Learning to take the plunge…REALLY???

polar plunge one

By Kenneth Justice

~ ” Kenneth, I guess I would say it’s mind-blowing. I go through the motions every single day of my life and looking back at it all I realize how oblivious I was to the simple fact that the world is a lot bigger place than my little job and apartment

I was sitting at coffee in Costa Rica a few weeks ago and had met a young man from the United States who was enjoying the seventh day of his vacation in Central America. It was his first trip ever outside of the U.S. and I had asked him what his thoughts were so far on his trip.

I guess one of the things I’ve learned this past week is that when I’m back home I tend to get upset and wrapped up in a lot of stupid s**t, and being down here helps me realize how unimportant and silly some of those things are” he said

Yesterday morning I took the day off from my usual schedule of publishing an article in order to stop by ‘The Polar Plunge’; an event which drew thousands of people who lined up in 15 degree weather to jump into a freezing river for charity. And as I stood their snapping photos of these people I couldn’t help but think of the analogy between their fearlessness of jumping into the icy cold water and how so many people miss out on life because they are too afraid to make that first step.

Recently I talked with a single guy who had just experienced his first kiss with a woman since breaking up with his last girlfriend;

Kenneth, it had been twenty one years since the last time I kissed a woman” he told me, “I guess I had built up in my mind all of these fears about women; I made it into too big of a thing to date and now that I finally gotten kissed again, well, I realize that a lot of my fears were based on false notions that I had —convinced myself into believing” he said

When I used to work as a counselor one of the most common things I would notice in clients was the propensity for people to paralyze themselves through self-psychoanalyzation; instead of merely stepping forward and taking a little bit of risk…..people often prevent themselves from moving forward in life by focusing on all of the potential pitfalls or fears related to decisions.

Yet, who of us are impressed by people that don’t take chances? What kind of book are we more likely to read; the biography of someone who lived an uneventful life because they were too afraid to live it…..or the memoir of a person who stepped forward in faith and made some tough decisions?

And while at times in life some of the risks we face might be something dramatic, like jumping into an icy river in the dead of winter…..more often than not the fears we face are related to the simple aspects of our day-to-day life;

—-) I know of a forty year old woman who has never had children because of her fear of weight gain. It’s not that she doesn’t ‘want’ children….but it is her fear of gaining weight that prevents her from doing so

—-) I know of a senior pastor who is too afraid of losing congregants (and thus losing money in the collection plate) that he refuses to preach against racism…..even though he has admitted privately that many of his wealthy white parishioners harbor tremendous amounts of racism

—-) I know of a mother who is so fearful of ending up alone that she turned her back on her own children in order to stay with a miserable man who demands all of her attention

If we’re not careful, fear has the ability to control us;  It has the ability to wrap its tentacles all around our being and keep us weighed down and stuck in a type of  paralysis, and instead of living life to the fullest, fear can prevent us from barely living  life at all.

As a Christian, for a long time I couldn’t understand why so many of my fellow Christians seemed to act so callously toward the people at the bottom of society; I couldn’t figure out why there never seemed to be any room at church for the homeless, the neglected, the single moms, the abused women, and all the other people that don’t ‘look like church people’……..and it wasn’t until I realized one simple truth that things began to make sense to me; many of my fellow Christians live in fear.

—-) Some of my fellow Christians are afraid of allowing their children to be around gay people because they are afraid that it might lead their children to being gay

—-) Some of my fellow Christians are afraid of reaching out to the homeless and poor because it might mean they will be faced with having to open up their pocket book and giving money to those in need

—-) Some of my fellow Christians are afraid of helping out single mothers because they fear that it might lead to them having to sacrifice their time and energy babysitting someone else’s children

Fear is a powerful feeling…..and we can either overcome it or be paralyzed by it; ultimately each of us must choose.

Just a few thoughts this morning as I sipped my coffee. Thanks to my two little dogs who once again woke up me up an hour early for their morning constitutional, this has already been a long morning. Fortunately coffee still tastes good at 3:30 in the morning but if they keep doing this I’m going to have to get to bed earlier each night.


