Fear cracks and fractures. Fear divides us from our whole selves and from other people.
If I acknowledge or deny its existence, fear remains. Fear shackles part of my mind and holds back a part of me. When I am working with less than my full self, I am weakened. I do not serve at my best with fear holding part of me captive.
Most often, that fear rises to inhibit more than just me; the fear fractures relationships and puts fissures in teams. When I operate from a place of fear, my armor goes up, dividing me from others. I begin to distrust and read into motives, which breeds more fear. And all the decisions I make, for me and for others, are influenced by this fear.
If fear is so present yet so destructive, how do I cope? What addresses my fear problem?
Yes, love. Love gathers and connects. Love heals.
I can see you about to move past this love stuff but hang with me.
Love is as active as fear. Love is not the butterflies of a junior high crush. Love—of myself and others—is what moves me past fear. Love brings the courage to do the hard work of vanquishing fear. I must believe the people are worth the challenge. I must believe I am worth the difficulty. And that comes from love. Love connects the disparate parts of me and brings strength to do this work.
What does this active, fear-vanquishing love look like?
Allow the fear into consciousness, name it, and step out of it.
When I deny fear, it’s like wearing sunglasses inside and pretending I can see just fine, thank you very much. I have to first recognize that I am living in some fear. Denial is easy in the hustle and bustle of life; in the stillness and silence, I become aware. Be still. Ask questions: “Am I fearful?” And listen in the quiet for the answer. And oh, man. I’m a mover and a talker and a doer and a thinker—silence is a discipline of love that does not come naturally to me.
In the solitude, name the fear. What am I afraid of? It could be small or deep, but name the fear. I must be vulnerable, and kind, with myself. Do I fear pain, lack, rejection, vulnerability, loss, failure? Name the fear. Be specific and real. Even writing this, there is a bit of fear. I am afraid of being unhelpful and looking foolish. When fear has a specific name, it almost immediately becomes smaller.
When I have named my place of fear, now I must set it aside and step into love. If I believe fear divides, then I must leave it behind. Love collects all the pieces of myself together, like bringing myself up to my full height, and gives me strength to step out of fear into courage. Courage to be vulnerable, to serve others well, to believe I will have enough, to enter into difficult conversations and spaces with the posture of love. When I approach with love, I’m looking for ways to listen well, see truly, and work wholly, not shadowed by my sunglasses of fear. I see clearly and love fully, helping, connecting, and serving those around me.
Fear will continue to come up in my life and the life of any leader. Left unattended, fear is like a toddler left alone with a sharpie—it will mark every surface it finds, dividing and breaking everything it touches. I encourage you to see the fear, name it, and step out of fracturing fear into healing love.