“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain
“There is a time to take counsel of your fears, and there is a time to never listen to any fear.” – George S. Patton
Fear is a big enemy to guard against, while at the same time it is an essential ally to understand. Allowing irrational fear to influence your thinking can paralyze you, but ignoring fear triggered by real danger will kill you. Erasmus’ third rule is a warning to analyze your fears and understand the difference. Facts and sober analysis are the inoculation to being controlled by fear.
Seth Godin, one of my favorite wiseguys put it well, and agrees with Erasmus, when he said:
The fearless person is well aware of the fear she faces. The fear, though, becomes a compass, not a barrier. It becomes a way to know what to do next, not an evil demon to be extinguished.
When we deny our fear, we make it stronger.
When we reassure the voice in our head by rationally reminding it of everything that will go right, we actually reinforce it.
Pushing back on fear doesn’t make us brave and it doesn’t make us fearless. Acknowledging fear and moving on is a very different approach, one that permits it to exist without strengthening it.
Life without fear doesn’t last very long–you’ll be run over by a bus (or a boss) before you know it. The fearless person, on the other hand, sees the world as it is (fear included) and then makes smart (and brave) decisions.
Erasmus puts this all in the context of a growing Christian faith, building on his first two rules; Increase Your Faith and Act on Your Faith. Fear stands in the way of faith and a life a virtue, but Christ was, and remains, the answer.
Ben Sherwood in his book The Survivor’s Club explores fear, panic and the characteristics that survivors share. He points to scientific research that identifies the three legs of panic:
- Feeling that you are alone.
- Feeling that you don’t have any skills capable of dealing with the situation you are facing.
- Feeling that you are trapped.
Noted law enforcement trainer Dave Smith, whose life’s work is helping warriors develop the skills to overcome the second leg, made an observation that aligns perfectly with Erasmus. A Christian, who has a personal relationship with the living God, never really feels alone. This fact alone makes you resistant to panic.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Matthew 11:29
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.– Matthew 28:20b
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