If you haven’t heard I’m visiting 100 coffee houses this year and my next stops include Atlanta (March 1st) St. Louis, Philadelphia, and more…check out my homepage for more dates and locations!

Categories: Culture & Society

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

76 replies

  1. I met a 44 year old man recently that told me he was fearless. I don’t know him well enough to know if that is true. I told him that right now I am full of fear. I am moving into a house in a far flung part of town near the mountains. There are so many unknowns. This life does not resemble the life I had expected years ago. Some of the changes were out of my control some I chose after much counseling. Last night I learned that a mentally ill man I was friends with for 10 years killed himself. His brain was constantly telling him that there were real dangers to be afraid of. Truly, his fears killed him. Coping with fear and taking action despite of it is the most important life lesson we learn. Or don’t learn. Thanks for this reminder.

  2. Going to bed earlier won’t help, you’ll just be up at 2:30 instead:)

  3. This is a great article. I feel the true message here is to not be scared of the world around you, and if you get a good opportunity then take it, as I know it’s a little cliché but you only live once!

  4. Letting go of Fear is like letting go of negative emotions. Once you give in, you’ll never escape.

    But once you let go, you see how easy it was and wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

    Having said that, I think there’s a time for everything in our lives. Some of us are ready to ‘Let Go’ sooner that others. We have to discover our own strengths in our own good time.

    It’s like being unable to see the sun because of the clouds. The Sun is always there, we just can’t see it when it’s cloudy. But it’s there all the time. Mind control and strength is the same. It’s there. We just need to clear away the clouds to reveal it’s presence.

    • “letting go of fear is like letting go of negative emotions. Once you give in, you’ll never escape. But once you let go, you see how easy it was and wonder why you didn’t do it sooner”

      Wow, well said Vicki. While working as a counselor this was such an important thing that I tried to talk to clients about. So many people think its a lot harder to give up the negative thought processes… but the people who are able to do it realize exactly what you have said; it can often be a lot easier then they realized.

    • Of course it seems easy in hindsight. If you’ve worked in counselling, you probably know that it’s anything but easy while you’re struggling to do it, and not everyone succeeds.

      As a person with a long-term anxiety condition, I see red any time someone tells me I should just stop worrying about X, or I should just take a deep breath and do Y, or that Z is really not worth fretting about. I’m not afraid because I don’t realise that. I’m afraid despite realising.

      Sorry if that came out a bit ranty. Too many years of baffled neurotypical folks going “you know you’re good at X, so what’s the problem?”

    • Natalia,

      Great comments. You’re right, its a lot easier to say, ‘take the risk’, ‘take the chance’, or ‘just let it go’… then it is to actually do it. And I’ve met many a cold-hearted counselor who treated their clients poorly because the client wasn’t able to simply change immediately…… some things definitely take time for sure

    • It took me many, many years before I could even find a counselor who was willing and able to help me with my complex PTSD issues (and would accept Medicaid).

      Sometimes, it’s not a matter of will, but access to resources. It’s also difficult when people get too cavalier with a “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” mindset.

    • Naraoia, I have to admit I found it annoying when people would say “Just stop worrying, it’ll be ok”

      It is not “OK”.

      ICI (invisible chronic illness) sufferers do not need glib, insensitive fobbing off like that. They need compassion and understanding.

      ……and……what they need is help.

      Years ago, when I was in a deep dark hole with my chronic pain & ill health, I needed someone to say “I’m sorry to hear you’re having a bad pain day and you haven’t slept well, CAN I DO SOMETHING TO HELP? Can I give you a car ride home (from work), or help you with your shopping – it must be hard without a car to carry heavy shopping on the bus.”

      I’ve learnt to just depend on myself these days, but I do have a wonderful neighbour who takes me shopping occasionally, asks if I would like a ride to the library, or even, cooks the occasional meal when I’ve been housebound.

      It took me 3 months of practising breathing exercises before I could relax and reduce my stress and anxiety and lower my high BP spikes. I just kept doing it over & over again and once I’d mastered the technique, I managed my pain & anxiety easily. Like I said in my comment, once you learn How to Do It, you realise how easy it really was.

