During World War 2, a military governor met with General George Patton in Sicily. When he praised Patton highly for his courage and bravery, the general is believed to have said, "Sir, I am not a brave man – the truth is, I am an utter craven coward. I have never been within the sound of gunshot or in sight of battle in my whole life that I wasn't so scared that I had sweat in the palms of my hands."

Years later, when Patton's autobiography was published, it contained this significant statement by the general: "I learned very early in my life never to take counsel of my fears."

Fear is an emotion that is a part of everyone’s life to one degree or another. It has negative as well as positive aspects. One positive attribute of fear is it causes one to look more carefully at a situation, searching for possible dangers or pitfalls. 

As Alexander Pope said 300 years ago, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” So, taking stock of a situation provides time to explore various ways it could be handled, avoiding potential headache or heartache. Then with a plan of action worked out, next steps are taken with greater confidence. Not all the pieces are worked out, but enough to move forward.

A negative aspect of fear is that it can freeze a person from doing anything, because often the fear one has becomes blown way out of proportion. Fear tends to feed on itself, escalating possible scenarios into something much worse than they truly are. All that can then be seen are the potential downfalls.

A child stands on the side of a swimming pool, wanting to jump for the first time into the deep end. Fear mounts. “I won’t be able to touch the bottom. Will I rise to the surface again? Can I hold my breath long enough?” Anxiety mounts, and soon, the child turns away, missing out on the thrill and fun of the new adventure. 

Or, the child looks around and sees many others jumping in and having a great time. So, realizing a great adventure could be missed, the situation is assessed, the fear is swallowed, and the child jumps. From that moment on, the joy of jumping into the deep end is enjoyed for the rest of life.

When a fear is overcome, there is a great feeling of accomplishment and a healthy sense of pride. Allow God to help you deal with your fears. Proverbs 3:25-26 says, “Do not be afraid of sudden panic, or of the storm that strikes; for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.”

Move forward in his confidence!

The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.