Fear of Success

I’m going to present a little one hour (maybe longer) introduction to ethics for my firefighters on Friday, and again on Monday and Tuesday to cover all shifts.  It’s a subject I once taught, at a very basic level, but it’s been more than a few years ago.  To freshen my mind and memory, I dug into a pile of old notebooks to discover an unfinished book length manuscript I wrote in 1991 on the subject of ethics for association executives.  I was surprised to find myself reading it as if it had been written by someone else and really liking it.  I wonder why I never finished it?  My guess is I figured no one would ever want to read it so why bother.  I don’t think that’s just my problem.  I bet there are a lot of us who have done, are doing or could do some really good work, but never bring it to completion out of fear, and fear is what it is.  It’s fear of rejection, of being unqualified, of not being as good as we think we are, of humiliation. 

That’s one reason why I have come to have so much admiration for the courage of artists of all kinds who dare to put themselves and their work on public display and bear whatever that might bring.  My wife, for one, has rediscovered her long buried talent as a visual artist, and has begun to enter a number of juried art shows with some very satisfying results.  My nephew, a shy young man by any standard, has begun to established himself as a superb stage actor.  A friend has taken his own doubts in hand and is completing a book on the Galilean ministry of Jesus as recorded by Luke.  Just tonight I was skimming through an old copy of Hans Kung’s 1974 book On Being A Christian and thinking about the courage it took to take on the whole church, and that pales compared to a far too young to be wise Bonhoeffer.

But I want to go back to my wife and nephew and friend.  We are not required to be a Kung or Bonhoeffer. We are not required to be an artist, actor or college professor.  We are only required to be ourselves, to claim the gifts we actually have, and dare to offer them for whatever value they may have for others’ well being and to the glory of God.  The great shame is that there are so many of us who are too afraid to do that.  I wonder what Jesus would say about that?  Oh yeah, he told the parable of the talents. 

4 thoughts on “Fear of Success”

  1. Amen! I also think that it\’s due to our culture\’s obsession with perfection. People aren\’t allowed to mess up or try again except in limited cases, and if you\’re not perfect or dazzling you are a failure. That\’s why I love Florence Foster Jenkins (if you don\’t know her, look her songs up on youtube). She was not graced by a beautiful voice but she was graced by a passion for singing. People told her frequently and constantly that she could not sing, but she did anyway. I wish I could have that kind of courage to sing!

  2. In my own case, \”taking doubt in hand\” took place by what might be called the discipline of friendship.What you may not be willing to let yourself do by and for yourself, you may let yourself do for and with a friend. True friendship encourages.Thank you, Steve, for truly being a friend.

  3. CP – thank you for this beautiful post regarding talent and fear. Receiving the gift of courage to step into the abyss with one\’s talent only comes from one Source. It\’s amazing some people receive that courage early in life, some later, but when it comes it is so much downright fun and once more, God given joy!xoxo

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