Image by dan taylor via Flickr
Not so long ago, my g’daughter, Punkin (obviously not her real name but she likes me to call her that), and I had a sleepover at my house. During the course of the sleepover, I realized that at my age, my idea of a sleepover involves some actual sleep, but Punkin’s, at 4 1/2 years of age, was not. She was interested in, among other things, Candy Land or the Smurfs, and sleep was not a consideration. As it is with g’parents and their g’children, the victor was obvious. Considering the two and finding that watching a DVD involved no thought or movement on my part, the choice was clear. Gratefully, Punkin had mercy on me and agreed.
So, there we were, draped across the bed, with Punkin watching the Smurfs as I watched her watching them. My attention on the DVD was sporadic so I am not sure why I happened to pay attention to this one particular episode. In it, Papa Smurf, the elder spokesmen of the little blue people, was giving encouragement to two of his misguided charges who had caused some type of trouble. His final words to them as he sent them on their way to save the day was “do not be afraid, to be afraid.” That’s it, that simple little missive got me thinking.
Well, in all honesty, my initial reaction was to laugh out loud at the absurdity of a little blue cartoon character uttering anything that might give me pause. After setting that little prejudice aside, I set about considering the words– “do not be afraid to be afraid.” Such a simple, albeit powerful, phrase. The word “afraid” is defined as “feeling fear; filled with apprehension. http://j.mp/hu7LGI; whereas “fear” is defined as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. http://j.mp/hupUph. Thus, feeling “afraid” breeds “fear.”
The saying “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” is another phrase that addresses fear and is as true now as it was in the depression era when Franklin D. Roosevelt uttered it. There is nothing to fear but our avoidance of it, running away from it and failing to confront it. How often do we truly face our fears? How often do we welcome them with open arms? If you are like me, not very often. Not only do we try to turn away from them, but we berate ourselves for even having them. Often, we are told that such feelings are bad, and a sign of weakness that should be avoided at all costs. So we ignore our fears, and they grow into, in some cases, crippling impediments. What can we do?
First, we must not forget that fear can be a useful emotion that protects and guides us on our journey. Instead of viewing our fears as interlopers, why not embrace them, make an effort to understand them by seeking their origin, and listen for any message that they may be trying to convey to us. Doing so, I learned that most of my fears arise when I am either ruminating about something that occurred in the past or catastrophizing about the future–very rarely is there any present threat. In some cases, the very act of confronting our fears can neutralize them. Nevertheless, I am not implying that this is an easy task or that your fears will vanish over night. I am the first to say that all the embracing and confronting in the world will not neutralize some fears. For instance, I am afraid of snakes–always have been and in all likelihood, always will be. Just thinking about them increases my heart rate and gives me a tummy ache. But still, Papa Smurf is right, do not be afraid, to be afraid.
All in all, I learned a lesson that night: Wisdom can come to us from the most unlikely places–including Smurf Village.