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Defining Fear and Courage


Frances Moore Lappe’ & Jeffrey Perkins agree with Frank Furedi that fear is spread by politicians and the media both for economic and social status gain. They the politicians and media encourage people to be afraid of other countries, cultures rather than forgetting that, that which they consider right in their culture could be the most unacceptable thing in another’s culture. However, it is important to remember that fear comes in all shapes and manner of things. It can be an individual phobia or a government instilled fear. Though fear has a good aspect as it helps us to confront the unpredicted and unexpected situation, when it is not put in the right context, fear can lead to emotional paralysis, and debilitate people’s power of confronting real global dangers. Depending on how one views it, fear is omnipresent it can be found and expressed in anything.

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Human beings are therefore exposed to fear all the time no matter where they are. However, some situations cause us to be more fearful than others. Just like any other girl, Frances Moore had hopes and dreams that she was certain that she was going to attain until when her life began falling apart. Fundamental issues in her life were slowly crumbling down including her marriage and that when she realized that fear is double-edged that though it often makes us retreat it also thrusts us forward and does not have to make us stop. Fear comes to make us release the inert potential that is hidden inside of us unfortunately it only comes when we are under intense pressure, but even then it makes us realize that by crossing our fears we will be more meaningful. ( Frances and Perkins 2004),


Fear can be expressed in many forms, there is physical fear where the body is subjected to danger, there is fear of shame about this Frances says that fear is of embarrassment in the essence of human challenge and that on one hand our social nature is our greatest beauty it means that we have natural empathy and sympathy. There is also opprobrium where one is under control of a certain phobia, when talking about this kind fear Frances gave an example of a woman named Jane Stern, who overcame her phobia by volunteering her services as a medical technician. There is also illusion fear, Frank Furedi says that despite the security that western people enjoy, especially health-wise, people will still be afraid of contracting diseases through something like a handshake! Frances says that fear of the unknown will make us persevere unfulfilling relationships, and all other sorts of fears including fear of losing friends, poverty, losing status, losing jobs, failing families, etc. She goes on to say that these kinds of fears numb us to unsatisfying careers, abusive relationships, unfulfilling marriages, unsatisfying political affiliations, etc just so that we can maintain a certain social-economic quo and that we can avoid the terror of the unknown.

Whatever the circumstances testing courage fear must be overcome and just as we have seen with fear there are also different types of courage to overcome the fear. There is the courage to overcome physical danger where people like Valarie as we will see later in this paper overcame physical fear by coming out of her “safe cocoon”, there is moral courage, but this will depend on your power to overcome what people might be saying about you and chose the right actions for yourself, there is the courage to overcome a status quo where you will need to overcome fears of losing your space, etc. Courage is then needed in all types of fear, Frances says that people must dare to act ad overcome fear by leaping into the unknown with creative solutions and no matter what type of fear one is going through there is always a type of courage that can make one overcome. ( Frances and Perkins 2004)

People are naturally not able to come out of fear by themselves. The power to overcome fear comes from the cause of the fear itself or other sources. Frances Moore gives an example of Diane Wilson who stood against some of the world’s largest polluters despite being timid as a child. The pollution situation made it so bad for her that she could not stand it anymore, she considered the danger that was surrounding her, threats for her life lesser than ignoring what was happening to her environment. The fact that nobody supported her didn’t mean anything, she went on protesting alone event to an extent of going for hunger strikes alone and it was only later that fellow shrimpers joined her. The foresight of the danger ahead enabled her to overcome fear despite her timid nature. She got the power to overcome fear from her understanding that human beings exist to be problems solvers and that from this source we can create and choose our future.

