Betty blue bordered (2)How was your week? Have you figured out which fears you would like to work on? Mine is a fear of disapproval, so I’m drawing on courage in order to send out my thoughts to so many people. (Meanwhile, a loved one is fighting fear that returned cancer will win, which puts my small worries into perspective.)


Not to back away from risk, but because I want to give you the advantage of an expert’s input, we will turn this week to the work of Susan Jeffers. In the book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway®, (great title, right?) she inspires us to take brave action. Jeffers attained a PhD in Psychology from Columbia University and wrote several self-help books. Parents might know her from other accomplishments. She wrote and/or illustrated children’s books on horses, classic stories, and a little dog named McDuff.


Jeffers categorizes our fears into:


  • Things that happen, like aging or accidents
  • Things that require action, like giving speeches, making decisions or leaving a bad situation
  • Damage to our ego and sense of well-being, like ridicule or fear of failure
  • Feeling unable to handle whatever comes our way


She tells us five truths to help us combat those fears:


  1. Fear will always be present as long as we continue to grow.
  2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.
  3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out… and do it.
  4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else!
  5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.


Since everyone is dealing with fear, but some do it more successfully, it must mean it isn’t danger paralyzing us, but rather our attitude. In Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, we are encouraged to handle our fear from an attitude of power, rather than pain. We do this gradually, by intentionally moving away from pain, towards claiming our power. The author recommends we draw a line on a piece of paper with “Pain” at the left side and “Power” at the right. Each day we pin where we are on the line, with the intention of moving right toward Power.

Even our vocabulary can help us move into our strength:
Pain →——————————————–→ Power
I can’t ——————————————–→ I won’t
I should ——————————————→ I could
It’s not my fault ——————————-→ I’m totally responsible
I’s a problem ———————————–→ It’s an opportunity
I’m never satisfied —————————-→ I want to learn and grow
Life’s a struggle ——————————–→ Life’s an adventure
I hope ——————————————–→ I know
If only ——————————————–→ Next time
What will I do ———————————-→ I know I can handle it
It’s terrible ————————————–→ It’s a learning experience

To grow in confidence we need to do something daily that widens the space in our comfort zone. Each night we can plan the risk we are going to take the following day. For instance, call someone we are intimidated to call. Visualizing or practicing it makes it a bit less scary. As long as we are taking those risks that build our sense of self-worth, we are moving to the right on the Pain-to-Power chart.


Taking responsibility for our method of handling fear means:


  • Never blaming others for anything we are being, doing or feeling
  • Not blaming ourselves, but becoming aware of those circumstances in which we are not taking responsibility, so that we can eventually change
  • Handling the Chatterbox – Replace that negative inner voice with love.
  • Being aware of payoffs that keep us stuck. What do I gain from staying afraid? The comfort of not changing?
  • Figuring out what we want in life and acting on it.
  • Being aware of the multitude of choices we have in any given situation. Let’s pick the one that contributes the most to our aliveness and growth.


Psychology commonly accepts that our actions and thoughts are interdependent. We can increase our courage by either acting more confidently or by thinking more confidently. The former is the “fake it until you make it” strategy. The more bravely we behave, the more we see ourselves as brave, until we no longer are faking it, but actually become brave.


The latter, thinking more confidently, is where we take control of our negative, frightened inner voice. If our thoughts are negative and critical and fearful, our behavior will be less than our best. If our thoughts are positive, we will behave in a confident manner. This even works if we don’t, at first, believe our words. We can repeat positive thoughts, or affirmations, enough that we begin to believe them and, as a consequence, our actions evolve to prove them true.


Here is my favorite of Susan Jeffers’ affirmations:




Let’s repeat this (or your own affirmation) aloud at least 10 times a day for the next week. (I’m reminded of several rides in reckless foreign taxis when I closed my eyes and repeated, “I’m safe right now; I’m safe right now.” It really did help prevent panic.)


I highly recommend Susan Jeffers book, and also her website at where more self-help information and affirmations are available.


