Last month I had the opportunity to give one of my favorite workshops at a veterans’ symposium. Most of us would prefer to avoid situations that induce fear, with the exception of roller coasters and scary movies. Our instinct says to avoid it and our minds would rather erase it all together.
However, fear is actually a valuable teacher. While it can magnify and consume us, it can also motivate and inspire us. Confronting fear is like using a big fat eraser to remove the lines of a worry box. It’s tempting to stay in the familiar; comfortable feels good but it doesn’t make us grow. I created the “Fear Eraser” workshop to inspire others to go outside the box.
Flying to Kentucky to deliver this workshop, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of discomfort — I was out of my box. I hadn’t worn the military uniform since 1984 and I hadn’t served during war times. So, the idea of talking about erasing fear to those who had gone to war was evoking fear in me!
How would war veterans interpret this teaching? Was my service time too far removed to even mention? Could I relate to these soldiers in a meanginful and significant way? Was “fear” the wrong topic all together? My instincts said to back out, but deep inside I was consumed with wanting to make a difference.
The workshops were run like small groups, with as little as two to as many as fifteen participants. My “Fear Eraser” attracted eight participants. Within minutes of sharing the opening slides, my fear melted away. Their inspirations showed me that they not only wanted to invest in my teaching, they were motivated to confront their fears. Given coping tools to alleviate worry and mindfully unpack war’s fall-out, they sought to release the wounds that were becoming them.
That hour long workshop became a safe zone. Sharing the shame, chaos, guilt and collateral damage they’d tucked inside created a ripple effect. They began peeling off the layers, connecting past traumas to current trauma, grabbing tools to erase fear with faith, giving grace to fail forward, and collecting courage from one another. Fear took on a new face there in that room. Rather than being a force to be reckoned with, it became a teacher of hidden wounds.
As I sit here at home writing another workshop, I’m merging my “fear eraser” concepts with other concepts. The next delivery puts me outside of my box again…perhaps even more so than the last time. Deep inside I am consumed with wanting to make a difference. I can see a big fat eraser in my mind, erasing the lines on that familiar worry box. Orchestrating this upcoming program has been like being on a roller coaster, with ups and downs, and twists and turns. The ride has induced fear while simultaneously inspiring everyone involved in the process. I can’t completely see what’s around the corner, but I’m welcoming this new opportunity to magnify hope in hurting lives.
Get Out of Your Box!