Provision #224: Mind Your Fear

Laser Provision

Fear should not be dismissed as a sign of weakness. It serves to protect and create life. As strange as it may sound, this Provision puts in a few good words for fear. Take them to heart, and we may avoid shooting ourselves in the foot as we go after the enemy.

LifeTrek Provision

Fear is in the air. You bump into it wherever you look. Here are a few representative remarks.

• “The relentless fear permeating the land since the terrorist attacks is changing people’s behavior and driving immediate political actions that will alter the nation’s future. All facets of life • air travel, architecture, business, entertainment, family, government, sports, you name it • will feel the collateral effects.” The Columbus Dispatch, Sunday, September 23, 2001.

• “The power of destruction has passed from the hands of the governments to the hands of small units that are invisible, powerful, hard to find, hard to destroy and absolutely terrifying,” Ray Browne, Professor Emeritus, Bowling Green State University, Popular Culture Department.

• “After all that has just passed • all the lives taken, and all the possibilities and hopes that died with them • it is natural to wonder if America’s future is one of fear. Some speak of an age of terror.” George W. Bush, President, United States of America

Anger, hatred, and the rumblings of war are also in the air. No sooner does fear get expressed as it gets swept away in a patriotic rattling of swords. Would that they were only swords anymore! Our technology has so far outpaced our morality that we again find ourselves on the precipice of unleashing weapons of mass destruction • chemical, biological, and nuclear. It’s a scary place to be, perhaps more so now than during the Cold War.

Before we too quickly jump off that precipice, and as strange as it may sound coming from a coach, I want to put in a few good words for fear. Minding our fear • paying attention to it, respecting it, and transforming it with love • may even be another one of those habits of successful people that we have been trying to keep sight of during these difficult days. Otherwise we can end up shooting ourselves in the foot as we go after the enemy.

Let’s start with the obvious: fear, like pain, is a basic emotion that we ignore or anesthetize at great cost. Any runner knows that pain means there’s a problem. Running through the pain, with the help of pain killers and true grit, usually does more harm than good. Eventually, the body takes over and prevents us from running at all.

So too with fear. If, in our attempt to get beyond the discomfort and embarrassment of fear, we too quickly get back either to business as usual or to the business of retaliation, we risk hurting ourselves even further. It’s certainly important to get out of harm’s way. But paying attention to fear, especially to its causes and resolutions, takes time and energy. Knee-jerk reactions usually just end up pulling another muscle.

That said, we can also thank fear not only for warning us of danger but also for provoking new thinking, strategies, and technology. If necessity is the mother of invention, then fear is the greatest mother of all. Nothing gets people into gear like fear. Just look at how quickly the United States government found $40 billion to mobilize its forces and respond to this tragedy. Fear can do amazing things.

Some have gone so far as to suggest that every great invention and intellectual advance represents a desire to escape from some dreaded circumstance or condition. “Education,” Angelo Patri said, “consists in being afraid at the right time.” It also consists in being afraid to the right degree and in the right way. Now is certainly a time to be afraid. If we can also manage the degree and course of our fear, we may yet produce a better world indeed.

Too much fear is debilitating. It paralyzes rather than moves people into action. That’s why Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The fear of fear cascades into crippling anxiety. We need to trust fear as a normal, necessary, and creative part of life. That’s why I shared with you Derek Mahon’s poem in the Special Edition of September 12, 2001. “There will be dying•but everything is going to be all right.” Such faith, which for me rests in God, is the best antidote I know for fear.

Wrongly channeled fear is destructive. It can quickly degenerate into vicious blood feuds. Listen to Dr. Martin Luther King on the subject, some 40 years ago during another time of great social upheaval and military conflict. “Our deteriorating international situation is shot through with the lethal darts of fear, one of the major causes of war. We say that war is a consequence of hate, but close scrutiny reveals this sequence: first fear, then hate, then war, and finally deeper hatred. Were a nightmarish nuclear war to engulf our world, the cause would be not so much that nations hated each other, but that they feared each other.” (Strength to Love, 1963)

If Dr. King is right, and if the current stakes are as high as or even higher than they were back then, we would do well to channel our fear • as hard as this may be • into directions other than hatred and war. Dr. King spoke in terms of love and understanding. In so far as we can achieve this in the current situation, before and perhaps even in lieu of striking out militarily with “Operation Infinite Justice,” it will serve us all well. Time will tell if this option gets any consideration at all.

