I was teaching high school at the time. My family was out-of-town, so when my students asked me to go to a pizza place with a large group of kids from my school after a football game, I complied. I didn’t know that something would happen that night that would haunt me to this very day.
We were sitting at numerous tables, talking, when I noticed something odd across the room: two of my students, Bryan and Faith, were standing near a table, and a stranger was talking with them. Voices rose in anger, and it quickly became clear that Bryan was standing up to protect Faith from an angry encounter with this rough stranger.
Word travels fast. And it was only milliseconds before word reached our table that this stranger (a stocky male) was recently out of prison, that he was asking Bryan to go outside with him to settle a dispute, and that he claimed to have a knife. It seems that the stranger and Faith had bumped into one another accidentally, but the stranger wanted to make an issue of it.
As I watched this scene unfold and put two and two together, I knew that I should make my way over (I was the adult here, right?) and break up what was escalating into a potentially dangerous fight. But . . . I could not move.
I was frozen in place.
Frozen with fear.
Before anything bad happened I saw the manager make his way over to the scene and quell the disturbance. The stocky stranger left. But I noticed how Bryan had stood up to him on behalf of his friend, Faith.
I, on the other hand, had left them both defenseless.
I was paralyzed with FEAR.
I spoke some time later about the incident with my brother (a law enforcement professional), and he said, “Well, you have not been trained to deal with this type of thing. Don’t let it bother you.” But I did. And I still do. Bryan had not been trained to deal with this type of thing either. But he did. For his friend’s sake.
Overcoming fear is not about learning how to never feel challenged again, it is not about becoming so fearless that you are an invincible rock, it is not about becoming impervious to peril. This is what we often long for – to not FEEL fearful and thus not BE fearful.
Rather, it is learning how to feel the fear that is already present, face the fear, yet move forward through the fear . . . even with trembling hands or a shaky voice. It is not necessarily about winning any battle except the battle inside your own head.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena;
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again;
who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause;
who, at the best, knows the triumph of high achievement;
and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
who knew neither victory nor defeat.”