Fear and I have a history. We aren’t friends, but we’ve arrived at a wary detente.
These are our current arrangements: I’ll stop railing at fear, cease exerting vast energy toward banishment. In return, fear won’t take offense when, after it bushwhacks me with its best shot, I simply shrug my shoulders and tell it to piss off.
I’ve learned that fighting against fear, needling it, setting it under the microscope, reasoning with it through every shade and crevice is a waste of time. Fear is a beast asking for your energy; if we play along, the game goes on and on.
Of course, we shouldn’t banish fear even if we could. There are things to be afraid of in this world. I’ve come to believe that fear is a necessary cost for engaging the world truthfully. If we want to live with rose-colored glasses, then perhaps we will be able to arrange things delicately enough to whistle our way through the horrors. Keep walking. Don’t look around you. Certainly don’t stop. Don’t engage. Pat a back here and there, push a platitude. Press on, always on, whistling and beaming, ever louder, ever forward. We could follow that trac and perhaps keep fear at bay (perhaps). I’d say your odds are slim, but if we tried hard enough and whistled loud enough, maybe.
The question to ask is not whether or not we’ll encounter fear, but what will we do with the fear when it comes? Will we step into it? Will we risk and love in spite of it? Will we throw caution and good reason and every self-protective instinct to the wind and, fear be damned, walk into the chaos? Any sane person knows the chaos we’re afraid of is indeed something to fear. It just might pillage us. What will we do then?
To be fearless is not to not feel fear. As Stanley Hauerwas said, “The courageous have fears that cowards never know.” If we truly know no fear, we either have a disorder or are paragons of denial. To be fearless means to feel fear’s dread, the press of its stifling weight and the pinch of its fangs – and to run and to hope and to love anyway.