      Can take quite a while to master the technique though. Whatever technique (or meds) you need.

      My present improvement in health only happened when I got to breaking point and quit working in 2010. My wonderful GP supported me in applying for a Govt. Disability Pension, (which was successful), and while my life is somewhat frugal and a little difficult at times, I can cope with nearly all my health problems now I don’t have to get up early & force myself to try and do a stressful full-time job. And……. I’m lucky enough to be able to do a creative hobby which I love and find very relaxing these days.

      I know I’m in a great place mentally now. Over Christmas when a family member was trying to show me how to do something on the computer, I kept telling him I didn’t understand what he was saying. He kept getting more frustrated with me and started raising his voice and I kept get more and more calm. I just relaxed into my little space and tried not to let my calm inner smile appear on my lips (as I very nearly burst out laughing).

      I’ve learnt a lot about myself in the last 4 years, especially about my inner strength, AND my ability to let life wash over me and not leave too many dents.

    • Great story. Glad to hear you climbed out of your deep dark hole, and it sounds like you have the best GP ever 🙂

  5. Reblogged this on Gr8ful Bugger and commented:
    Another great post from The Culture Monk – http://culturemonk.com/
    “Fear is a powerful feeling…..and we can either overcome it or be paralyzed by it; ultimately each of us must choose.”

  6. I think there is probably an icy river in the subconscious of every one of us. It is an innate part of being human, I believe. Our experiences, upbringings and genetic make-up dictate how this icy river will be translated into our conscious world. Ultimately, working through our own fragility is at the heart of true living. Don’t you think?

    • “an icy river in the subconscious of everyone”

      Gosh, I wish I had come up with saying it that way…I like that, ‘an icy river in the subconscious’… very good!

  7. Reblogging this! I thought it was very inspirational and it is surely true for me. I want to go travel the world again and I KNOW it is just my fear holding me back. I’ve been stuck at home for 7 years now, trying to figure out SOME way to support myself and still no luck. Your post has pushed me just a little bit further down the road. 🙂

    • I hope you figure out a way to do it! If you’re willing to ‘sleep anywhere’ you’d be surprised how many people are willing to let strangers sleep on their sofa’s… and your cost of traveling would go way down that way 🙂

  8. Reblogged this on Capt Jills Journeys and commented:
    I found this to be a very inspirational post. I want to get away from here SO bad and I KNOW it’s only my fears holding me back. A little push from the Culture Monk helped push me just a little bit further down the road. 🙂

  9. Good post,I like it. As regards facing and overcoming your fears, and then living, yes it can be done, no matter how deep and entrenched your fears are. Even if you can’t overcome them you can learn to “utilise them” as rather like them being your worst enemy, especially as regards mental illness, they can also become your best friend

    As regards how some Christians approach those in the basement of society, I’m not too whether it is always about fear. How about social stigma, homophobia, and a fear of social and physical “contamination” through those less well of from themselves. I know that a great many Christians etc practice as they preach or believe when it comes to such matters, but others seem to cherry pick from their preferred Holy teachings, and then “adapt” them to their individual needs

    But let’s be honest about this. Regardless of any religious conviction, how many of us would enter such arena’s, maybe work there, and do so with feeling of ease

    • “others seem to cherry pick from their preferred holy teachings”

      Very true! Depending on the denomination or particularly church; many Christians prefer to see things only ‘one way’ rather than reconsidering whether or not their perspective is really the best.

  10. Speaking as someone who has taken more leaps than may have been good to take, considering the consequences of the leap is just as important as letting go of the fear that prevents one from taking it. Just as true courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway (whatever the “it” may be), so is considering the possible consequences and leaping anyway a goal. One must have a solid ethical ground to stand on to do it, though. Otherwise, as Dostoevsky said through one of the Brothers Karamazov, “All is permitted.”

