Archive for February, 2017

The Parable of the Minefield – Part 2

February 10, 2017

When I wrote the Parable of the Minefield, I was thinking that I was defying the definition of courage, when I thought that the prevailing definition was a lack of fear. But when I looked it up in the dictionary afterward, I saw that the definition actually does match my understanding of it. It defines courage as “the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous” (Merriam-Webster). I would change one word of that. I would change “know” to “feel or believe”. Life is all about perception, especially emotions. For instance, if you have a phobia, you may know intellectually that your fear is not reasonable. Your mind may tell you that something is not dangerous, even though in your heart you believe it is. No matter how much logic you try to apply, you may not be able to summon the courage to do the thing you’re afraid of.

In my story of the minefield, what if there were no mines, but rather, people just thought that it was a minefield? Would it have changed the 5 examples? No! The first person, who didn’t know that it was believed to be a minefield, would have been vindicated to find out later that there really never were any mines. However, he still may have initially had a panic attack when he was led to believe that he had just crossed a minefield. He was still ignorant of the common belief, even if it was incorrect to begin with.

The second man, who didn’t care because he had given up, would not have changed his attitude if he found out later that it was not really a minefield.

The third man, who wouldn’t go because he was overcome with fear, was unable to cross the field because he believed that it did contain mines. Even though the mines were not real, his fear was very real because it was based on the belief that he would likely be killed or maimed by what he thought were mines in the field. Even if someone came along and told him that there no mines in the field, if he continued to believe deep down that there were mines in the field, he still may not have been able to summon the courage to cross it. Many of us have unreasonable fears that may have no basis in fact, but their effect on us can be just as real as if it were a dangerous situation.

Did the fourth man, who was trembling with fear as he crossed the field, exhibit true courage even though there weren’t really any mines? Absolutely! Courage is doing the thing that you’re afraid to do, regardless of whether or not the fear is justified.

What about the fifth man, who was inspired to exercise faith and put his trust in God as he confidently crossed the field? Did he exercise real faith even though the danger wasn’t real after all? Of course! What about when he prayed about it? Shouldn’t God have simply told him not to worry about it since there weren’t any mines in the field? Even if he were so spiritually in tune that he could have gotten such a detailed answer to his prayer, it may not have been in the man’s best interest for God to share that tidbit of information. One of our purposes here on earth is to learn to exercise faith. Remember, faith is the opposite of fear. The more that we can use faith, the less fear will control our life. Did the Spirit lie to the man? No. God simply gave him an assurance that, one way or another, everything would be alright… and it was. Of course God knew that there no mines in that field. But all the man needed to know was that things would be okay. Through that experience, the man was able to build his faith.

There have been many times in my life that I’ve lacked courage; times that fear has held me back. When I have exercised courage by going forward in spite of fear, I have not only accomplished more than I would have otherwise, I have grown personally and built my character. Exercising courage does not mean doing stupid dangerous things. But when your heart, mind and spirit tell you to do something or take your life in a particular direction, move forward in faith, in spite of fears that may be getting in the way.

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The Parable of the Minefield

February 9, 2017

There were 5 people who needed to get from point A to point B. It was important for them to do this. Their families were depending on them. The problem was that there was an active minefield between the two points. They could not go around it. In order to get to point B, they had to cross the minefield.

The first person walked casually across it without a care in the world. When he got to the other side, the people who were there excitedly asked him how he could have done this so casually and bravely. “What are you talking about?” the man asked. “Didn’t you know? You just walked across a minefield!” the people exclaimed. He immediately had a panic attack and almost fainted. “I had no idea!” (This was not courage. It was ignorance.)

The second person also walked boldly across. When he got to the other side, the people asked him if he knew it was a minefield. “Yes, I know” he replied. “I just don’t care.” This person had given up. He no longer cared if he lived or died. He did not exhibit courage, but just apathy and self-destructive tendencies.

The third person simply refused to go. His fear of the minefield was paralyzing. He knew he needed to get to point B. He tried to figure out how to get there without crossing the minefield, but could not come up with anything. So he simply did not go. His family was very disappointed, but he felt powerless to get to the necessary destination.

The fourth person was also very afraid, but he went anyway. Every step was a huge effort. Getting across the minefield was a horrible, harrowing experience. When he finally got to the other side, he collapsed with emotional exhaustion. It caused him to need years of counseling and it was a terrible experience, but he had made it! This man exhibited true courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is moving forward in spite of your fear. Where there is no fear, there can be no courage.

The fifth person strolled across the field whistling a happy tune. When he got to his destination, everyone was astonished. They asked if he knew that it was a minefield and that he could have easily been killed. He responded that he knew that. They asked him if he had a death wish or didn’t care about being blown to bits. He said that he did not have a death wish and that he in no way wanted to be killed or maimed. So how could he cross the minefield so casually?

He explained that prior to starting across the minefield, he had prayed fervently to Heavenly Father about whether he should cross the field and implored that he be protected in his efforts. A sweet, calm assurance had come over him that it would be alright. He would most likely be kept safe, but even if he wasn’t, he was in God’s hands and it would turn out for the best in the end. Based on that, he decided that he would exercise faith as he crossed the field. He would replace fear with faith. He wasn’t able to do it entirely. So he did have to exercise some courage as well. But with that, he was able to cross the field with a song in his heart and a smile on his face.

The opposite of fear is not courage. The opposite of fear is faith – faith in God, faith in your own abilities, faith in those around you, etc. Going through life can be like crossing a minefield at times. At certain times and in certain situations, we can find ourselves being like any one of the people in this story. Sometimes there is danger and risk that we’re naively unaware of. Sometimes we can be so distressed and fed up that we feel like we just don’t care anymore. There are times when our fears stop us from doing things that we know we ought to do, or even need to do. Other times, we’re able to summon our courage and push through the fear, in spite of the difficulty and even getting a few bruises and scars along the way, both physical and emotional. But of course the best way to live life is with faith. When we’re able to have faith and confidence (deep down, not just superficial), we can face our trials with quiet assurance that everything will work out, even when the trials become difficult and damaging.

 

(The foregoing is an expansion of an idea published in my blog 9/11/15. It can be found at https://drdonwhittaker.com/2015/09/11/courage-and-fear/.)