My reading list this month includes Bill O’Reilly’s book, A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity. Now, before you label me as one of those screaming fanatical conservatives, hear me through. First of all, O’Reilly labels himself as an independent, one who chooses to be a free thinker. From reading his book, I would certainly agree with that. Also, O’Reilly’s book covers far more than his views on politics. He emphasizes our need to embrace self reliance, independent thinking and hard work.
In one chapter, he discusses our need to overcome fear. Many people don’t progress in life, he says, because of one simple obstacle – fear. Courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to walk through our fear, to not allow it to stop us from achieving what we want to accomplish in life.
A generation ago, says a Family Life survey, children were afraid of such things as the dark, strangers, high places and loud noises. Today, says the same report, our kids are afraid of death, divorce, terrorism, war and disease. This second survey was taken around the time of 9/11. I can imagine that, today, children would add something about the economic crisis.
How can we help our children overcome fear? We need to show our children ways to constructively fight back at their fears, to teach them that they are not helpless. As Christian educators, we need to introduce them to the Father who can be depended on to be with them and who will protect them from whatever happens.
One final way we can help our children not be afraid is to look at our own lives, acknowledge our fears and learn to walk through those fears. Look at the lists again. How many of the fears on the most recent list do kids really understand? Divorce, yes. Disease, maybe if they’ve seen it up closes and personal. War? Not in our country. Many of these fears we project onto our kids. We’re afraid. We talk about the uncertainty so our kids pick it up too and parrot our fears. We can help our children overcome fear by determining to not let fear take hold of us.
Recently I attended a conference several states away. I knew no one at this conference. Before I had a breakthrough eye surgery that tripled my vision, I always used Special Assistance when traveling by myself. This time, since I’m not legally blind anymore, I decided I really didn’t have a good reason to ask for it, so I decided to go solo. On the other hand, I have never traveled by myself before. I’m amused at the number of people back home that were surprised that I traveled alone without asking for help to a conference where I knew no one. Some people would be too afraid to be that adventuresome. Why not? The only way that I could achieve the benefits of what turned out to be a wonderful experience was to walk through my fear and not let it stop me. I think Bill O’Reilly would be proud of me.
Our children will learn to overcome fear when they watch us not allow the scary times to overtake us. If we teach them to overcome the fear of falling off a bike by saying after the first fall, “Get back up and try again,” we need to remind ourselves to do the same with our own fears.