    • “one must have a solid ethical ground to stand on to do it though”

      Great point…. and your right; without good ethics someone might end up saying, “well I took a risk and I robbed a bank” lol very good point you make Mrs Slocum

  11. You have touched on something profound here (not that don’t every day – obviously! Woops seem to be digging a hole) 🙂

    And the answers and thoughts are as wide as they are deep. Or maybe not. One of the things that struck me is how love requires safety rather than fear. From love (of self, others, others to self, even God sometimes) comes trust, confidence, faith, all the good stuff. Put a hole in that love and the leakage is phenomenal. Trust no, fear yes, safety no, love demanding (maybe).

    Profound post KJ. Now, about your dogs … 🙂

    • My dogs are nuts! A Chihuahua and a Yorkie they barely weigh 6 pounds when wet. I think I figured it out; the Yorkie is sneaky. He knows that the coffee shop doesn’t open up till five…. so if he wakes me up at 3:30 he knows I’ll brew my own coffee and he gets to sit with me for an hour and a half at my desk where I write…. but if he doesn’t wake me up till 5 then he only gets to spend a few minutes with me before I take off to the café ….he’s a sneaky one for sure.

    • HAHA!! Drop kick dogs! Love it. Yorkies are feisty little chaps! No fear in a Yorkie usually. Now Chihuahuas – highly strung in my experience.

      I am a mongrel lover. Lots of mixed blood and sneaky coplulation – and the chilled vibe that always seem to go with sneaky copulation! That’s how to do it. 🙂

  12. While sipping my coffee…… great read! I ended up reading most of it out loud to the hubby (we pastored for a very long time) – great points. Thank you for the post.

  13. Fear truly has a way to grab us ferociously with its tentacles, holding us a victim.

  14. Great article with so much truth!

    Paralyzing fear is such a perfect word as it really describe that feeling you have when you feel stuck. It is really sad to see this in others…even worse when you are experiencing it yourself.

    I think one of the most common daily fears people experience is the fear of “what others think”. A person has an idea to do something and then puts themselves in check, questioning their activity because of some outside influence. What would my friends think, or my boss?

    I’d hazard a guess that many of your Christian friends won’t help other “less than’s” simply because they are afraid of someone seeing them associated with such a person…even worse, let’s say they do something thoughtful of helpful and the homeless person is grateful. Some time later they happen to meet again and the homeless person recognizes them and says hello with a great big smile on their face! If your Christian friend was with someone else, I’d bet they would pretend not to know the homeless person.
    There is also the fear of “contagion” or “Cooties” if one helped…based on misinformation whether supplied by family members, friends or self made. It can make a person look like an idiot.

    The low-self esteem fear is also another big life killer. When one is so afraid of failure, one refuses to try anything…paralyzed. It reminds me of an old movie “The Fly” when a man is trapped in a web crying , “Help Me!” as the camera pans out and you see the giant spider inching its way toward the man.
    Having experienced paralyzing fear in greater and lesser degrees for most of my life I have found the following to be true:

    The best fear to experience is conquered fear! People spend a lot of time and energy trying to find out who they are, really. Surprisingly, when one conquers fear, a lot of who they are starts coming in to view.

    An important step in conquering fear is NEVER be afraid of failure. Failure is part of life. It is what helps us learn and allows us to re-evaluate or improve the way we do things. Try not to make any BIG mistakes…the lessons from these can be harsh. You cannot become un-paralyzed if you are afraid to fail…be WILLING to fail.

    Low-self esteem…believe in yourself! Start small (you choose how small), decided to do something and do it and gradually move on to bigger and better things. You would be surprised how capable you really are.

    Everyone has an opinion about everything. Keeping yourself informed is a good thing but don’t allow the opinions of others to distort your own. Use all this information to find out what you truly believe as right or truth and who you REALLY are…then stick by your own opinion. It’s not something that needs to be enforced on others but don’t let it be compromised by them either. Allow it the opportunity to develop and change as new information and life experience guides it…but still keep it as your own. Don’t allow it to be a reflection that is not your own.

    In summary, Be you! Believe in yourself! Never be afraid to fail. Start living! When you can do these things, daily life can be quite exhilarating.

