We all feel fear, in varying degrees. Does is stop us? Hopefully, sometimes it does. Fear of heights to keep us from falling, fear of fire to keep us from burning ourselves, fear of illness to inspire us to eat right and exercise. You get the idea.
Does fear stop me? You bet it does. Fear of failure, mostly. Failure is humiliating, embarrassing, painful, and crippling. Going back and trying again, knowing the odds lean toward failure, feels crazy. But we do it. Mankind has been doing it since we first walked on two legs. Try, try, fail, try, fail, fail, try, try ... most of our world is built on the backs of people who didn't let failure stop them. Not because they didn't fear failure, but because they pressed on anyway. It's not practical. It doesn't make sense. People laugh at you and call you stupid. Many of us try to reach a goal all our lives and never get the vindication of accomplishing it, but our work continues to the next generation and eventually there is invention, success, the light at the end of the long, long tunnel.
Becoming 21st century America has taken the courage of millions -- courage to fight for freedom, courage to run for office, courage to invent, courage to defend and protect, courage to build, courage to risk, courage to invest and support. Where will our courage take us next? We love our science fiction images of flying cars, instant cures, inter-planetary travel. But what about humanity? Do we have the courage to truly end racism? To provide for the millions of hungry children, not just in distant lands, but right in our neighborhoods? Do we have the courage to learn WHY the man on the corner is asking for a dollar, or the kid in the back row is always late and quiet, or why that car is always parked in the same place and full of household stuff.
We're afraid of the unknown, especially when it comes to other people. It helps keep us safe. Sometimes. Other times, it's just inconvenient to act, or feels embarrassing, or we fear that helping will require more than we're prepared to give.
This is where I believe the great shame of our generation lies: that we allow fear to stop us from caring for one another. We allow the development of big cities, the breakdown of community relationships, the racial and financial and religious differences, the busy-ness and stress and our own needs to stop us from caring for our fellow man. Not just the fellow man we go to church with who needs a hand with his kitchen remodel. The scary fellow man. The unknown one. The one who used to be just like us but lost his job and his home and his family and we can't see the similarity anymore. They're not all drug addicts! We have to get over ourselves, move past the fear, and act. If we give up on courage, we're doomed. Courage cannot die.
"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point." - C. S. Lewis