Admit it. You’re scared. I’m scared. We’re scared. As parents, we double down on the fear factor perhaps more than people without kids. But the truth is, we live in a culture of fear. We’re bombed with it, 24/7. All of us. At any given moment, we’re concerned about half a dozen terrors that may actually keep us up at night–crazy drivers on the highways where our children’s buses travel, strangers walking down the same sidewalk where we are, bullies in the school system, pink slime in the school lunch, PET in the plastic cups, preservatives in the food. Where will the money come from next month, what if the company isn’t doing as well as they say it is, what if that plane has a terrorist on it.

We’re driven by fear. I’m not sure if our culture’s significantly more fearful than anybody else’s, but we are certainly vocal about it. Fear drives our economy. Don’t believe me? Are you sure your kids will be happy without that new toy? Are you sure you won’t have missed the Epic Event of the Season if you skip that movie premiere? Are you sure you’re not going to die/become incontinent/never get a boner again without that pill? Are you sure people will love you enough if you can’t fit into those jeans or carry that purse or wear those shoes? Are you sure that hot chick/dude will speak to you if you’re not behind the wheel of that car? Or in “mom” cases–are you sure your kids won’t end up STUNTED IN THEIR GROWTH by the lack of a removable third row of captain’s chairs, cargo net, and individual DVD players IN YOUR CAR? Even for short trips?

See what I mean? Fear motivates us–it’s a great motivator. It encourages us to get out there and DO something, and in our culture today, that usually means BUY something. Yeah, I get it, Madison Avenue has spent gazillions over decades figuring out just what triggers our lizard brains need to be prompted into the Pavlovian response. There’s good money in it. We do a lot to avoid feeling fear. We give up money, self-esteem, common sense, legal freedoms. But what’s the alternative? In the midst of those silly fears are some very real ones. These fears strike chords within us because they are real. They have happened. And they could happen. To us. Some of them are small fears–not being able to haul an extra kid to an outing or pick up a friend’s kid when she needs you to. Some of them are big–finding out you have a treatable, preventable health condition, dealing with bullies, missing out on the water cooler convo over The Hunger Games opening weekend. Some of them are huge–getting that terrifying knock at the door at 11 PM, trying to drive out of your neighborhood only to see there’s a crashed plane blocking your only exit (this has happened to me–thankfully, no one was killed, but another ten feet to the right…). We can’t not be concerned about these things (although, to be honest, crashed planes in your neighborhood are very statistically unlikely, especially if you don’t live near an airport. I do, though), but neither should we let them paralyze us or motivate us into purely fear-based reactionary behaviors.

Fear Versus Vigilance

Scared people do stupid things, like check out weird bumps in the night in filmy negligees, or more subtly, keeping silent instead of speaking out against the injustice of a bully’s actions. Sometimes it’s harmful. “I don’t want to be a bother, so I’m just going to ignore this pain in my arm or my shortness of breath.” Because I’m scared the doctor will say it’s a heart attack or will tell me it’s time to quit smoking. VIGILANT people, on the other hand, recognize their fears for what they are, and think before acting.

Vigilance pauses before reacting. The vigilant person will stop to catalog all the potential causes of the weird bump (and will probably put on some pants before going to investigate. Or if not, then it’s because part of the theft-deterrent includes the calculated shock and awe of seeing a 6ft 2in naked man wielding a broadsword above his head as he barrels down the stairs, howling like an enraged bear, but I wouldn’t know anything about that).

The vigilant person will stop to think about the shortness of breath and arm pain and inform someone else who will then tell them to get their dumb ass to a damn doctor already, or I’ll call the ambulance myself. Oh, and I’m taking your smokes, too.

Vigilance says, hey body scans might stop a single person from hiding explosives on their body, but a.) it will encourage them to get more creative in hiding/exploding things and b.) it will more likely stop several hundreds or thousands of people from living an extra few months radiation-free and their entire lives with a few extra civil rights. Vigilance thinks before blanket authorizations of citizen wire taps and asks if the REactionary cost is worth it. Vigilance wants to know if the REaction is really the best action.

Are you REacting to life, or are you ACTING on it?

Happy Monday, people! What are you doing to live courageously today?

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She’s absolutely sure he’s not the marrying kind…

He’s absolutely sure she’s right…

But he’s still going to prove her wrong.

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