    • When I started my blog and created the website I definitely had in the back of my mind ‘what others think’ because I know a lot of people, both in my professional life and in my personal life and it took me a long time to decide whether or not to begin publishing articles; I realized that in some ways there might be a backlash to what I write…. but eventually I decided that I really wanted to write and it was worth any potential negativity I might get from others.

    • I always say…follow your heart!

      One of the nicest things about moving to a place where no one knows you is that you are free to do whatever you want…the stigma of “what others think” is absent. When that is gone, you are free to create. Your situation was a bit tougher because you had to get through it in your current environment…and that takes courage and sometimes diplomacy. 🙂

  15. I feel that woman whose afraid of gaining weight through pregnancy. When the topic of children comes up between my boyfriend and I, I’m almost always compelled to ask if he’d still be attracted to me. If I don’t bounce back right away, if I’m scared or if I just look different than I used to, will he still want me?

    Still, fear already paralyzed me for enough of my life. At the end of the day, I go for what I want regardless of risk. I wouldn’t be here today without the decisions I made in spite of fear.

    • I think a lot of women struggle with the whole pregnancy/looks/weight thing…. its too bad because having children (if that is what a woman wants to do) should be a joyous time; not a sad time

    • That’s what you get for having a society that puts so much focus on how you look.

    • In my experience, TK, women are harder on women than men are hard on women about body issues. I think a lot of studies seem to bear this out, but I’ll share a personal ancedote instead, since that’s shorter.

      I won’t sugarcoat it: both my wife, Cimmorene, and I are obese. I haven’t noticed any dirty looks, but she says she’s definitely gotten a lot, and I suspect that might be partly because our children are really skinny. I’m totally serious– my daughter’s school last year would NOT stop pestering us, asking us if she was getting enough to eat until I secured a note from her pediatrician essentially saying: “Leave her alone, she’s just very tall for her age!”

      A little weight gain for men AND women at about age 30 seems to come with the territory, anyways. Seen it with friends, family, acquaintances– they all put on a little. Trust me on this one; give it time, and you may find most real people don’t care quite as much about it as you may have thought. For me, chronic pain and other health issues were more of an issue with Cimmy and I as far as physical intimacy than anything with body image. It’s a shame, too, because I finally got a lot LESS self-conscious about my looks (during sex, even) than when we were married 15 years ago!

  16. Reblogged this on Swell Time and commented:
    Great blog about fear. I know a lot of people who try to control things because they are afraid of what will happen if they let go. Fear is so powerful, but we have the power to control our fears and let go.

  17. In centuries past fear was a necessary tool to keep you safe from predators and dangerous terrain, in today’s changed landscape fear has become a powerful and tricky emotion, often masquerading as a tool of safety, playing to its strength by pretending it’s there to help you. Selfishness is a byproduct of fear, it justifies itself with the whispered lies of self protection. Denial is fear, wrapping people in its limited vision to keep them from seeing the truth. Fear inserts walls between you and life, allowing you to peek over and see the limitless opportunities but preventing you from reaching them. Fear can still be useful in helping you make decisions regarding dangerous situations but you have to be careful not to let it control your life.

    • “fear inserts walls between you and life, allowing you to peek over and see the limitless opportunities but preventing you from reach them”

      So beautiful said and I totally agree

  18. There’s the first time for everything, isn’t it? Break that ice river 😀
    Fear can cut deep, but as I walk through it everyday, I go to bed believing that was worth it.
    I was wondering and worrying about you when I saw this guy jumping in the freezing river ( looked like you) lol

  19. Seems to me that the characteristics of your fellow Christians that you attribute to fear, particularly the second and third (giving money to the poor or sacrificing time), are more about selfishness than fear.

  20. Thanks. I needed a reminder to let go of my fear and to quit letting it dictate what I do.

  21. I’d rather read the book of the person who quit their job, ended up homeless and killed themselves than the person who just worked a boring job and went home comfortably but I’m not sure which life I would want to live..haha It’s always a tough decision between suicide and living a boring comfortably miserable life.

