Fear sucks. I absolutely hate the emotion. It’s one of the only emotions I have encountered in my life that has the ability to haunt you, stay with you, and cling on for dear life no matter what you try to get rid of it. Fear manifests itself in many ways—some helpful, some crippling—and has a profound ability to impact the choices we make.
Recently, there was a shooting at quiet, friendly neighborhood park close to where I live. A shooting. At a park. In the middle of the day, on a SUNDAY. A friend of mine was at that park when it happened, accompanied by her two small children. That, ladies and gentlemen, is real fear. That is the fear that grips you and sends you into fight-or-flight mode, and it is completely unacceptable. The headlines tormented me, rattling my mind and making me ask myself, “How could this happen at THAT park? How could that happen in broad daylight on a Sunday? What if I was there with my little girl?” I was outraged.
But then, a thought came to me. “No.” Just that one word—no. No, I would not let fear get the better of me. No, I would not spend my life worrying about what could possibly go wrong in a freak, unpredictable fashion. No, I would not let that same fear manifest in my daughter as she grows up. Fear is ugly, and stupid, and I hate it, and I want my daughter to go forth in life with bold confidence, shouting “FEAR WILL NOT DEFINE ME!”
Here are five reasons I refuse to let fear get the better of my daughter.
1. I don’t want her looking over her shoulder. When my daughter goes to a park and starts running for the swing set, the last thing I want her to be doing is focusing on the possibilities of what could go wrong. “What if there was a bad guy? What if something bad happened?” Those aren’t the thoughts I want occupying her mind in the midst of what should be a relaxing, fun-filled afternoon. Those fears rob her of the opportunity to enjoy herself; those fears rob her of a childhood. Every child—EVERY child—deserves to be a child, to have fun and feel safe and comfortable and have a completely untainted view of the world. The world of a child should not be filled with fear, and I will do my best to keep fear away. I will be the guardian of my daughter’s childhood, the protector of her innocence.
2. I want her to embrace failure. Failure is simply an opportunity to grow. I want my daughter growing up embracing the knowledge that anything worth succeeding at is worth failing at. Failure is how you learn, sweet child! Try, fail, analyze, learn and try something new. Repeat until success is in hand, but do not give up! Do not be afraid to fail. You AREN’T failing, you’re learning.
3. I want her to define her own life. As my daughter gets older and finds what she is passionate about—whether it’s dancing, sports, art, writing, politics, science, whatever—I want her to pursue those passions with vigor. If fear lingers in her life, whether caused by some sort of traumatic event or from a society that tells her she isn’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, she will not define her own course. Rather, her course will be defined by an external circumstance, unless she has the voice of truth and prosperity whispering lovingly in her ear, “You can accomplish all things! You are good, and beautiful, and worth it.” That voice, those truths, will pour endlessly from the lips of my wife and I. Always.
4. I want her to live with joy. Quite simply, I want my daughter’s life to be highlighted, capitalized and written in bold by laughter and joy. Fear of the unknown, fear of the world’s ugly side will do nothing but cripple her. I will not stand for that happening in her life. As I look at her now, she is filled with a pure, loving, innocent joy and has a precious spark in her eye that I hope one day gets fanned into a glorious flame. I will not let this world take that spark from her eye; I will not let that fire be put out. I will shelter that flame and encourage and stoke it with everything that I have.
5. I want her to love. Love, child! Do not be put down or heavy-laden by fear of inadequacy in this life. Those words you hear, the message thrown violently your way by a society based on vanity and fame, not love—those words are lies. Those are evil, evil lies. Love fervently, earnestly, honestly, with all of your being and fear not rejection. Have the courage to love with every ounce of your being, and let that courage be stronger than any fear you could possibly imagine.
Fear will not persist in my daughter as it does in this society, if only for the simple reason that I refuse to allow it. Fear is ugly, and I will not let it dictate the trajectory of her life. I will teach her to battle fear courageously, to embrace learning, to challenge the status quo, and to do all of this with a heart of great humility and compassion and above all, love.