We must however understand the nature of fear before we can destroy it. Whether it is based on intimidation or isolation we must first understand the fear before it ultimately can be destroyed. We can conquer fear when we have established its root causes. Some of the causes of fear are the past. Since September 11, terrorism became a source of fear, and those who lost their dear ones are bound to fear anything or anybody that is associated with terrorism. When Valarie Kaur learned that a Sikh man had been killed just four days after September 11, her first reaction was to want to shut down and retreat to a safe place to hide and keep safe a normal reaction as Frances describes it. Having come from the same religious background with the Sikh man Valarie considered herself a victim and all she wanted was to hide from the cruel world that was against her and she follows brethren. However, that was one edge of fear, after a retreat, she came out of her cocoon and realized that she could not escape the world’s complexity her actual words were “An authentic life is the embrace of that complexity”. Her dissonance moments during the retreat helped her realize that she had to fill the gap between the real world and her heart’s desire. Like everyone else when confronted with fear, Valarie had a choice to make, and she made the right one to counter fear. She chose to confront the source of fear and through an effort from her relatives she was able to develop a documentary that promoted freedom of worship, especially for her religion by interviewing people of her religion who of course expressed their fears and intimidation, especially during that period. (Frances and Perkins 2004),

Valarie’s situation was complicated by many issues. First, the assailant must have felt justified to kill the Sikh because according to him he was one of those who had just killed his fellow citizens. As a result of that fact, Valarie also became a threat and a victim at the same time. It was therefore absurd for her even to think that she would convince American citizens that though some of her fellow worshipers had caused great distress, not all were like that, not all held the same belief. It was therefore even a more fearful situation for her but she was eventually successful and was not killed in the process and therefore she was able not only to make others realize that she was not a threat but she realized herself she was not a victim. Valarie confessed to having had many fears and doubts about her inexperience to do and her credibility to do the job but her decision to go on made her overcome her fears and was ultimately successful.

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From Valarie, we learn that fear is not a negative force after all but a positive one. It is true we may have our reservations about our prevailing circumstances but once we step out we can overcome them. It is a source of energy to move forward and not retreat. It becomes an encouragement to us not just to help ourselves but to save those of our tribe. When confronted by fear we can come to a position where we can liberate ourselves and others from things that have always bond us be it culturally, economically, socially, religiously, etc. As Frances describes her ordeal, it was not easy for her to overcome her fear of breast cancer much less as it was for her to deal with it publicly. Some fears were telling her no, you are sick and you can’t come publicly, she must have asked herself what is society going to say like she says our social nature is our greatest beauty, it gives us strength to move despite our confronting nature however that same social nature also subjects us under the control of judgments of others because we care so much about our status in the community. It is important to note here that it is the same community that can push us to more risks and to is true to ourselves. When Frances’ life was coming down it was people who understood her life that bolstered her to more risks and she was able to regain herself. (Frances and Perkins 2004)

Since my childhood, I have always had fears of tomorrow. I have always wondered how is tomorrow going to be in all aspects of life but mostly social-economic. Having been born in a poor family, it was hard for me to access education and that was to be a kind of fear since the only way I knew how to come out of economic challenges was a good education which I still believe is but with time I have realized that even with the education I must have the self-esteem to be able to work well. I have therefore over time learned to first acquire self-identity which is an inner strength and not a good physical circumstance issue. I was encouraged by a friend of mine who was not able to get a college education but married a lady with a Ph.D. all because he had accurate self-esteem. Later he was able to attain a good education but his social life had not stalled because of his level of education. I have therefore learned to deal with myself before I can confront my situation since I have learned that I am the biggest enemy to myself.


Fear presents itself in numerous ways including social-economic, physical, phobia, status quo political, etc. As we have seen in the paper just as there are numerous types of fear so there are many ways to counteract. Courage will always present itself when one has examined his causes of fear and has dared to act with a creative solution. We have seen that the causes of fear can be the sources of courage like in the case of Valarie; she was confronted with the danger of her own life and that of her brethren and that danger made her come out to fight for her brethren. Finally, we have my example where I realized that I am an enemy to myself and that once I can deal with myself, I can then face any situation.


Frances M and Jeff P (2004), You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear. New York City: Tarcher/Putnam.

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