Courage in the face of fear

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

These famous words were first spoken by Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the United States of America, in 1933. The occasion was his inaugural address to the American people, as they faced the spectre of the Great Depression which would wreak havoc on the economy of the most prosperous nation on earth. 

Most recently, this quote appeared in a conversation I was having with my brother, Paul, as we were discussing his plans for the future. For once, he was being quite candid about how fear had prevented him from doing many things in his life. It was something we had argued about many times over the years and I had always felt that he was in denial. And now, without warning, the walls came crashing down.

Our chat, although limited by delays on WhatsApp, was a revelation. Paul stripped away the layers of doubt, fear and procrastination, and laid himself bare. He admitted that pride had gotten in the way of being honest with me and, more importantly, with himself. And that by not admitting to being afraid, it had been difficult to confront and defeat these self-made barriers to lasting success.

As I probed deeper into the genesis of his road-to-Damascus-like conversion, my brother made a startling confession: “I’m learning to dance with fear. What could be worse than my wife dying? Not much.” In that moment, I realised that he had reached the point that many of us need to get to, before we can make drastic changes to the well-rehearsed, worn-out patterns in our lives. Sometimes, we have to get to the bottom of life as we know it, before we can begin to power our way back to the surface and breathe in a more purpose-driven and joyous existence.

I found it amazing that, even at such a difficult period in his life, Paul was finding a clarity of purpose that I had not witnessed for as long as I could remember. He was making far-reaching decisions that will change everything that has been part of his comfort zone for so long – decisions that will shape the life of 5 year-old Samuel for the better. And, he was not taking it lightly. “It’s worth the risk in search of a better life for me and my son. Progress comes at a price but the rewards are great,” he opined.

It’s interesting that most of the time our fear is that the things we hope and plan for might not work out. And we don’t want to take any risks, just in case we get disappointed. So, we procrastinate or simply do nothing – thereby guaranteeing that things won’t work out. Crazy as it seems, we prefer the certainty of failure to the ambivalence of possibility.

Thankfully, that will not be Paul’s fate. Faced with a plethora of decisions to make in a short space of time, he used a simple but effective trick. He made one decision and took immediate action. This created certainty about what would happen over the next three months and fear began to recede. As a result, other decisions had to be made and suddenly Paul was in full swing, daring to go where he had once feared to tread.

I spoke to him today and he’s still at it, determined to make a great life and set an example for his son. I’ll keep cheering from the sidelines, encouraging him whenever doubt sets in. Fear will be there too, turning up at each crossroads of decision, questioning his audacity, but shrinking in the face of courage.
If you enjoyed this post, please leave your feedback in the Comments section. To receive future blogposts, click ‘follow’, just below to the right. Thanks for being on this journey with me!

52 thoughts on “Courage in the face of fear

  1. Mike I read your blog and found it very encouraging. Firstly because it confirmed much of what I have known since you and Paul were small boys, but most of all it gave me so much pleasure to hear about the transformation that is taking place in Paul’s life….much prosperity can come out of adversity. You are blessed in having each other.

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  2. Recently I got to a point where I had to ask myself….can I do? Will it work out? What will happen if it doesn’t after all my effort? Thank you for sharing this post,feels like am being spoken to directly.

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      1. Brilliant post, thank you.

        As long as we realise and always remember that Fear is a THPUGHT, we can change that Fear into COURAGE – simply by THINKING differently.

        Paul is an amazing man indeed!

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  3. Glad to know that “Paul” is really in this instance. Even if Paul is a figurative personality, I agree totally with you on your write up. We all need encouragement in our journey to conquer fear as this world is constantly changing. What we don’t know we fear. I will continue to ponder on conquering fear.

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    1. Thanks for sharing Ola. Paul is my real, bonfire, flesh-and-blood brother and these are real events. We’re only 11 months apart and have always been close, so it’s only natural to support him when I can. I’m glad the post inspired you. Blessings!

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  4. I enjoyed reading this blog post, Michael. You inspire me with each post! I too recently have taken bold steps in my life to summount fear and i can totally relate with your borther’s struggles and emotions. Welldone!

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  5. Michael, tnx for sharing this very touching experience of yours. This fear is experienced by many now n then by people with close family members suffering from terminal conditions. Pls note you r not alone, we share in your pain and the hope of life after death. Again tnx for sharing n be strong .

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  6. What a great expository insight into this False Evidence Appearing Real (F.E.A.R.). I wish everyone of us would have courage to apprehend the falseness in every evidence presented, tangible or imagined.

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  7. Plenty of lessons learnt from your post Michael. Your brother Paul has fallen due to the fear to dare. However his ability to rise at a critical time (when most will consider as finished) is imperative for writing a new chapter in his life. The ability to rise again after a fall is one of God’s greatest gift to mankind. It is not how fast but how well. Paul is in line for an uncommon crown!

