Trumping Fear

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear.”   Ambrose Redmoon

“I am the Lord your God.  I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid.  I am here to help you.”  Isaiah 41:13 

“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.” Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

“I tried to contain myself, but I escaped!”  Gary Paulsen

When I worked at Jefferson Pilot my office was on the 12th floor in downtown Greensboro.  It was a beautiful view…..with a window that took up almost a whole wall looking out onto a magnificent vista.  On a clear day I could see Pilot Mountain from this office.  It was beautiful.  Unless I stood by that window and looked straight down at the sidewalk below.  Or if the window washing guys were out there hanging on a small board hung by cables and washing my window.  Then I got a bit queasy.  (I left the office when the window washers came.)  It creeped me out.  Those were the times I had little appreciation of the window or the view.  I only noticed how high it was up there on the 12th floor and how only a piece of glass stood between me and a big fall. The truth is, I don’t like heights very much.
“I don’t like heights very much.”  I always thought that was a unchangeable declarative sentence (one that ends with a period, for those who have been away from school for a while…or were dozing when we learned it), or a sentence that continued with the words  “so I can’t…” , followed by a laundry list of all of the things that require you expose yourself to heights. I’ve found, however, that the sentence doesn’t have to end in that way.  In particular, adding a few “buts” to that sentence can make some major changes in my life.  In changing that sentence in that way, I change me.
I don’t like heights very much, but….
  • I enjoy being at the top of a hill on a roller coaster.
  • I love riding in airplanes of all kinds.
  • I ride in a hot air balloon and peer over the sides.
  • I parasailed and felt absolutely no fear.
  • I glide through the air on a zipline.
  • I walked off a 46-ft tower on command (maybe with a slight hesitation.)
  • I sat in the doorway of an airplane in flight.
  • I hung from the wing of an airplane and dropped.
My love of flying seems to supersede my fear of heights.  I didn’t realize this until lately, when my friend Damien convinced me (relatively easily, in fact, which still mystifies me) that instead of just doing a tandem jump like I planned (which was still a HUGE stretch for me in itself), that I needed to do it on my own.  He said “You want to fly.”  It was true.  I just couldn’t argue that statement.  And now post jump and after a bit of reflection, I find that Damien, who really didn’t know me at all at the time, crystalized something for me with those words.  At some point along the way I began to change the sentence to “I don’t like heights very much, but I do love to fly.”
Fears are natural.  We all have them.  Whether we are willing to admit it or not.  We all deal with them differently.  Still there is something we all have in common.  To conquer that fear we have to want something more. Something has to be bigger and more meaningful than the fear.

Sometimes it is pride.  (We don’t want people to know we are afraid, or we don’t want them to ridicule us for being so.)  Sometimes it is what we gain if we overcome it, versus what we lose if we don’t.  (We ask someone out because a chance of a relationship with them is worth the possibility of rejection.)  Sometimes all it takes is us not wanting to be scared of it anymore, not to let it paralyze us.  (We go to that doctor’s visit we have been putting off because the truth of finding out what is wrong with us is easier to deal with than the constant terror of the possibilities of what actually is.)  Sometimes it is just because we want to prove to ourselves that our own expectations of our self are not necessarily valid.  (We skydive!)

For some reason it has become very important to me lately to face my fears.  When I started to mentally make a list, it was a long one that kept getting longer.  It was keeping me from living life to the fullest.  While some of my fears were very valid, there are others that are simply phobias or just things I wasn’t keeping in perspective.  I knew there was no rational reason for them, yet I let them control some area of my life. They had no power in themselves….I gave them power and kept restocking it.   In some ways these fears become our little gods…..we worship them.  Nothing can come before them.  They are dynamos and we are the generator.

But there is great freedom in facing fears, in rejecting them, dismantling them, and denying them power in our life.  When we make the decision to not nurture our fears, to not worship them, we can get out of the bindings and make our escape to freedom.

There are fears that are valid and should be respected.  There are others that are bad medicine that will incapacitate us and paralyze us and sometimes kill the essence of who we can be.  Those we need to conquer.  Letting my fear of heights be trumped by the fun of flying has changed how I approach the fear.  The fear has not gone away.  But it is not the massive roadblock in my life that it used to be.  From the office view, the picture is clear and the scenery is my focus.  I won’t look down….I will look ahead.  So come on…..join me.  Let’s throw the harness on (we’re not stupid!) and jump.  Add a few positive “buts’ to the things that scare us.  Give it a try.  And learn the joy of trumping fear!

I don’t like heights very much, but you know something….I really do love to fly. 


    1. Inspiring. Reaching out to both conquer and understand fear is both encouraging and educational. While my fear of heights extends to flying and anything above being flat footed on the ground, I do know that giving into that fear is never in our best interest. Thanks for the reminder!


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