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Fear is Here
It kills me to write that headline. It’s clickbait, and you’re here because it’s a legit question. Fear seems to be at the heart of everything today.
I know for the past few weeks you might have been living in the “New Year Euphoria,” but impeachment is here. The Right is already rallying. The Left is already calling for a strong voter turn-out. We are months away from the election and already the hype, the anger and most importantly the fear has begun.
Fear of pain is the strongest motivator we have. It crushes pleasure, happiness, joy, peace, anger, and hate. Fear crushes negative emotions because those emotions are so often fueled by fear. In fact, our need for pleasure is not in itself a type of seeking hedonism but a reaction to escape fear.
Fear in my life
I die inside a little bit every time I see a tweet or read an article about how terrible this person is or that policy is. It is about fear. Fear drives ratings. Fear drives clicks, and so fear drives revenue.
All the coaching about branding and entrepreneurship tells us to start with people’s problems. What they are saying is focus on fear first and then alleviate that fear. That generates revenue. It works.
Can we move on from the fear of the last decade? Can we finally evolve past our reptilian brains a little bit and choose a different path?
Instead of fear can we choose bravery?
Courage comes from the Latin cor or heart. Later the suffix of -age was added in French, becoming: take heart. Courage is the choice to be self-controlled enough to overcome fear. Some do this rationally, others need inspiration.
That is where bravery comes in. Bravery, a word we have lost in our time of screens, awkwardness, and fear, is inspiring. Bravery helps us take heart or encourages us.
Example of Bravery
Let me give you an example of what bravery is because it is one of my favorite things to teach my son.
My son is an incredible child, but like all children he makes mistakes. Sometimes he disrespects someone with his words or actions. When he does this, we have a punishment, a debrief, and then he is to offer an apology. The punishment is kinda bad, and the debrief is a little painful to examine his inner workings (mostly it requires agonizing patience on my part). The apology is the absolute worst for him. To admit fault is just not within my son. It isn’t in many of us today.Bravery helps us take heart or encourages us. Click To Tweet
However, my son is three, and I remember from my experience that offering a real apology requires some vulnerability. It is scary for him. So, many times I coach him in bravery.
“You can do this. You can be brave here and apologize.” I coach him. Then if he is really struggling, I help him be brave. I go with him, make sure he speaks up, owns his fault, but I am there “to have his back.”
Allowing Bravery to Seep In
I don’t mind encouraging him. I am teaching my son to be brave. Part of good leadership, good personhood is owning your faults. In today’s air, that requires a lot of bravery. I don’t shame him into it. Healing springs from a real apology, and when he gets older he will be required to provide restitution.
Bravery seeps into his being like the syrup he so loves on his pancakes. Bravery is going to be a part of his bones, his DNA. He learns how to be brave because he learns that vulnerability is a necessary part of life. Vulnerability isn’t something to be feared; it is to encourage.Part of good leadership, good personhood is owning your faults. In today’s air, that requires a lot of bravery. Click To Tweet
Vulnerable to Take Heart
Vulnerability helps us take heart. When we take heart, we have control. It isn’t the end of the world. Trump isn’t going to destroy planet earth. Warren or Sanders or whoever isn’t going to end the American Way. Vulnerability is ok. Losing an election is ok. Be brave enough to shake the winner’s hand instead of spitting in their face.
A brave person offers the aide to their enemy. They work through the fear that their superior opponent will screw them over to help that opponent succeed even more. Make the policy, the law, the agreement even better for everyone. The winner can do it all, but will it be as good without the vulnerable person’s help. Are you truly the smartest person in the room? If you are what does that give you.
Some Examples of Coalition
I was told a story once about an experiment where the researchers took the top performer in a med school. Then they pitted her against the 4 lowest performers in the same med school. Who do you think won? Yeah, the 4 lowest performers… by a landslide.
Don’t believe look at history. Germany was the strongest nation, but the Allied Forces overcame it in WW2. Before that look at U.S. history, remember how well the Articles of Confederation worked out? How about a European example? The Moorish invasion of France was going quite smoothly until Charlemagne united the Christian kings and princes into a repelling force. The Magna Carta was a coalition of lords vs the King of England. Even Imperial Rome collapsed through a series of barbarian invasions, over and over; even though, individually they were weak. Together, repeatedly, they wore Imperial Rome out.It is the weak, the vulnerable, that make the difference because they are brave. The powerful and strong are afraid, afraid to lose that power. Click To Tweet
Land of the Free and Home of the Brave
Aren’t we the land of the free and home to the brave? Why then do we fret about fear? Democracy has always been fragile, weak, and vulnerable. Our society builds off of the Judeo-Christian value system which gives voice and value to the vulnerable. Those systems invite the weak to have a voice.
The systems help them be brave, just like I help my son. Our democracy encourages bravery. Right now, it is fearful. We are all afraid to lose it. Out of fear we do lose it. Our democracy falters when we fail to be brave. It fails when we fail to be good losers, by helping our opponents be better than we thought they were. Because in the end, they could ruin you. They have the upper hand, for now.
But remember aren’t we all countrymen and women? Do we not want what’s best for each other? What is good for you, with my help, can be good for me too. Perhaps, we prefer to be bogged down in pettiness and fear rather than being the land of the free and home of the brave?Perhaps, we prefer to be bogged down in pettiness and fear rather than being the land of the free and home of the brave? Click To Tweet
So what will 2020 be? Will it be the beginning of another decade of fear, or will we choose to turn the corner? Choose bravery? Congratulate and assist your opponent or sling more petty mud into a mud pit? Which do you think will make a larger difference this decade?
2020 is another Threshold. Here is a journal note on thresholds. I heard it recently on the This Cultural Moment Podcast. If you know who wrote this, I would love to give credit because it moved me.
Threshold moments are equally beautiful and terrifying. They have the capacity to make or break division as you stand on the cusp of everything you’ve ever dared hope for you survey the land that now lies before you, your eyes tracing the intricate shapes that settle on the horizon too good to imagine, this is what has been stirring for so long. This has been the cry of your heart for years hidden deep down, but now, here it is that first glimpse of a dream turned reality. Within reach right before your very eyes. So nearly there.
And as you stand there at the threshold of everything you’ve ever dreamed about with that cocktail of excitement and fear rising in equal measure the other voice kicks in, the one, the one that gently tells you to take a step back from the threshold. It whispers to you, “passing through that door will have its costs, it’s too good to be true, or even worse what lies in front of you is all mirage, and you’d be foolish to walk through it will disappear as soon as you enter. It’s better to survey the land from the doorway to distance yourself from it, just in case. Standing in the threshold just watching, it’s better to quietly let the dream die now before sacrifices are made bridges are burned, and there’s no safe way back.”
Threshold moments have power. Many see them as the end of a long journey. They finally glimpse what their hearts have longed for but they stop exhausted and find themselves settling in the doorway to all they have hoped for never actually crossing through and taking hold of it. Tired, exhausted, they find contentment in the reasoning that they’ve made it this far, that they can see it from a distance, but the truth is, these threshold moments are just the start of the adventure. They’re only just the beginning to step in. Take courage and move forward, you have been called for such a time as this.