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  8. Again, brilliantly presented Mike. It’s true that only those who take risks know how far they can go, and this is a common factor among all successful people.
    The road to success is always under construction.
    There’s a saying “Fall down seven times, stand up eight times”.
    FORTIS CADERE CEDERE NON POTEST.
    Love always, my brother.

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  9. Willy, once again you’ve articulated this with a flair and charisma that’s infectious. I, like everyone else reading, anxiously await the next edition. Fear is so underrated, because we have so many masking agents, yet its effect often times are devastating to our very existence. Please don’t wait for the doubts to set in to keep encouraging Paul; they never left and likely will always remain.

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    1. Adolph, you are too kind. I’m just realising I’m a frustrated writer and writing ad copy and press releases over the years hasn’t satisfied the desire. As I said to Paul that night, “I’m often scared to death of what I’m about to do next but I do it anyway.” Please click Follow to receive future posts directly.

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  10. So true, Willy. Sometimes it takes a catastrophic event or a deep loss in our lives to shake us up & free us from the shackles of fear. It is no wonder that so many “successful” people achieve their level of success only after hitting “rock bottom.” Your insightful blog forces me to reflect on my life and the many risks not taken and opportunities missed because of fear of failure, (or fear of success). The ironic thing is, as a disciple of Christ, I know better. It is my fervent prayer that Paul will continue to kick fear to the curb & bear witness to the truth of Pillipians 4:13. Please continue to encourage him on our behalf. Again, another discerning & intelligently written piece.

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    1. Wayne, my other brother, I’m glad that this post did for you what it did for me. It forced me to reflect too and understand that as I’m helping Paul, I’m helping myself. Over the years, I have teased him about being one of the disciples praying in the boat, waiting for the storm to cease; while less ‘churchy’ guys like me believe that if we step out, the water will hold us up. And, even if we falter, God won’t let us drown. Thanks for the kind compliments. Please Follow to get future posts directly.

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  11. Again well written clear and insightful.Give Pablo my very best wishes.Let him know my own movement from the safe and familiar to the relatively unfamiliar has been spiritually uplifting to say the least. Fortis always

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    1. Thanks David. He reads all these responses and is hugely grateful for all the love, prayers and sympathy being expressed. You will see him around a month from now and be able to share your experiences directly. Please Follow to keep getting posts!

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  12. Interesting piece Michael. The journey to overcoming fear is a really long one. But sometimes, I wonder if there exist a different kind of fear. A good one maybe.

    I find that the fear can propel you to achieve goals you have set for yourself. For instance, fear of poverty can make people work so hard because they never want to be in that state. I think it is like a double-edged sword capable of doing good or harm depending on the person and situation.

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    1. Very true and very insightful! Yes, I was writing about the kind of fear that is debilitating and paralysing, stopping you from achieving. A little fear is always good if it is pushing you away from poverty and failure, but dangerous if it leads to procrastination and inaction. Thanks for sharing.

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  13. Remarkable my uncle!!!! Mom and I were moved beyond words. I was especially touched because each line pulled at something inside me. I related completely to this. I am grateful for this deep reminder and hope to be committed to change as my uncle now is. Thank you…keep blessing as you are blessed.

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    1. My dearest Danielle, admission is necessary before we begin to address the issues in our lives. Now that you’ve taken that first step, decide on the changes you want to make and take immediate action. As you take even the smallest steps, you will become more empowered and fear will begin to recede. Once you start to see the results in your life, the proof will encourage you to persevere. Start now.

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  14. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful, wonderful and inspirational piece. It has made my day and also given me the courage to take a hundred steps forward in attaining greater heights with no doubt or fear of what the outcome might be.

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  15. Michael, very inspiration and thought provoking. I believe that sometimes you just have to step out on fear and trust that all will be well…..that whole ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ principle. Stay blessed. M xx

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  16. You know Michael, most times fear starts when you look at the faces and listen to the voices of people around you. Their skepticism in your vision makes you want to back out. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s always looking at the bright side. With a huge load on my shoulders right now, I’m inspired all the way. Thanks

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  17. Thank you for this Michael.
    Brilliant writing!

    Not sure my comment was posted so writing it again.

    Fear is s THOUGHT, nothing more and nothing less.
    If we would but remember this then we can be full of COURAGE simply by changing our THOUGHTS for as s man thinks in his heart so is he.

    Thank you once again.

    Paul is an amazing man.

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    1. Sorry Kemi, I think I missed this. Paul is amazing indeed. I’m not sure I would have been able to do what he did and sacrifice 2 years of my life. He embarked on a brave new adventure yesterday – proof that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. Thanks for the support. Please check out my latest post.

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