I understand this impulse we have – especially we boys and men – to deny our fear. It’s comically evident in those window decals you see sometimes, the ones that declare: No Fear. I can’t help put assume the opposite, that a teenage boy puts that sticker on his window precisely because he is scared, because he is terrified, and because he is afraid as well that everyone will smell the fear seeping out of his skin and think him unmanly. So he sticks that decal on his window and justs out his chin and tells himself that all these affectations are manly.
I don’t want my sons to know when I am afraid because I don’t want them to worry . . . All of [it] makes me want to keep my children from ever knowing that I worry about getting fired and not being able to pay the bills, about dying and not being there for them, about one of them getting sick, about car wrecks and child-snatchers and financial meltdowns and chemical warfare.
Yet worse than seeing my fear, I suppose, would be for them to struggle through life thinking that men are supposed to be fearless. You can only be fearless when you love nothing. Some ascetics in inward-focused religions achieve this state, as do some psychopaths. It was not the path designed for humanity, however. We were crafted to love others, and we are called to love them more than our own miserable skins. If someone loves himself more than all else, he is still bound to know fear, but it will be a fear that makes him a coward. He will be someone who won’t risk hardship to stand up for what’s right, who refuses to forego personal comfort for a cause greater than himself.
Only by loving others more than ourselves can we overcome everyday cowardice. Yet Ironically it is when we love others more than ourselves that we truly come to know fear . . . My prayer for each of my sons is that one day they will love others more than they love themselves. In effect, I am praying that they know fear. So if my job is to help prepare them for manhood, I will have to teach them that real men are afraid, and that we go on in spite of it. I will teach them as well that a real man needs a real woman by his side, and real women are afraid too. We are all of us cold with fear sometimes, but because we are truly men and women, and not among the growing crowd of perpetual adolescents brimming over with self-absorption, we press on in spite of our fears.
– Tony Greenlief