the uninspiring. A little scary thing here, another one there, and before you know it, you’re daring to do what you thought was impossible.

So I read that chapter today, got my bike gear and rode to work. It’s dark out there now and it might be raining soon. I am rushing so I can get home before I get soaked by the rain, but if I get soaked, it will be fun.

I love these words out of the Apostle John’s pen: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Happy dangers!

Ivanildo C. Trindade