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Personal Values: Freedom From Fear

2 min

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This week, we continue our series on Personal Values. If you missed the earlier installments, check out my essays on why personal values are critical to living an ethical life, and an exploration of what freedom of speech means to me.

"You see something scary, you should stand up and step toward it, not away from it. Instinctively, reflexively, in a raging fury.”
“Is that what you do?”

Echo Burning, by Lee Child

Everything good lies on the other side of fear.

What do we fear?


Loss of life, loss of status, loss of comfort, loss of certainty, loss of love.

That fear of loss prevents us from taking chances.

After all, you can't lose what you don't risk.

Fear of loss means that prioritize certainty over growth.

And since life is all about growth...

And since everything that isn't growing is in the process of dying...

Fear is anti-life.

Now, fear is natural.

Fear can be good.

Used as a tool, it keeps us out of dangerous situations. It keeps us alive. It tells us where our limitations are.

But when fear becomes our master, those limitations close in on us.

They get tighter and tighter until we can barely move.

Hemmed in by what we're sure "isn't possible" and is "too risky."

We have to balance growth with conservation, and fear has an important part to play in that balance.

But the value we are discussing today isn't absence of fear...

It is freedom from fear.

Freedom from fear means choosing to act.

Freedom from fear means accepting the consequences of those actions, what Joan Didion called "self-respect":

"Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts."

Freedom from fear means acknowledging that a life well-lived means making mistakes.

Feeling shame.

Feeling regret.

It means abandoning options in favor of action.

It means making our decisions fully-aware that we don't now and never will have all the information we need; that the world is chaotic and unpredictable; that we may be making a mistake....

And then acting anyway.

Freedom from fear means feeling fear, in all its intensity, in all its terror, in all its anxiety and uncertainty...

And then running in its direction.

Because fear is limitation.

And beyond fear lies growth.

And we refuse to be contained.




It's linked to in the post above, but if you haven't read this essay on self-respect by Joan Didion, read it right now.

This essay lit me up.

"To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves—there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home."

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