“Anything I’ve ever done that ultimately was worthwhile…initially scared me to death.”
— Betty Bender
In most ways I’m a cautious person, riddled with anxieties about all sorts of things, but some people get a false impression that I am bold or daring. I think this is because certain traits that run strongly in me — tenacity, curiosity, love of adventure, and being generally excitable, defiant and hotheaded — can masquerade as courage.
When we visited the Amalfi Coast of Italy, my terror of the winding, cliff-hugging roads and fast drivers was surpassed only by my awe at some of the most stunning sights I’ve ever experienced. It reminded me of when we drove up Pike’s Peak, and I was such a nervous wreck by the time we got to the summit that I sought (unsuccessfully) some other way to get down. Once we started the trek back, however, the panorama beneath us was so breathtakingly beautiful that I had no time to be afraid.
Fear in itself is a neutral trait, neither helpful nor harmful until we allow it to be one or the other. If we use fear as a motivating factor to learn, prepare and take reasonable precautions, it is our friend. But if we allow fear to chain us to an illusion of safety — and in the end, almost everything in which we trust for safety is at least partly an illusion — we will never really live, for fear of dying.
What scares you most? Does your fear play the role of friend or foe?