Earlier today I spent an hour walking down a beach talking a friend down from his ledge. He was about to go through a frightening experience. He was going into a meeting in which a thousand things could go wrong. There was much at stake – His job, an important relationship, his dignity and his pride.
As I listened, I could tell he was afraid. He was devising a plan to control the situation.
I’ve heard the desire to control is the root of sin. I know it’s just a saying, but I think there’s truth in it. There’s truth and a lack of faith, too.
I softly told my friend what I’ve learned in this life, that there’s rarely a benefit to charging into a situation trying to control the outcome. There’s a time and place, but there aren’t many places and there’s rarely a time.
Instead, I gave him the best advice I could come up with. And in my experience, having failed a million times, I told him to basically stand there with his hands in his pockets, smile, and tell the truth.
I said this because at the root of most of my disasters was a deep fear, masquerading as something else. Fear rarely names itself, instead, it points fingers, it slings spin, it runs for the hills.
But to stand there and say to yourself I fear intimacy, I fear rejection, I fear embarrassment and actually own it takes a quiet strength, a strength that will be obvious to everybody in the room. And then what’s more, to not act out of that fear. When we see somebody trying to control a situation, it’s almost always motivated by fear. And though it sometimes works in the moment, it most always backfires later.
What works in fear is to say I am afraid. I don’t mean this to tempt you to play the victim. I mean this to say tell the truth. Always.
In a fight with your wife? Tell the truth. What are you afraid of losing? Her? Your pride? She will respect you for naming it and saying it. And at work it’s the same. Afraid of losing your place in the company? Softly and appropriately tell somebody you trust. Afraid of writing a blog? Admit it in the first sentence.
We are a culture that hides our fears, and when people hide their fears, they don’t connect. And so we shoot ourselves in the foot because what we most want is security and security comes through connection.
Strong people admit their fears, while frightened people fake their way through it.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just show up, don’t run, stand there with your hands in your pockets and live in the fear.
How about moving through the fear, rather than around it?
That way, we will overcome our fears, and connect while we are at it. The long way around will never change our character.