So many thoughts swirling in my head. So many times I started a post, and just didn’t finish it. And why? Mostly because I was afraid I wasn’t quite ready to publicly broadcast that part of my life. Or afraid of what people might think. Afraid of judgment, afraid of hurting someone in the process…just afraid. But I know I’m not alone in this. I know that fear holds the power in so many lives. But a life lived in fear is not a life I want to live. And this is my thing for today, which seems to be a fitting topic, as we watch our nation outcry about the senseless tragedy in Newtown, CT.
As I watch post after post in my social media feeds, the most frequent themes range from shock and disbelief to sadness and mourning to anger and hatred. No one can seem to believe that someone would walk into an elementary school and mercilessly shoot at children mostly under the age of 10. We’re sad because we know that there’s great loss in this. And then we’re angry because we need something or someone to blame. But why are we afraid to address the real issue at hand? We’ve seen these shootings, stabbings, and beatings before, sometimes en masse and sometimes in single episodes. They force us to talk out against bullying. We say that things should be different, that we need to help those who show suffering before things like this happen. We say it…but rarely do we act upon it.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll speak for myself. And you all can agree with me or raise arguments against what I have to say. But this is from personal experience, and you can’t really argue with that, so here it is.
Fear guides so many of my decisions.
I’m afraid to give money to a homeless man because I don’t want him spending it on booze or drugs. But then I’m afraid to engage him in conversation because I don’t want to be late to a lunch date. Or afraid to give him information about the nearby services available to him because I don’t want him thinking I think he needs help. So then I ignore him or maybe give a glancing smile as I walk quickly by.
I’m afraid to tell someone I just met that I really like who they are and that I’d like to spend more time with them…tomorrow. I’m afraid that if I do, they will think I’m crazy or have no friends or am desperate for companionship. I’m afraid of this judgment. And I shouldn’t be. I know that some people will understand me and who I am, and others will not. I know that not everyone is comfortable with the level of friendship I tend to bring to the table, hell, sometimes I’m not even comfortable with that. I’m afraid to lead people on, especially guys, by showing too much of a vested interest. But I’m a passionate person. I give everything my all, especially my friendships.
I’m afraid of commitment. Well, other than to friendships and now to this job. I don’t see myself buying a house…ever…because I don’t want to be tied to one place. I’m afraid of missing out on the incredible experiences that exist in another land. Unfortunately, that fear of commitment exists in “romantic” relationships. And that’s a whole other discussion where my fingers don’t possess enough strength to tell the whole story. But I will say I’m afraid to start anything here in Nashville because I’m afraid of hurting them when I move on to another city. Friendships carry on no matter the distance. Not sure relationships can survive that.
And those are just a few small things. There are also things that are justified, like being afraid of being followed if I walk alone at night (because I’ve been followed before) or of germs in a public bathroom.
But I think the one I’m having the most trouble with is my fear of judgment, as mentioned above, specifically as I try and meet people in each new city where I’m going to live. And honestly, I’m struggling right now to finish this post for that very reason. But I’m going to because I think it’s important. It’s something I’ve learned and I really do not want to live a life in fear.
We are all examples for the children of this world. If we can show them that we’re not afraid of each other as adults, then maybe they wouldn’t show so much fear among their peers. Maybe they’d be brave and sit with the kid who usually sits alone at lunch, or stand up to the kid who’s known as a bully, or be confident of the fact that they’re the smart one in class. Maybe then we won’t have these school shootings. It’s not about the guns, it’s about the person holding the gun. What got them to that point? Was it years of neglect? Of people around him being afraid to say something, to tell him he needed help? Of a parent afraid to admit their child wasn’t perfect? And I’m not saying this to be offensive or to start something controversial. I just want to make us all think about someone we’ve been afraid of and then take steps to overcome that fear.
I was on a walk the other day and came across a ragged-looking man sitting on a wall, staring out at the street, deep in thought, tears in his eyes. I could have ignored the fact that I saw him, the tears, the look of sadness, because I was afraid of what I might hear. But I sucked it up, stopped, and asked if he worried about the lunch he just ate. He looked up, a bit bewildered, then gave a small chuckle and said, “Thanks for making me laugh.” I asked what he was really thinking about and he proceeded to say that he went “home” to his room at a motel to find his stuff outside the door. He couldn’t pay his rent, not until the end of the month, and didn’t know what to do. We talked for a while, I listened to his story, asked about what he could do next, and what, if he could, he’d rather do, and then we parted with a hug. I didn’t need to give him money. I didn’t need to provide answers or fix his problems. He wasn’t going to follow me home or steal my phone. He just didn’t have anyone to talk to about his situation in that moment. But then I was there. And I stood up to my fear and did my part to make sure he had at least one smile in his day.
So what if we all did that? What if we stop fearing judgment, stop fearing people, and shared a smile with everyone we came across, or at least not trying to hide it when we fear that it might come across as weird? What if we finally told that friend that we love them and want only what’s best for them…and that it might mean they need to get out of that relationship?
All I know is that when I embrace life as it comes, act in the moment, follow my heart, and love people for being a part of humanity, I feel better. I will always need reminders to address fear, tell it to back off, and go for it. But every step I can take to overcome a fear is a step in the right direction, no matter how small. What’s your next step?
One last thing…if you’re going to tackle a fear, tackle it 150%. I think when people approach a fear timidly, it doesn’t always work out as well…and then they regress. Give it your all. If it doesn’t work out, you at least know you did your very best in that moment, the moment you can’t have back to try again.
Sending thoughts of love to all those who have lost someone they care about, especially those who lost them due to needless violence.