Growing up I was nervous kid, full of anxieties and self-esteem issues. It was difficult growing up. I had a great family and I didn’t want for anything. Still, something inside me was definitely wrong. I was angry, sad, scared and lonely. I can remember a particular day at the babysitter’s after school. It was twenty minutes after the scheduled time my parents were to arrive and I had a panic attack. My blood ran through the roof. My sick and twisted mind at that time told me that my parents had died in a car crash. I couldn’t get the image out of my head. I know I cried uncontrollably until my parents finally came. I remember that day because of the very real feeling of fear that had totally dominated my body and mind. It grew steadily and steadily until I was incapacitated. What caused that fear? Was I just an anxious kid? Overly nervous? Crazy? I just couldn’t figure it out and neither could my parents. On my first day of kindergarten I threw up all over the front steps. As I progressed through middle school the fear was kept at bay but only just. I had some really good friends that I could play and hide with. I could forget for awhile. The time did come however when I would be alone and vulnerable and the fear would enter me fully. I would stay up late hiding beneath my covers. Every kid has “afraid of the dark” fear. Mine was absolutely terrifying. I didn’t even dare look out my window lest a demon with red eyes and dark fangs would spring up from under the still and kill me with his stare (true story). I am overweight and have danced with this problem for years. During school, especially middle school, I had to undress in front of other boys in the locker room before practices and what not. I would not do it. I would duck into shadows and blanket my self-consciousness with the firm plastic of the bathroom stalls. I was picked on for it, but the alternative I thought was worse. I played hockey which helped with the weight problem but I wasn’t very good. I skated with guys always wanting to be special. I had a huge ego for such a self-conscious person, kind of ironic.
High school came around and things became easier. I walked onto the varsity ice-hockey team which gained me instant “cool” status. Even though I didn’t play a lot, I still felt like I had finally arrived. I was getting attention, had a gorgeous girlfriend and even picked on a few kids. There were times however when my emotions and fears were on high. My girlfriend cheated on me and I freaked. The old horrors came back. I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t a man if I couldn’t keep a girlfriend, I was fat, blah blah blah. Eventually things smoothed out and I graduated from high school and enrolled at a local private college. In January 2003, my best friend in the world was killed by a drunk driver. He had been walking with another student who died as well. When I found out, my world shattered. If I had been anxious and fearful then, I was downright terrified now. I drank heavily. Too much for such a young body. Booze helped hide the fear. I was never really good at drinking, but I did it all the same. I drank everyday, all day. If I wasn’t an alcoholic then I don’t know what I was. When I stopped the terror was so real that I would not sleep for days, I couldn’t go to work, I could do nothing except drink more. I never drank for pleasure. I drank to escape. I feared death more than anything. I feared letting go. I could easily have killed myself if I had the courage to, but I didn’t. I was broken. I was booze soaked and doomed. I dropped out of school, got a job, lost the job, got another and lost that as well. I was a walking shell of a man.
Sooner or later, I snapped out of it. It had to stop. I ventured into Alcoholics Anonymous via rehab. They spoke of a higher power there. This fascinated me. I not only saw people living without fear or worry, I saw people seemingly happy. At that point I could give a shit if I was happy or not. The fear portion however intrigued me. I’m an agnostic and have no idea of who or what “God” is. The bible speaks of “God” as a man. If that be the truth then I could not claim Him. Already I began to rebuke. If God was a man, then men rule over woman which would be completely against equality and supreme happiness right? Still even more powerful, I was given a choice in my conception of God. Higher Power is used often in the realm of AA. I wish it was used more often elsewhere. As I worked the program of AA, I realized that I would soon confront all of these fears head on. It was terrifying!
Throughout history men and women speak of “walking through fear”. Classic good versus evil stories have that like idea. The famous FDR quote makes it plain and simple: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” When looked at from an outside perspective I realized that fear was irrelevant. I heard a man speak on alcoholism and about fear (he will remain nameless). “I was full of fear. What I had to realize is that that fear wasn’t real. It’s a manifestation of other feelings that create fear. It’s a jump off point to instant catastrophic results. Fear is a reaction. Like cause and effect. Fear is the bi-product of sin.” I soon realized that at that moment, I had ceased to live in fear. I would just try like hell too be good. I am not perfect and I continue to sin, but I now know that the fears I have, is because of my actions. Fear is generated only because of my doings, these are my fears and mine alone.”
I certainly woke up right there. It made complete and utter sense to me. I was the master of my own fears. Fears do not originate. They are created by human action, by my actions. I approached this man who had just broken open my mind and let me into the light. I asked him how to live without fear. He said it was easy. I didn’t believe him.
– Find the people you’ve wronged
– Make it right
– Become spiritually centered
– Place your needs and wants second
– Help your neighbor
– Ask for help
The world today is filled with fear and bitter resentment. Waring ideologies, poverty, politics, jihads, bigotry, oppression etc. I took me a long time to understand fear. Sometimes, I do welcome a healthy dose of fear to let me know that I’m still human and can make mistakes. The things that the man instructed me on are simple and true facts on altruism. The definition of altruism is as states;
– Loving others as oneself.
– Behavior that promotes the survival chances of others at the cost of ones own.
– Self-sacrifice for the benefit of others.
These definitions may seem extreme but definition number three is the most important. Self-sacrificial practices in a “practical use”. Helping the neighbor with their groceries, taking your nephew to school, instead of buying something for yourself that you most likely don’t need, buy something for the needy guy you passed on your way to the dept. store, drop a twenty dollar bill in your needy co-workers coat pocket. These are just some types of self-sacrifice that altruism calls for.
The Beatles said, “All you need is love.” I believe that is true. Love is the opposite of fear and the cure. True, unhampered, unselfish care for others will cure the everyday fear that crushes millions.
“There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it. For they believe in hitting for hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, “This isn’t the way.” And this morning, I think of the fact that our world is in transition now. Our whole world is facing a revolution.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
There are a lot of great things to take from that quote. We live in a world of take. There is no give. If we reprogram ourselves to give, this world would be less fearful. It’s a no-brainer.
Give yourself a break, fear sucks. Help somebody else out today and I guarantee your stress levels go down. Concentrate harder on helping your family. That’s where real fearlessness lies. It lies in love for another.