Earlier this month, I told you I was scared about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. This fear wasn’t exceptionally hard to admit or justify, because climbing Kili is big and adventurous. This fear was worth its airtime.
Our greatest fears, however, aren’t usually the ones that accompany our biggest challenges. The fears that are most debilitating tend to be the small ones that nag at us daily and stop us from ever getting around to the big things we should be a little bit anxious about.
I was reminded of this today, because I had to face one of my own silly fears head on. Though it is embarrassing to admit, I absolutely hate driving over tall bridges.
My family often reminds me that it does not make sense that I’m afraid of bridges but I’m not afraid to bungee jump off of one, fly across a country at war in an old Russian helicopter, speak in front of hundreds of people, or hang glide off a mountain.
But who ever taught us that fear makes sense?
My fear of bridges is not rational. My mind knows that I have absolutely nothing to be scared of, but my heart still races, my palms get sweaty and I subconsciously death grip the steering wheel when I have to drive over a tall one.
Unfortunately for me, my current “home” in Florida happens to be less than a mile away from what feels like one of the tallest bridges in the universe. I can’t actually go south of my house without having to cross this bridge and be reminded that I’m not invincible.
In attempt to justify my fear, I shall let you know that this bridge, the Sunshine Skyway is both tall and creepy. If you don’t believe me read this.
I tend to avoid feeling this fear by routing my errands north whenever possible to avoid the bridge. Today I didn’t have another option, so I mustered up my courage, put my foot on the accelerator and started the rollercoaster-like climb up the bridge and into the sky. The view was beautiful and I lived through it twice (since I had to come back home).
When I talk about finding my courage, I think about the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz. The story tells us that the Lion was afraid of everything because he didn’t have courage. I think they’ve got it wrong. The Lion was afraid of things just because he was alive. As Mark Twain so wisely put it:
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”
We’re all afraid things, it is part of being human. Though we don’t get to choose what we fear, we do get a choice in how we face our fears.
We can live on the safe side of fear, or we can drive into it head on with trembling hands. For we will only discover what beauty lies beyond these fears if we cross the bridge when we come to it.
What’s your fear today, and how are you going to face it?