“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


About a mile into my 4-mail hike I realized how few times I have actually been alone in the woods. As a child, I was drawn to the wilderness, but at the same time I was afraid of it. I was afraid of a lot of things through my childhood: rabid loafer wolves (a result of reading Ol' Yeller at age 7), snakes, heights, unknown things lurking behind doors or under beds, and breaking yet another arm or leg. Outdoor Life was a favorite magazine, but the tales of survival in the"this happened to me" section fed my fear of facing nature on my own.
In a recent goals workshop one of the questions I had to answer was what motivates and drives me. I always look first to give a positive response, but in a moment of uncomfortable clarity I realized that much of my motivation has come from fear. I didn't want to admit it or write it as my answer, but I'm driven by fear of letting down the people closest to me. This fear has caused me to "play it safe" even though to most people I probably seem to be a "risk taker". But even as a child when my biggest goal was to see how far I could fly my bike through the air I always had a wide margin of safety. I see the extreme sports shows of high-flying stunts and painful crashes and know I was never that brave. (Or perhaps I was never that crazy.)
God has delivered me from many of my childhood fears. But some of those fears have morphed into monsters in my subconscious and are not so well defined. I think God is urging me to step out into the wilderness with Him and find my motivation and security from faith in His provision.


Sheri Mortko said...

Well Eric, you know me...I like questions!

Some folks say that fear is simply false evidence appearing real.
How might that be true for you?

We are trained from childhood to stop when we are afraid.
What if we saw fear as a yellow light and proceeded with caution instead of as a red light requiring a halt? How might that change things?

What happens when you meet your fear with a friendly, curious attitude?

How has fear been an ally or good friend in the past?

Elan said...

You have hit on something that we all face during our lives. It's interesting that fear comes to mind when you think about what motivates you. I think a lot of us are motivated by fear, especially fear of the unknown. We do things to plan for our future because our future is uncertain and unknown. On the opposite side, we don't do things because we're afraid of what others might think of us, or we're afraid of failure or success.

Michael said...

I think I'm more like Mom... some of my biggest fears are of the "unknown". Things I can't control... or sometimes things that I imagine "could" or "might" happen.

Florence and Gary Deeter said...


It's remarkable that we can function well, and yet inside there are these gnawing fears that try to eat away at our sense of identity, our sense of peace with who we are. Sometimes naming our fears exposes their shallowness. Sometimes facing or fighting fear helps. I remember (when we had the Soldier house) your willingness to confront your fears and go sleep in the woods. Had we kept the place much longer, I suspect you would have become a classic mountain man. You certainly learned a lot about wilderness survival.

Rob said...

Eric, as we discussed the other night, I have recognized fear in my own life. Indeed fear is something given to us by God to help us survive, but because we live in a fallen world most of us have replaced a proper fear and trust in God, with a fear and trust in man, or ourselves. As Max Lucado said in the book "Facing your Giants": "Focus on Giants - You Stumble. Focus on God - Your Giants Tumble."

C.S. Lewis, in "Mere Christianity" said:

Hope ... is a continual looking forward to the eternal world ... [not as] a form of escapism or withful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.

Lewis's point being: replace our worldly fear with a focus on the Lord and on hope.

C.S. Lewis went on to say:

"It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in': aim at earth and you will get neither."

Franklin D. Roosevelt would add: "The only thing to fear, is fear itself."

When I taught Elan to ski, she said she was worried about running into the trees. I said, "If you focus on the trees, you will run into the trees. If you focus on the run, you will ski a great run." Elan ignored my advice and ran directly into the trees. I asked what happened, she looked a bit put out at me and said: "I was looking at the trees..."

Eric, fear is a good thing, but if that is what we focus on, we will realize our fears. But if we place our trust and faith in God, we have hope. And if we focus on God, every other good thing gets thrown in too.

Bret in Iraq said...

At the present, I am an avid believer of FDR's attitude towards fear -- but that was not always so. I have felt (and thankfully, recognized) real fear several times in my life.

Fear of the unknown is a natural human tendency -- until one realizes that it can be overcome via education or is simply beyond our control (and thus, not worth worrying about).