On Fear

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If someone tells you they aren’t afraid of anything, they’re full of it, and I don’t mean fear. I guarantee you that if you’re sitting alone by yourself watching a good scary movie and a bloody hand lands on your shoulder, you’ll do the 100 yard dash in less than two seconds. I promise you that if you’re at your job, doing your thing and minding your own business, and a ghost suddenly comes through the wall and reaches out to you, you will say it and then do it.

We all like to think we wouldn’t freak out if the news suddenly interrupted our show with a breaking report that aliens have just landed in front of the White House. I’d be willing to wager that Rachael Ray won’t be the thing we care to watch right then. That goes for Duck Dynasty, too. If the major networks start talking about alien spacecrafts landing all over Earth and then the power suddenly goes out in your town, you’ll wish you had bought that extra box of shotgun shells. Yep, there are plenty of things that can frighten us.

I’m not talking about phobias, either. That’s a world of fear all on its own. I met a woman once who was so claustrophobic she had trouble with public bathroom stalls. That is kind of an unnatural fear. If a snarling pit bull suddenly lunges at you and your flight or flight instinct kicks in, that’s not a phobia. If you see a woman walking toward you holding her pet Yorkie and you start screaming like a girl at a Justin Bieber concert, that’s probably a phobia. I have to admit, if I saw Justin Bieber walking toward me on the street I’d scream like a girl while I’m running away. Now, I hesitate about admitting my phobia to you, because I’m afraid you might start messing with me. Wait, that’s a fear about a fear. I’m in deep trouble. Let’s just say my unnatural dread concerns certain eight-legged freaks. You see? My palms are sweaty right now and I’m fighting the urge to use bug spray on every square inch of my writing room. My wife told me once years ago that THEY (I refuse to say the word spider. No way, no how) like to climb in your mouth when you’re asleep. I suddenly developed sleep apnea so I could wear that face mask. Little monsters can’t get me now. I even stuff my ears with cotton and duct tape every other orifice just to keep them out. I think this qualifies as a phobia, don’t you?

But let’s get back on track (or I won’t be able to finish this article). Every one of us is capable of fear, no matter how brave we think we are. There used to be a TV show called Fear Factor that tested contestants’ reaction to frightening things like tightrope walking, eating live Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches and being trapped in a closed coffin with a few hundred rats. You will never see me volunteer for a show like that. I saw an episode where the contestants had to eat buffalo testicles or sheep eyes. I don’t care if it does taste like chicken, I won’t eat them. But I think we’re delving into the realm of disgust, which is a kind of sub-category of outright fear. Watching someone at church eating their own booger isn’t really a fear. Unless they’re bringing the sacrament to you.

The next time someone sticks out their chest and boasts that they aren’t afraid of anything, it won’t do any good to challenge them. I confronted a young man once who claimed to have no fear by asking him what he’d do if a ghost suddenly appeared in front of him. He confidently said he’d beat the plasma out of it. Yeah, right. Theologically speaking, you should be so secure in your relationship with God that nothing will cause you fear. I can agree with that in essence, but I admit to being human, too. Don’t be ashamed if you start shaking uncontrollably after some idiot comes within an inch of pulverizing you in your car. Fear is a natural reaction to some perceived threat to your survival. I know all about fear. I’ve been married four times.

Now I’m afraid one of my ex-wives will read this.

There’s no hope for me.

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