One of my favorite quotes from the book: “The less you need someone’s approval, the more you are able to love them.”


May you grow in courage this week!





Fighting Fear

Betty blue bordered (2)


This Lent we will pursue the topic of fear.


Why should we fight fear? Isn’t fear a good thing? Well, yes, sometimes. When there truly is a danger to us or others, fear is good if it inspires us to an action that prevents harm.


Not all fear is healthy. It can become debilitating and keep us from growing to our full potential.


Reasons to fight fear:

  1.  Physical – Prolonged or frequent fear causes damage to our bodies. Excessive worry can negatively affect our sleep, appetite, concentration, or cause headaches, nausea, and muscle tension. Anxiety can trigger a stress response sending us into fight/flight/freeze mode and flooding our bodies with adrenaline. Stress hormones such as cortisol are released to raise blood sugar levels and provide fuel for dealing with perceived danger. If such anxiety happens chronically, If we don’t expend the energy with physical activity as we would if we were fleeing or fighting, the fuel builds up and can lead to a suppression of our immune system, digestive issues, artery disease, and even heart attacks.
  2. SocialIf we are afraid to take risks, we don’t reach out to others. We miss opportunities to build friendships or find our “one and only.” We may stay in relationships that are unhealthy, preferring what we know to the unknown, thinking we’d rather be with anyone than alone. Our careers may suffer if we don’t have the confidence to ask for help and seek out mentors.
  3. EmotionalFear keeps us from growth. Fear will always be present as we stretch and try new things, but if it keeps us from acting we will stagnate, rather than find joy in accomplishment and a sense of capability and self-confidence.
  4. Intellectual – Learning something new requires admitting incompetence or ignorance and it can be frightening to not be good at something. But striving to better oneself intellectually is very brave. We will make mistakes but we will learn from them and grow.
  5. PsychologicalFear grows if we don’t face it. What starts as a discomfort can become a full phobia if we don’t bravely take on our fears. Or a fear of one thing can generalize to fearing something else. I once realized I grew anxious each time I drove to a particularly challenging class. That generalized over time to being stressed when I drove to any class, and before long, every time I drove. Recognizing the unfoundedness of my fear helped me process it and move on.
  6. Spiritual –God wants us to connect with him and with his other children. Fear blocks connection. His Saints realized this and overcame their fear. St. Francis de Sales wrote,


“The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”


God’s Word, in both the Old and New Testaments, tells us over and over not to be afraid.  Why is that? Because fear can immobilize us. Because fear blocks love. Because fear shows a lack of trust in God who loves us and wants what is best for us. Here are just a few of God’s exhortations:


So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10


Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6


The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 118:6


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27


Years ago our pastor asked in his homily, “What do you know, deep down, you should be doing, but you aren’t because you are afraid?” (These emails grew from that challenge.) Ask yourself now, “What do I know, deep down, I should be doing, but I am not because I’m afraid?” If something comes to mind immediately, hold on to that thought, but then ask yourself what else and see what comes to mind. If nothing specific surfaces, what do you suspect you should or wish you could set fear aside and do? You know courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is acting in the face of fear.


What do you fear?


  • Something as concrete as a particular person, or an illness, or financial strife?
  • Something more abstract like not living up to expectations or not being respected?
  •  Something in the future, like the loss of a spouse or old age?
  • Or maybe something from your past coming to light?


Is your fear reasonable and inspires you to prepare? Wanting a good grade in a difficult class might cause us to study harder. Needing enough money for retirement can encourage us to spend less now and save more. Or is the fear irrational and unlikely, but still very real to you?


For this week:


  • Identify your fears and which you should fight.
  • Understand that fear is human. We all experience it. However, giving in to fear keeps us from becoming the best we can be, from building the kingdom of God here on earth, from loving as deeply as we are able.
  • Contemplate that God does not want us to be afraid. He promises to be with us throughout our challenges and to give us strength.
  • Ponder that God loves us, wholly, completely, unconditionally, and always. He wants what is best for us.


With an ally like God, what or whom should we fear?




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