The other morning…
as I got in my car to go to work, I was struck by a thought.
I had just finished posting on my blog about fighting and filtering out fear. This particular morning, as I started the short drive to work, the anxious thoughts and feelings that usually accompanied me seemed less intense. More far away. Instead, a realization dawned on me that I really cared about the people I worked with, including my boss and her boss, and her boss’s boss.
What I was experiencing was the flip side of fear.
Just now I googled “fear” and “courage.” It’s amazing how many quotes there are—in fact, whole web pages—devoted to the contrast between fear and courage, some of it inspiring.
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave. ~Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar, 1894
Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared. ~Edward Vernon Rickenbacker
Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid. ~Franklin P. Jones
Fear and courage are brothers. ~Proverb
Courage is tiny pieces of fear all glued together. ~Irisa Hail
There is no such thing as bravery; only degrees of fear. ~John Wainwright
Inspiring as these quotes may sound, I think they miss the key to overcoming fear. It isn’t about drumming up courage.
I think this one comes close to the truth:
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. ~Ambrose Redmoon
This one comes closer still, but you have to know the context in order to get it:
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
That was a bit of dialogue spoken by the hero, Atticus Finch, in To Kill a Mockingbird. He had just done something shockingly brave in the eyes of his daughter, Scout. She had witnessed her father doing something amazing. What she’d missed, though, was something he’d done earlier, something that took far more courage. He’d crossed a line and stood against powerful and deadly prejudices controlling the world of his day.
Why did Atticus Finch act so courageously?
Because there were things he cared about more than his own comfort and safety, or the approval of the people in his world.
1 John 4 begins with some verses that, at first glance, could be kind of scary (at least they scared me when I first read them):
1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
Goodness. The spirit of the antichrist. Already in the world.
But not to fear!
4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
Isn’t that great? I can’t tell you how many times I have clung to that promise.
Here’s the kicker, though:
It’s the second half of the chapter that provides the everyday, practical answer to fear. It’s the real flip side to fear. Here are the key verses:
16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
“But perfect love drives out fear.”
For over 30 years now, God has been working his love into and through my heart, teaching me to love the people who share my world. As he breaks down barriers of prejudice, ignorance, resentment (and so forth!), I continue to encounter situations where I’m simply not as afraid as I used to be.
Because love is more powerful than fear.
It isn’t courage that overcomes fear.
It’s the love of the God of the Universe come to live in our hearts.
The flip side of fear isn’t courage.
Ripe for Harvest is written by Charles Flemming.
©2012 Charles Flemming.