Be brave, choose the third alternative…

September 22, 2022

Today Pastor Freed used this quote ion his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“Fear makes cowards of us all.”  (Shakespeare)

That brought to my mind the common statement that when faced with danger (something that we fear) the response alternatives are most often fight or flight. Yet, there is a third alternative that we perhaps too seldom choose – seek to understand. Be brave.

It is fear that provokes racist or homophobic responses in people when they meet someone who looks or acts different from them.  That fear is driven more by ignorance than by any real threat. Both of the alternatives of fight or flight are reactions born of cowardness and both are failures. Only by facing the unknown danger and trying to understand it can we learn from the situation and grow as human beings. Be brave.

You may not be able to control the wave of fear that washes over you when meeting someone who is different looking, perhaps even scary or threatening looking. That fear is fear of the unknown. The real choice that you face is taking action to avoid the perceived danger by flight, or even by fight, or regaining control of yourself and trying to understand the person or situation that you are facing. Be brave.

By trying the third alternative you are trying to understand two things – what is it that is causing the fear reaction in you and what, if any, is the real threat posed by this person or this situation? If you perceive that the treat is real, the flight response is almost always the safest way to proceed, rather than making things worse by choosing to fight. In any event, stopping to ask yourself why you reacted out of fear to the person, or the situation, will let you examine the premise upon which that fear was based. Prejudices are ugly things that are easy to recognize even within yourself; yet, still difficult to deal with. Be brave.

Acquiescence or going along to get along, especially in the face of prejudices like racism and homophobia, is an insidious form of cowardness. Staying silent is a form of agreement with the racists or homophobes with whom may associate and makes you an accomplice to their prejudiced behavior. Remaining silent when you witness such behavior never makes you feel better about yourself later. Speak up. Be brave.

So, resolve today that rather than continuing to limit yourself to only the two responses to the perceived threats that life brings your way – fight or flight – you will instead remain calm and seek to better understand both your own response and what real danger, of any, there is in the situation. Knee-jerk reactions driven by prejudices are just Jerk reactions. Be brave and choose the third alternative.


Be brave; learn to overcome your fears…

June 11, 2022

Several of the little quotes that I collect seemed to coalesce onto a more complete thought today.

Nelson Mandela

“You fear what you don’t know.”  (Chad Druetzler) 

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”  (Nelson Mandela)

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. (Marie Curie)

I was a little unsure how to position the last two quotes, but I think the order is correct.

It seems to me that fear of things that we don’t know or understand is what underlies most of the hate, prejudices and conspiracy theories that we see and experience in the world.  Most, if not all, of that fear is caused by a lack of knowledge and understanding. We encounter someone who is different from ourselves and immediately become fearful because we don’t understand them – they are outside of our normal frame of reference and thus represent some sort of unknown danger. Fear takes over.

Unfounded prejudices are based on this fear reaction when the fear is generalized and applied to a group of people who share some characteristic or trait – perhaps the color of their skin, or the way they dress or speak (language, or even the color of their hair or the fact that they have a tattoo or piercing of some sort. It is easy to recognize within yourself, if your reaction to encountering someone different is immediate fear, disgust or defensive, without any additional reason.

It is much harder to take Mandela’s or Marie Curie’s advice and overcome those fears. The key is probably to be found in Curie’s quote and that is to shift your thought process from fearful reaction onto trying to understand what is causing your reaction. Just stop yourself to ask, “What am I really afraid of and why?” That pause alone will allow you to regain control over what might have been a thoughtless, “knee-jerk” reaction, which is often called prejudice.

Curie’s answer to Druetzler’s observation is to take Mandela’s advice and conquer your fears by making the effort to understand what is driving them. So, as you hit new challenges or meet new people; rather than approach those events in trepidation, embrace them in wonder and with a resolve to understand them, not fear them.

Be brave. Learn to overcome your fears. As a side-benefit, you will live a rich and more satisfying life.