I read a random fact online the other day about the human body: Your ears secrete more earwax when you’re afraid than when you’re not.
I read it on the internet, so it must be true.
Can you imagine, that if you got really scared, your ears started oozing wax on the spot? Okay, I don’t think it works that way, but…it’s still just… gross.
If it did work that way, however, we’d be up to our…um…ears in earwax. Why? Because fear is rampant. Fear is epidemic. No, I’m not talking about legitimate phobias (medical conditions) or that fear that you get when you’re 6 years old, covered in mud, and your mom says, “Just wait until your father gets home.”
I’m talking about that fear that keeps us from daring to live. Fear of the future. Fear of risk. That fear that keeps us from changing, even when we need to. Fear of daring to be anything but…ordinary. After all, mediocrity is safer. There’s far less to fear when you “settle” in to where you are.
Hear me out. I don’t think “contentment” is necessarily a bad thing. How many mistakes can we make when we aren’t content with what we have or where we are in life? How many mid-life crises begin when people cease being thankful for what they have? How often does the greed for power, money, and satisfaction lead people down a dark, self-centered path of destruction?
There’s a difference between self-centered ambition and daring to live to make a difference:
Selfish ambition: “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind” (James 3:16). People with selfish ambition don’t know how to be content with what they have – or who they are. They become driven by greed for more – more things, more fame, more power, etc. Ambition, defined this way, is a very bad thing, because people who have it do not care whom they step on to get what they want.
On the other hand, maybe it is fear of this kind of ambition that chains us to a mindset where we settle for less than what we are designed for. What we call “contentment” is actually a fear to take any sort of risk. So, it’s not contentment we feel. It’s “settling for less” and tricking ourselves into believing that’s what we’re supposed to be doing. It’s complacency. Maybe even laziness. Maybe even cowardice.
So we keep things easy. Sometimes we may actually look at our lives, know we’ve settled for less (and hate it), yet won’t do anything to change it because staying put is easy. Easier than change, anyway. So we settle for a lesser life. Life-long dreams of making a difference fade into memory. Our goals become smaller, as our lives become about surviving instead of thriving. Stuck. Afraid to move.
Unfortunately, the less that people dare, the more our world suffers for it. Uniqueness disappears. The unique difference you could make is lost as you conform to a world that has settled. So we follow the paths laid out for us by others. We vicariously attach ourselves to the dreams and visions of other people. And as fewer people dare, everything looks more and more…conformed. Generation after generation of people following someone else’s lead. Listening to people tell us “we know what’s best for you” and believing it.
We fear to dare, when we should fear the cost of not daring. We are all given only so many years to make a difference. What we should fear is wasting that time.
“I have fear of being boring.” – Christian Bale (actor)
So break off the shackles of fear. It can start with a dream. Imagine what you can do, then take steps to do it. Dare. Do it because so few of us are. The rest of us need you to do it. And maybe, just maybe, we can dare together. Then there’s less to fear because we are not alone. We can encourage each other along the way. We can pull each of us out of the abyss of “settling.”
“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Go where there is no path. Leave a trail that others can follow. And read Isaiah 43 while you’re at it. There’ll you hear God say over and over “I will be with you.”
Do. Not. Fear.
After all, who wants to be seen standing there oozing earwax?
“My [good] ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else” (Romans 15:20).