When We Fear Consequences

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“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge, can raise men to the Divine.”

Ludwig vonBeethoven

One of the things I notice about many people (including myself) is that we often become paralyzed in our will because we fear causing any consequences. The reason? The very word consequence conjures the idea that something bad will likely happen if we exercise our will, and if something bad does happen, we think we are then likely to be in trouble.

We are powerful beings and as Goethe said, “Until one commits, then Providence moves too.” What this means is that we are powerful and capable of setting much into motion and for this, we’ve been taught to fear our power and our decisions because we don’t have faith in ourselves to act rightly or recover when we don’t, and believe the consequences we create will likely be harmful and irreversible. We fear a chain reaction that could bleed over to others and we fear our mistakes warrant punishment.

We are stronger, more capable, wise and resilient than we know. We are capable of course correcting through the practice of noticing with compassion, and through making mistakes with healthy humility. Instead, our habit of a paralyzed will too often prevails because we have been taught to be cynical about our goodness, perfectionistic, and mistrust of our ability to make decisions well, and to handle the consequences of our decisions whatever this may be. We have been encouraged to be hard on ourselves and warned to play it safe. Therefore, we freeze.

A friend of mine told me an all-too-common kind of story. Her daughter was making a poor and frightening decision and had told all of my friend’s siblings, but not her. She was not only upset when she found out what her daughter was doing, she was also hurt that only one of eight siblings had been willing to let her know, willing to address this with her daughter, and none of them talked with her after she had found out. She could not fathom why they all avoided communicating with her about what was happening and how she was feeling.

I told her that frequently people are terrified they might make matters worse therefore they choke. They tense around their emotional reactions, and fear acknowledging what they think. They often dismiss the validity of their ideas, opinions and desires, worrying they are selfish or foolish. Who are they to offer anything? They forget how to enjoy the fact of their choices and free will, and shut them down instead, just to be on the safe side.

Why is this issue, the fear of consequences, so important to consider? Why is vital to be aware of an all-too-often prevailing paralyzed will and the effects of it? The reason it matters is that we have a lot of social issues right now that require clear-headed, decisive and caring action. Instead too many freeze, procrastinate or remain passive. Our world needs us to be awake, aware, and influential concerning the needs of many situations at this time. Our world needs us to be courageous, to stand up and be counted as the caring leaders we are. Making no decision is a decision and entails consequences too. Knowing this helps, because only with a loving heart, compassion at the ready, and a will to make and learn from our mistakes, will we be the proactive change agents for peace so needed at this time.

This article was published in the column The Extraordinary Workplace in the St. Louis Small Business Monthly, February 2018

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