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Permission to Advance Fearfully

I heard a story once about a Drill Sergeant who told his new recruits that fear is what causes you to wet your pants and courage is what enables you to do what you have to do with wet pants.

I was reminded of that story this past week, as my family experienced an unexpected crisis. It’s too fresh and too personal to describe in detail, but now that the shock and danger has lessened, I’m looking for the lessons.

As a mentor used to say:

Never lose the good of a bad situation!

What strikes me now, as I think about what happened, is how many times my family and I had to embrace the unknown or advance despite it. We didn’t have the luxury of clear cut options or risk evaluations every step of the way. When it’s a loved one at risk, you face the fear squarely, you feel it fully, but you have to move forward. We couldn't afford to wait, so forward was the only way.

I’m wondering why I don’t do this more readily or consistently when the situation is not as urgent or threatening. It’s easier to advance fearfully when the stakes are especially high and the danger to a loved one is “clear and present,” It’s a much different kind of fear than the fear I won’t finish an important project or write this post well. In either case, the fear diminishes once I start moving forward.

Whether it’s the low grade fear of not finishing, or the high grade fear of a piece of life unraveling, we have permission to move forward despite our fear. We have to move forward, and sometimes the only way forward is through.

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