"There really is 'healthy fear.' For example, it's very healthy to fear drinking before you drive. However, fear should not be allowed to run rampant through our lives so that it becomes such a devastating factor that it produces failure. The problem is not getting rid of fear, but using it properly.... We must learn to distinguish those helpful fears from the harmful ones. When you can do that, fear is a friend. Until you can learn to do it, however, fear can be an enemy." ~ Zig Ziglar
I have been sitting on this entry, writing and rewriting it (both on "paper" and in my mind) for the past year and a half, as different events have stirred up feelings and I have to distinguish between the fear I feel - keeping my unhealthy fears at bay, while listening and reacting to the healthy ones.
A couple of winters ago I attempted to learn to snowboard, which I'm sure was an interesting site to see. I was an expert on the bunny hill, if I do say so myself. Then came the real test - the real beginner slope. I made it on the ski lift without falling. I made it off the ski lift without making a scene. I fastened the board on my feet and started down the slope. At that point, I think my snowboard had a magnet that was attracted to the trees. Every time I started to go, the board automatically moved towards the trees. No matter what I did I was still headed to the woods. The closer I got, the more nervous I became. Fear set in. I knew I was going to crash into a tree and probably break a bone. The more the fear set in, the more nervous I became and the more I froze. I could not control my board. My brother, being the patient younger sibling that he is, graciously helped me by holding my hands and guiding me down. Unfortunately, my legs slowly became fatigued and felt like jello. At that point I had to confess to my brother that I could no longer snowboard down the mountain. I had to take the snowboard off and walk down the slope. I told him that he could continue down by himself, so I wouldn't embarrass him as I walked instead of snowboarding. He laughed and said he didn't mind....
This was a healthy fear. If I hadn't listened to my instinct and what my body was telling me I, most likely, would have been seriously injured and/or taken out and injured some innocent skier as I tumbled down the slope, out of control.
Then came my dilemma. My boys learned how to snowboard that day also, the same time I did and with the same instructor. They were up on the mountain, snowboarding and having snow ball fights. Part of me was very proud of them, but the other part was nervous. All I could envision was them crashing, out of control, into a tree. Should I let them continue? Would they get hurt? Would they be the next person coming down on a stretcher, pulled by the ski patrol? Possibly. But, I knew they were much more coordinated and a lot more fearless than me, but were they safe? Yes, they could fall and get hurt, but they were in good hands. I decided to, as Zac Brown says, "Let it go."
If I had listened to my fear, I would have been doing the boys a disservice. The boys were in good hands, learning how to snowboard and enjoying the day. Yes, they could fall and get hurt. But, more likely, they would learn how to snowboard, have a great time, and make memories that would last a long time. Of course, they would also find a new activity to beg me to do every time it snowed or they were bored during the winter. They better find a way to earn money to buy a snowboard and ski lift passes.
As a mom I worry. This started the day Austin was born. Some of my worrying was justified, some was a result of an overactive imagination and had to be ignored. This continues today with my other two boys, but to a further degree. I have now experienced what is every mother's fear. I know what can happen and have to ask myself, "Am I being over-protective or realistic?" "Is this something I should let the boys do, even though there is risk? Or is the risk too high that I need to say 'no'?"
Life is a risk. There are things we do where we could get hurt, physically or emotionally, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't do them. Our challenge in life is deciphering what fear we should listen to and what fear is unrealistic.... To really live, we must face some of our fears. To not do so would deny ourselves the life we were meant to have!
(I hope to write about some of these fears in the near future - but seeing how it took me over a year to finish this entry, we shall see...)