Learning to Live Fearlessly (guest post)

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Sarah Wineland (on the left, with her sister in this picture) is one of my delightfully brave friends.  Actually she was Maggie and Katy’s friend first, but they have generously shared her with me :)!  I asked her to guest post on this Fearless Friday.  Enjoy!

My first brave moment came when I was 13 at a summer camp.  We were whitewater rafting and had stopped at a large jumping rock. Being the timid, quiet child that I was, I didn’t want to jump. A counselor encouraged me to “just try it,” and the experience was exhilarating and indelibly life-changing.  I suddenly realized I couldn’t let fear keep me from experiencing a full life.  Life was meant to be lived vibrantly, and safety wasn’t necessarily the best route. I decided to live more daringly and face my fears head-on.   (Residual effects of this decision have included: eating various bugs, learning to be vulnerable, taking more chances, living in several countries, taking a job doing maintenance on septic tanks, climbing the Grand Teton, and leading worship.)

In my adult life, I haven’t always succeeded at living fearlessly.  I tend to be risk-averse and a people-pleaser, at times avoiding conflict.  Back in December, a friend of mine insisted that I watch this TED talk about vulnerability by Brene Brown, and it sparked something in my brain.  Like my summer camp experience, it reminded me that I live too fearfully, too timidly, in my approach to the world and other people. I needed to find strength to jump off of those proverbial rocks into the river.  So I determined that 2013 would be my year of living fearlessly.  I would aim to do something that scared me at least once a week, with the hope that fearlessness would become a lifestyle.

It started with the little things.  I confronted a friend about something that had been bothering me.  I played my cello in public for the first time.  I started doing photography more.  I said “no” more and started reading Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend (thanks to a friend).  I prayed more.  I did the Daniel Fast.  I started to carve out more time in my schedule to rest.  I tried to live on less money.  I let myself consider buying a house.  I went to therapy to start to deal with my fear of relationships.  I gave a relationship a chance.  I reluctantly and tearfully let go of the relationship when I realized it wasn’t meant to be.  I decided to start a photography business.

What keeps me from trying new things is most often the fear of failure.  I don’t want to fail at my photography business.  I don’t want to start a relationship knowing that it may end.  I don’t want to lead worship and play a wrong note.  Truthfully, I don’t want to put myself out there at all.  But most success stories are woven with failure … along with perseverance and bravery.  If I let fear of failure strangle me, I will never live to be the woman I’m created to be, and most importantly, I will never experience a full life with healthy relationships and deep experiences.

This year of attempted fearlessness has taught me how fear often maximizes the little annoyances or pinpricks of discomfort into indecisive, paralyzing terror.  If I deal with the fear immediately, looking it in the face and recognizing it for the phantom of possibilities that it is, it often leaves on its own and I am left wondering what I was so afraid of.  Just as peering over the edge of a precipice before cliff jumping causes you to second-guess your jump, mulling over fears will feed them, paralyzing your ability to live well.

2 Timothy 1:7 has become one of my favorite verses:  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).  I pray that my decisions and approach to life are even-keeled, full of love, and most definitely fearless.

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