What are you afraid of? Have you ever stopped to think about that question?

I recently came across a composition on fear and it struck a nerve in me. Despite the ominous tone I couldn’t help but relate to its message. It caused me to pause and ask myself, “What are you afraid of?”

So many times we find ourselves living our lives less than we’d like. We wonder why we can’t make a decision or get that project done. We look back, and wonder why we didn’t seize that darn opportunity at work, or have that important conversation with a loved one. If we take the time to find the origin of that indecision or that stalled project, we might be surprised to find that fear is the culprit.

“I am fear. I am the menace that lurks in the paths of life, never visible to the eye but sharply felt in the heart. I am the father of despair, the brother of procrastination, the enemy of progress, the tool of tyranny, born of ignorance and nursed on misguided thought, I have darkened more hopes, stifled more ambitions, shattered more ideals, and prevented more accomplishments, than history could record.

Like the changing chameleon, I assume man disguises. I masquerade as caution. I am sometimes known as doubt or worry. But whatever I am called, I am still fear, the obstacle of achievement.

I know no master but one; its name is Understanding. I have no power but what the human mind gives me, and I vanish completely when the light of Understanding reveals the facts as they really are, for I am really nothing.

You see, if you have the courage to acknowledge your fears, you will be taking the first step toward controlling them instead of them controlling you. And, if you take the next step toward understanding, you will be able to move past them to empathy, perhaps even to love.” ~ Anonymous

This discourse makes me squirm, because it causes me to evaluate where in my life fear has prevented me from being all that I am capable of being. It portrays fear as the evil perpetrator lurking in the shadows of my life waiting to seize my subconscious and hold me hostage. Using our deepest personal perceptions against us, fear binds us and keeps us from realizing our true potential.

I don’t want to admit that I may be fearful. However, I have to!  I have to admit that I battle fear in my life.  Fear of failure, fear of messing up my kids, fear of letting someone down, fear of missing opportunities at work, and the list goes on.  I have to admit the fear in order to conquer it.

The first step to mastering fear is to acknowledge it. The next step is to understand. You see, Understanding is the name of the hero in this story. To understand means that we look for and consider all the information surrounding relationships, circumstances and events. Our hero investigates the facts and details in order to shed light and bring clarity.

Fear thrives on confusion and can only exist in the darkness created by misinformation or a lack of facts.

Yes, Understanding illuminates the darkness by using the facts to bring truth to a situation or circumstance. But, it is up to us to invite Understanding into our lives. It’s a choice to look for facts, and information, and to consider the circumstances surrounding events. It’s up to us to entertain understanding, and kick fear to the curb. People and circumstances are not always the way they seem. It’s not always the way fear would have us believe it is.

The next time you find yourself bogged down at work, at home or in your relationships, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?”  Then, name the fear and invite understanding into your life by gathering the facts.  Understanding helps us control our fear rather than allowing our fear to control us.