How To Live Fearlessly in 2009

Posted by at 21 January, at 10 : 35 AM Print

Undoubtedly, January 20, 2009 will go down in the annals of history as the day that America re-defined itself. This nation saw for the first time, a son of an African immigrant take the oath to become the Commander and Chief of these United States. However, while the ceremony and the events surrounding it were extraordinary and emotion-filled, there can be no doubt that President Obama’s address to the nation and to the world was profoundly significant.  At a time when this nation faces its greatest economical crisis since the great depression of the 40’s, his words were a serious wake up call. Consequently, if there was one word that can summarize the inauguration address of the 44th President of the United States this past January 20 is: fearlessness. 

“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met…. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord….In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship…. with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested=2 0we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations” (Barack Obama).

When times get tough and no solution or end seems near, fear is the first and sometimes the only anchor we hold unto. But fear is born from our feeling powerless, unqualified, vulnerable or helpless. When we experience fear we believe that we are exposed to some form of danger. We fear losing retirement funds to an unpredictable market, we fear losing our jobs in the growing number of failing corporations, we fear losing our homes in the mortgage meltdown, we fear not being able to send money to help our family oversees, we fear not being able to provide for the basic necessities of our children, and so many more fears crowd our minds. These fears are real, they are dangerous and they become even more daunting in a bad economy. Consequently, we are also convinced that we don’t have the financial means, the social connections, or the education and knowledge to protect ourselves.

The interesting thing about feeling fear is that often our first reaction is to seek protection or refuge from that which threatens our security. Therefore, our natural instincts are: to take flight or to freeze.

We often “take flight” because we don’t want to deal with, or we feel incapable of dealing with a drea dful situation. And while taking flight is a form of protection, it also put us in denial mode. We don’t know how to deal with it, so we take flight and ignore it, all in the hopes that danger will eventually just go away. Taking flight might be manifested with several attitudes: we continue to spend without thought of saving for tough times, we refuse to cut down on unnecessary expenses, sometimes because of pride we refuse to admit our financial situation and seek help, or we don’t have contingency plans for our families.

Typically, however, we freeze before fear. The danger before us seems undefeatable so we become paralyzed. If our frozen state were not bad enough, we find ways of justifying our paralysis. To justify our in-action we say things like: “I’m praying about it,” “I’m just hanging on” or “The Lord will make way somehow”.  Don’t get me wrong, these are all good responses to have. But with these responses there must also come an honest search for possible solutions and a willingness to do whatever it takes to alleviate the situation. I know for sure that God does not need our help to solve our problems but he needs our faith in action. When we do our best God will do the rest. The main problem with remaining in this state of frozenness is that it will considerably limit our progress.

The truth is that before the many challenges we face, neither a flight or a freeze response will be of20any help. Although these might be the common responses we rely upon or the ones we have been taught since childhood, they are the most inappropriate answers to fear. They will not solve our problems or provide any viable solutions long-term or short-term.

Believe it or not, our best response to fear should be to confront it. It is the most difficult response because it means that we need to sit down and figure out an alternative plan. This plan may require of us that we disclose our situations to others, that we go and seek help in unexpected places, that we give up cherished habits and customs or give our lifestyle a total makeover. But most importantly, confronting our fears requires that we acquire a state of fearlessness. Confrontation does not necessarily mean conflict and crisis. Confrontation simply means that we will take action, regardless of and in spite of our fears.

The greatest modern day example of fearlessness that we can reference is that of  President Obama. Many said that it could not be done. Many said that he was unknown. Many said that he was inexperienced. Many said that his African roots and Muslim middle name would render him unqualified in America.. Fearless he pressed on, confronting the fears of many and applying contingency plans when necessary. America, and the world have become better places because of his fearlessness.

While confronting our deepest fears is not an easy path, it is always the most effective. We become much better because o f it. Most importantly, we will inspire others to also become fearless. One of my favorite passages of scripture is found in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (NLT). To live fearlessly, is to live with the assurance that we have already received from God all that we need to face even our most deepest fears.

Copyright © 2009 by Norka Blackman-Richards

Norka Blackman-Richards, is an adjunct lecturer at Queens College for CUNY. A writer, a minister’s wife, and an empowerment speaker on women, education, family and cultural issues, Norka is also the president and founder of a non-profit organization,  4 Real Women International, Inc. Visit her site at www.4realwomeninternaitonal.org.

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