Fighting back fear to make room for hope

by Kristin on January 15, 2011

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by DieselDemon

When I’m not being careful, I have a tendency to get caught up in a lot of “supposed-to’s” and “shoulds” when it comes to blogging.

For instance, I’m supposed to write a post reflecting on President Obama’s memorial service speech in Tuscon, Wednesday, and I should know exactly what I want to say about it. After all, it was a wonderfully moving speech on a topic I’m passionate about. I’ve written in the past about some of the very same themes Obama addressed: similarity and difference, polarity and unity, anger and forgiveness. Why wouldn’t I follow up in some way, driving his points in a bit deeper and adding a few of my own?

Blaming laziness and fear (rather than each other)

I’ve been trying to figure that out the past two days, as I’ve avoided writing about it, and here are the only options I can  come up with: I’m either a) lazy, or b) afraid.

The “lazy” possibility is a real one. It takes a lot of energy to write about big, important, hopeful things, and I’m feeling tired this week. There’s a weariness in my body that’s getting some serious competition from the weariness in my head and heart.

But I think the “fear” possibility is even more real. I know—it seems kind of counter-intuitive to feel worried or fearful after you hear something inspiring and true, but it happens (at least to some people, like me). It’s the kind of fear that settles into your gut when something seems almost too good to be true—when you’ve finally met the love of your life; when the job you’ve been dreaming about falls into your lap; when the leader of your country speaks the words that have been roaming restlessly through your heart for years.

Suddenly, in the face of the world’s very real pain, there is so much promise and hope…and so much room for even more disappointment and hurt.

The more truth we have, the more responsible we are

Think of it this way: It’s one thing to be a confused, lost person (or people), wandering aimlessly trying to find some truth and point ourselves toward it. Sure, it’s not a fun state to be in, but it’s at least understandable, in a pitiful sort of way.

But when you hear some truth, see a glimmer of light, and understand in your heart what needs to be done, the stakes are suddenly so high. Yes! That’s a direction we can agree on—one we can journey toward together!

But what if we don’t? What if nothing changes, even after someone has articulated that hope, painted a clear vision of what could be?

Maybe I’m over-stating the impact of Obama’s speech, but even the headlines tell a pretty consistent story—from Obama’s call for civil discourse resonates around the country and Obama works wonders as Healer-in-Chief, calls for unity to the words I never thought I’d read: Glenn Beck praises Obama for Tuscon speech.

I want my dream of what might be to overcome my fear of what has been. I want to believe these words President Obama spoke—my favorite from his address—might actually take root and change how we see and treat people who are different from us:

Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

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  • suzigurl


    We are all afraid. I am afraid, for instance, that someone will shoot our president after he says such hopeful words. At least he got that speech out, I will think, as I mourn him.

    We have had bad Presidents. And we have had good Presidents. And good Presidents make bad decisions. And bad Presidents make good decisions. When we hold it up to the light, we can only say “the buck stops here” about ourselves and hope that we can affect others with our actions and our words. We rejoice in the good. We weep with the weeping. Because there will always be good. And there will be weeping. You can bet your bottom dollar.

    Sending hugs and cupcakes,

  • Cathy

    Great post. I like that you took some extra time to process your own thoughts, rather than jumping on a “what everyone else thinks” bandwagon.

    Also love the look of the site! I could’ve sworn it didn’t look like this last time I stopped by…maybe a recent remodel?

    (If not, I blame baby brain!)

  • Dave

    Sounds like you need to reread your blog from August?
    It all depends on who we place our faith in…

  • suzigurl

    @dave YES!!! That’s what I was trying to say.

  • Kristin T.

    suzigurl, I think I get what you are saying, especially here: “When we hold it up to the light, we can only say ‘the buck stops here’ about ourselves and hope that we can affect others with our actions and our words.” These are important things to keep asking ourselves: Who am I trusting to get the job done? Who will I blame if it doesn’t happen? If I’m inspired, what am I going to do about it?

    Cathy, it can be very tempting at times to just write the easy or obvious thing, just to get a post up so you can move on to something else. When I feel that temptation, I force myself to step away from the computer, ask myself what’s really going on in my head, and think about how I can communicate it honestly. It doesn’t always come out right, but it’s better than the easy out! (Re: my site, I don’t know how long it’s been since you last stopped by, but my site has looked just like this for a couple of years. I’m glad it still looks fresh!)

    Dave, yes, I probably need to reread a lot of my posts, and I probably need to listen more carefully to the life lessons I share with my kids and the advice I give friends! Isn’t it funny what we can know, but not really *know?* Or what can seem so clear at one moment and so fuzzy the next day? Thanks for sending me back to a clearer moment. :)

  • The Modern Gal

    That was a good description of the kind of fear you’re talking about.

    One of the primary reasons I voted for Obama was because I believed he would be the kind of inspiring leader and offer the kind of rhetoric that might bring together our country. I realize now many like to use him as a polarizing figure, but I thought his speech was exactly the kind of words our country has been needing to hear. I only hope and pray people take it to heart for longer than a day or a week.