I'm motivated by fear

Recently I had an interview with out stake president to discuss my spiritual journey. I really love our stake president and have always respected him since about six years ago he was my institute teacher for some time and we developed a relationship.

He seemed a bit perplexed about my journey. He said to me that he’s not sure why I am on this journey. He questioned: is it because of unhappiness in marriage? No. A particular sin that you want to quickly justify by unbelief? No. And so we went forward discussing various things and they were all answered by me “No, that’s not what is motivating me”. He was confused.

Then I, by myself, told him what is motivating me:

“I’m motivated by fear, the fear of fear”.

I went on to explain:

“All my life there’s been a black cloud of doubt on my horizon. What if I discovered information that would render my faith false? Or of genuinely questionable authenticity? What if I learned something that is TRUE, that would cause serious doubts to arise in my mind about my previous assumptions or belief? What if I learn something that means I was wrong?

This is fear. I was prevented from learning more things, seeking out greater truth, by my fear of being wrong.

The fear of fear

My articulation, “the fear of fear” is not unique. Actually I borrowed it from Will Smith, in the below video (which is all deeply inspirational to me), he says:

Will Smith: “I’m motivated by fear”

Interviewer: “Fear of what?”

Will Smith:Fear of fear. I hate being scared to do something. And I think what developed in the early days was the attitude that I started attacking things that I was scared of

This particular statement by Will Smith has and continues to be one of the sources of greatest inspiration in my personal journey. It took me many years of my life to be able to turn around one day and say “I’m ready to be wrong. Show me more.”

And so I attacked the black cloud

My stake president said “but we all have this cloud, we all have doubts and fears at some point”. But I guess my reaction to this cloud may be different from most people. While many people concede that the cloud will always be there, and try to push it back with spiritual experiences, going to the temple, reading the scriptures, etc. I realised that it will never go away unless I attack it.

And I dove in. And it was scary. I started with reading the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. It was hard. I was reading arguments far better thought through than most of the previous one’s I’d heard for God. It was hard. I found myself nodding and chuckling the entire way through the book — why do I find myself agreeing with this SO much? Man that’s hard. Wholesale revolution of my belief system started to take place as I removed wings, foundations and structures that were not based on truth but mere assumption for many years. Using that single book as an example; I realised that there are aspects of my understanding that are far behind and need renovation, even if I did continue to believe, there was major work to be done on my assumptions.

Richard Bushman and shining a light

Recently a missionary friend of mine (an elder who has now gone less-active) shared something on his Facebook that justified my wasting so much time on Facebook for the past seven years! About Richard Bushman.

Richard Bushman is an LDS patriarch and prominent church historian. He’s the guy who wrote the book Rough Stone Rolling. a biography of Joseph Smith.

Recently he did an “ask me anything” on Reddit. This is a marvellous opportunity for him to field questions from the everyday person. I want to share something highly relevant that he said:

Question: I find it troubling that many people feel that if you dig deep academically (in any field really) that you risk losing your faith. I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

Bushman: Yes you do risk losing your faith if you dig deep. It has happened to lots of people. But that does not mean you should not dig. You don’t want to feel that if you turned over every stone, somewhere there would be a snake. You have to be willing to look at everything or your faith will be shaky. My own belief is that if you run into a problem, you should plunge right into the center of it and learn all you can. Problems that are lit up with knowledge are often less scary than problems lurking in the shadows.

(Italics added)

Wow. So profound.

If we just live our lives in the fear of encountering contradictory truth, then we are choosing ignorance and choosing to limit our knowledge of truth forever. The truths Joseph Smith revealed in his day required an immense paradigm shift for people to accept them. Who would we be to suppose that acquiring new knowledge in this day will not involve any major paradigm shifts?

Conclusion: No more fear

I’ve chosen that fear will never again prevent me from learning something new. I’m not afraid of any knowledge or any information. I have a healthy dose of scepticism in my mind (but not cynicism) so I am smart enough to know that a lot of information is not complete or accurate. With this as a premise, I am and have been ready to face any new information, no matter the difficulty or impact.

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  1. Pingback: A tangled web of mental workarounds | Shawn's Odyssey

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