Read on to see what other LifeTrek readers have to say on the subject.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


“Transposing is sometimes a difficult exercise, but one that is more important than ever, especially in our own country, now.  We must understand our fellow citizens, and sometimes resist them, as we once again overreact to facing the ‘enemy within.'”


“Tribal warfare has been going on for two thousand years and has now been magnified globally. Can tribal warfare be brought to an end? Is patriotism and nationalism even relevant anymore, or is this another form of tribalism? What are you and I as persons going to do about what is happening? Can we afford to let the deeper wound fester any longer? Everyone is calling this an attack on America, but is it not a rift in our collective soul? Isn’t this an attack on civilization from without that is also from within?

None of us will feel safe again behind the shield of military might and stockpiled arsenals. There can be no safety until the root cause is faced. In this moment of shock I don’t think anyone of us has the answers. It is imperative that we pray and offer solace and help to each other. But if you and I are having a single thought of violence or hatred against anyone in the world at this moment, we are contributing to the wounding of the world.” Deepak Chopra


“On Tuesday night, I left a prayer vigil at Valparaiso University’s large chapel.  It was the third vigil of the day, each filled to capacity with between 1500 and 2000 people.  All of the vigils pleaded for us to turn to prayer and not to lash out indiscriminately.  They were wonderful experiences where community was truly present.  Then, on the way home my radio had Jerry Falwell speaking.  He was speaking such venomous bile I was entranced.  I couldn’t believe he was referring to the same God that I had just experienced.  Oh, how we need to repent.”


“Of all the opinions expressed, I have yet to read one as balanced as yours. You are correct, the spiral will continue, but, as we have seen in the past 20 years in Europe and the Soviet Union, it can be made to slow. But it can only be slowed by a society that values life, personal liberty, and the rule of law.”


“Thank you for the many hours you have given to ‘coaching’ us through this crisis. I have been very impressed by the depth and creativity of all of your weekly letters. I subscribed to LifeTrek because of how I resonate with the direction you take. But this week I was deeply touched by the time and dedication you took. And again I resonate with what you are saying. We must remain level-headed and ‘level-spirited’ in our responses to this violence. It is a time to act not react and we have the choice to change the world or destroy the world.”


“The events of the past week determine that life will change, but, of course, how it changes will be a reflection of our consciousness–individually and collectively.  Is it possible, I wonder, for a whole people to be willing to say ‘no’ to terrorism and to do whatever is necessary to stop it without harboring hatred in their hearts?”


Your message that violence begets violence is timely and accurate.  It is through actions of violence that we create angry people who have nothing to loose.  Additionally, I see another component; it is the strain of fundamentalism that sees this type of killing as acceptable.  We have seen it in our country with the killing of abortion doctors and in every country in the world.  We can not eradicate all Christians for the sins of a few radicals any more than we can kill all Muslims for the actions of the extremists.  There is another alternative and that is to work on the social conditions that support extremists.  This will take time and money.  War will spend this money in the destruction of others rather than the building of them.”


“I have a deep-seated bias against hate and intolerance. I have a bias against racial and religious bigotry. I have a bias against war, a bias for peace. I have a bias which leads me to believe that no problem of human relations is ever insoluble.” Dr. Ralph Bunche, Nobel Peace Prize Winner


“I am sorry it took me this long to write. I just wanted to console you on the recent attack on the US. IT IS REALLY A DISASTER. I don’t know why some people will go through all this, just to prove a point at the expense of loss of lives. I am indeed sorry. When I was told I couldn’t believe it, an attack on the US, no way! It wasn’t until I heard it on BBC and confirmed it on the CNN website that I actually believed it. In my native language we say ‘E pele, a o ni ri iru e mo’ meaning, ‘Sorry, may we not see such again.’ May the good Lord give you the fortitude to bear the loss. Once again, I offer my condolences.”


May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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