It’s a high-octane undercurrent of energy that drives some to remain safe and others to lash out with violence.
It seems to have replaced the hope and the vision and the optimism the once inspired personal, organizational, and even cosmic exploration.
For some, it’s a debilitating power that renders them paralyzed. For others, it generates kinetic energy that moves them into the unknown.
It’s a stranglehold on humanity that seems to be strengthening into a death grip that controls how we live, move, and have our being.
According to prolific sociologist Frank Furedi, author of How Fear Works “Western culture has become less and less able…to deal with risk and uncertainty.” He suggests that moral beliefs have lost significance and so we use fear to legitimate our causes. That is, because we have drifted from a world based on morality (right vs. wrong & good vs. evil) hope has been replaced by fear as the primary influence of human decision making. Thus, Furedi concludes that “society has unwittingly become estranged from the values – such as courage, judgment, reasoning, responsibility – that are necessary for the management of fear.” He points to “the adoption of new methods of socializing young people that served as the catalyst for the ascendancy of the culture of fear. Young people are socialized to feel fragile and overawed by uncertainty.”
One of the casualties connected to our inability to manage fear is that discomfort has been misdiagnosed as evil. A moral judgment has been attached to the experience of discomfort which causes us to retreat toward the known, the safe, and the secure.
I see this most notably as I accompany U.S.-based faith leaders in their ongoing formation. Through our immersive approaches to transformation, we expose these leaders to the real implications of the imperial theology that they have been groomed within. This kind of exposure, while well-curated, is wildly uncomfortable for these dominant-culture faith leaders. As I accompany them into the discomfort, I’ve learned that their immediate interpretation of it is that the discomfort is an indication that something wrong has occurred. They’re terrified to take the next step forward into the process of transformation because they’ve been trained to equate discomfort with evil. This misdiagnosis fuels a fearful retreat rather than a courageous pressing on. Thus, rather than continuing into the pilgrimage through disorientation, fear-fueled inertia threatens to pull them out of the process. Fear disqualifies many of them from the very transformation that will liberate them into new reserves of courage.
My conviction is that our transformation lies just on the other side of discomfort. That rather than it signaling danger, discomfort is an indication that transformation is near. It is not something to be feared, rather, discomfort is a reality to be embraced. Thus, if we are to become better, more whole and alive versions of ourselves, we are going to have to grow in our capacity to metabolize and manage our fear.
The first step is naming the discomfort and the fear that accompanies it and then choosing to take one step toward it rather than backpedaling toward the known.
 Furedi, 8.
 Ibid., 33.
 Ibid., 33.
 Furedi discusses the connection between morality and fear on pg. 29. He writes: “what we fear is evil and what is evil we fear.”