A Primer on Fear: Understand and Push it Back!

Photo by John Thurman

A Primer on Fear: What do Peaches have to do with Fear?

Zoe approached me during a lunch break at a conference I was speaking at in the Midwest. Once we sat down, she pensively leaned across the table and in a muted voice said, “I have a secret that I feel comfortable sharing with you.” “My team and my friends have no idea about how much fear I have to deal with on a day to day basis. Half of the time, just before I have to lead my team or do a talk, I feel like I am going to throw up. Sometimes, my mind is racing past Mach 2, and my heart rate is not far behind. There have even been a couple of occasions that I have canceled an event because I feared I could not perform and meet the expectations of the group.”  After a few minutes of listening, I asked why she kept building her business, in spite of her fears. She replied, “I would rather push through the fear than have to go back work in an office. We both chuckled, and then I look into her eyes, leaning forward just a little and asked, “Zoe, where does that fear come from?” I hate to be a tease, but her story and many others will be in my upcoming book Get a Grip on Fear.

Fear can be a good thing. It is a profound biological instant that can prevent us from doing crazy things that could kill us. For example, if you are working in your back yard and see a snake slithering into hedges next to your house, well let’s put it this way, I doubt you are feeling peaceful and calm.

Several years ago Angie and I took our Jeep up to Ouray to do some 4-wheeling. It was summer time, so we drove with the top and doors off. As we made our way up the Million Dollar Highway out of Durango, it became apparent that this trip was going to be a bit of a process. When Angie saw how narrow the road could be and that there were no rails, well you get the picture. There is something dynamic when you are 12 inches away from a 1000 foot fall.
In both cases, this is a rational fear.

Fear can produce positive energy that moves us forward, helps us make a life change, and give us a new perspective. And while fear can protect us from pain and harm, it is not always rational and healthy.
Here are some thoughts about fear.

First, irrational fear is a very primal, gut function. It is a basic low-level brain function. While fear can become disarming, and lead to self-inflicted sabotage, it can be overcome. When we take some time to think through some of our fears, we will usually discover that those concerns are rooted in irrational thoughts.

Second, fear makes us cowards. A very common thing that we humans tend to do is frame our fears in ways that soothe our egos. You and I will say something like, “I am prudent and cautious. We might even say, “I am a little nervous.” Or you might say, something like, “It’s not that important.” Here is a huge life tip for you. If you want to start overcoming those irrational fears that keep you bound up you are going to have to call it what it is.

Instead of saying, “I am not doing this because it makes me nervous.” Try saying, “I am not going to do this because I am a coward, and I am scared spitless.” You will be amazed when your hear yourself say that, and that is the beginning of calling what it is. Trust me; this is a starting point.

Third, fear steals your integrity; It makes you hypocritical. Simply stated integrity means acting in a way wholly congruent with you values and beliefs. You know, when you want to do something and believe that it is the correct thing to do, but you fail to do it because of fear, you violate your core values. Living a “True North,” life, means living right to your principles will always include pushing back and overcoming your fears.

Fourth, fear leaves lament and regret. You and I have, and will continue to make missteps and mistakes, the key is, will I repeat the same screw ups again and again or will I learn from them and make the necessary adjustments to change the outcome. If you and I allow fear to keep us from seizing an opportunity when it comes our way, then that is “nobody fault but yours.” Instead, trust that when the Lord brings you an opportunity, that he will give you what you need to move towards is, but you have to get out of the boat.

Fifth, when you give into fear, you give up control, you step away from the steering wheel, which could be deadly. You see the Lord has given you life and choices, while he will guide you, he will not do the work for you. You see, when you are ruled by fear, you abdicate your responsibility. That is not a good thing. You see, you are the only one responsible for your life, no one else. At at the end of this race, you will give an account. I want to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Sixth, fear stifles your personal growth. There seems to be a universal principle is nature. You are either getting better, ripening. Or, you are ripe and ready to meet your full potential, or you are rotting.

Growing up in the South, and this was probably before child labor laws tightened up, I worked as a field hand in the Miami Valley Peach Orchard in Fort Valley, Georgia. Early in the morning, I would go out with the pickers as they picked their half-bushel bags and dumped them into boxes, each time they put the peaches in the box, they received a ticket, which could later be turned in for cash. The key was to pick them just before they became ripe so that they could be shipped fresh.

After the first picking, we would go back and pick a few ripe peaches. Now I have to tell you Mrs. Mullis owned the Fort Valley Dairy Queen, and in the summer, she would gather the peaches that were too ripe to ship and take them to her store. For a few weeks, you could order a fresh peach – vanilla shake, even writing about this treat is giving me flashbacks.  If you could taste gold, it was in that delicious culinary from a fresh Middle Georgia Peach that was probably picked earlier that morning.

My second year in the Peach business, I worked for Wilson’s Packing Shed. The peaches were brought in from the field and prepared for shipping. In that process, there were two ways peaches were culled. The first was If there were imperfections the second was if they were overripe. Have you ever smelled rotting fruit? Pretty nasty. Well, imagine 20 to 30 bushels of over ripe and rotting peaches in the Middle Georgia heat and humidity. Thankfully, every day of so, that putrid odor of rotting peaches was removed.

Want to learn more about the history of peach farming, enjoy watching this video that was produced a few years ago.

Like peaches, there is a time that we are ripening; then there is a time that things are ready for picking. Unfortunately, fear may time cause spoilage.

Make it your goal to be a little bit better tomorrow that you were today. I do believe that is part of God’s will for your life.
I’d like your thoughts about this article. Please make a comment.

4 thoughts on “A Primer on Fear: Understand and Push it Back!

  1. John, thanks for the encouraging words on fear! I’m sure that fear has kept me from doing some things that God offered me. I’m looking forward to reading your book!

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