How fear benched me for 11 years, and what it taught me about leadership.

Last night I watched Passion of the Christ for the first time. It depicts the final twelve hours in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, on the day of his crucifixion in Jerusalem. The movie was released in 2004.

I was afraid to watch the movie because I am a fairly emotional person and I have trouble with brutality, specifically unnecessary brutality or brutality used as a tool to demean or torture. I suppose one could argue is there ever a time when brutality is necessary, but that is for another day and another blog.  

I am also a Christian and because of that I love Christ. I was concerned that I would find it very difficult to see someone I love and have a personal relationship with tortured, and tortured in my opinion, wrongfully. For eleven years I have not participated in the conversation about this movie, for eleven years I was more afraid than I was curious, for eleven years I sat out, by choice.

And even as I write this the depth of that decision continues to reveal itself to me, how selfish it was and how impairing it has been to my personal growth as a Christian and a leader. This blog is not an attempt to sell you on God, or Christ, or Easter, or the Bible. But I am going to use this experience as an example because, as embarrassed as I am, I think it can be useful. And I know it’s useful to own up to your own bad choices.

What I started to think about after having watched the movie, which was indeed difficult in parts, and equally informative in other parts, was how does this apply to life and leadership? What have I done or what am I not doing that is driven by a fear of my own capabilities? Where have I chosen to not participate because I was too afraid of what it might end up feeling like or looking like? Where did I just stand by and watch when I could have stood up and spoken?

Our 19 year old daughter is on the cusp of moving out to be on her own, her real own. Living on her own, fully supporting herself and of course, it’s intimidating.  But what I tell her, which I clearly did not follow in this example, is that she will be fine. She may have less than she wants, but not than she needs. She may have moments of struggle and tough choices, but she will also have moments of joy and accomplishment. I believe that new experiences bring growth and widen our world to help us be more empathetic, more mature and more of who we are designed to be. Her ability to be honest about her fears allowed me to encourage her to move forward in spite of her fears. 

Here is my point; don’t let fear control your decisions. Be honest about your trepidation so others with more experience can help you feel more comfortable and perhaps more normal about being fearful. Then they can help you understand how to move through that fearful situation. Leadership isn’t about never being afraid, its not even about never showing people you are afraid. Let’s face it; sometimes fear is very appropriate.

Leaders know when fear is appropriate and when someone just needs to be encouraged. Leaders know the difference between, a fear that is a signal of danger, or one that is a signal of insecurity. Leaders can see when the fear is inexperience or a lack of knowledge. Leaders can see the good that comes from the nerve wracking.

Leaders are brave; they are willing to accept defeat, pain and ridicule. Leaders take chances and try new things even when they are afraid. Leaders use fear as a tool, they break it down to better understand its root, and then they dismantle it and rebuild it to foster growth for good.

Leaders don’t allow fear to rob them of life and opportunity. Leaders perform in spite of fear. Clearly I have more work to do, but perhaps being reminded of that is part of the growth in facing our fears. Maybe we realize how much more there is, and maybe we consider what else we have been missing, or giving up. Maybe we learn, we grow and we pass it on. 

Fear – forget everything and run, or face everything and rise. – Anonymous
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