  22. Funny thing about change, though, is that it tends to find you any way. Good luck avoiding it.

  23. Your blog rocks, and this post rocks. I couldn’t agree more! I think there’s a fine line sometimes though between saying, “Okay, let me make a practical decision,” and meaning it, vs. saying that to try justifying one’s own fear. I’ve done it. I fight with it all the time. But then I think about the times I just leapt off the deep end… and was okay! Prime example is my husband. We’d only been dating a few months when he ended up having to go to Japan, where he’d have to stay for three years, for work. Of course I was afraid of being overly romantic, of it not working out, then looking like a naive fool to everyone for following a man around the globe… but about five years later, here we are! Where would I be if I’d submitted to that fear?!

    Anyway, I guess this is just a good reminder to always encourage people, to comfort them, to reassure them. It’s so amazingly freeing to overcome a fear. I have a million examples, haha! Just love this post. Keep ’em comin’.

  24. This is very educational. I have been trying to figure out why Christians are living in fear. I know very well why I was afraid, but my fears were probably different than others I knew.

  25. great post….and you know, I sometimes wonder why you pick the photos you pick – like why this one? Is it the cross and the dreads….and I sometimes wonder what other photos were considered and why this shot made the final cut…. ha ha

    • 99% of the time there is a method to my madness in picking photos; often times it is a particular expression I see in the person that relates to what I’m thinking as I’m writing 🙂

    • and so really – why that photo – two guys in speedos????? this one just had me curious – but you do not need to reply…. 😉

    • Well, as long as you don’t see the man behind the curtain the Wizard of Oz seems really cool…. and so it is with my photos; if I don’t explain my crazy ‘logic’ in why I choose them it seems more interesting than the ‘real’ reason 😉 and so all that is to say my lips are sealed ;). on a side note; I received a phone call today because for the first time ever; someone KNEW the person in one of the photos I used recently! Ha ha…perhaps my articles are now getting out to more people than I realize.

    • well thanks for the reply!!!! and I really thought their was symbolism – the cross or that hair! But I guess your photos always reflect something of the culture – and so in that way – they never need a verbalized or shared reason. –peace out Mr. Monk!

  26. Fear is part of the reason we don’t reach out more to help others. The other part: when you do reach out to help someone over time (not just a handout) it becomes hard, time-consuming, often frustrating, and sometimes with questionable benefit for the person you’re trying to help. Not saying we shouldn’t do it. We should sacrifice for others, but from my own experience it can be discouraging and that may be why more people don’t do it.

  27. I like bwdell response above: it’s not necessarily fear that prevents some folks from assisting, but the backlash associated with assisting in some areas; take for instance a child with the propensity to lie coming from a single family home: ergo you offer to babysit, then you are faced with a molestation charge which is a lie. I can see fear of having your name plastered over the evening news for a trumped up charge preventing you from offering assistance in this instance. Give money if you are able to, do the groceries if you have the time etc. but somehow those tasks are never the need. Yet you call it fear.

    • Vwoods, true. I suspect though that in me being a Christian, Jesus wouldn’t look to fondly upon me if I try to use that as an excuse; “uh, but Jesus, look it was simply too time consuming to help those people, and I was afraid of the potential backlash”….. Jesus never lived that way, thus, I shouldn’t either

    • I’m not saying one should put an excuse before assistance, I personally jump into helping folks and i get great results with God’s help, but I was going from the trend in the comments. I believe that wisdom is needed in assessing what a person needs in their lives. W

  28. Recently, I realized I had strong feelings of friendship toward a new person in my life. On the one hand, these feelings brought happiness; this person is kind and wise and wonderful to be around. On the other hand, the situation that had brought this person into my life was complicated. Being able to pursue a true friendship with this person is uncertain, and I figure few would understand (or respect) my feelings for this person due to the age difference between us. For days, I endured a merry-go-round of joy, grief and anger over the situation. Then I realized I just needed to live in the moment and enjoy the gift of this person’s acquaintance as I have it now. My agonizing over what might or might not be in the future or what people might think is only robbing me of joy. Just something I’ve learned this week.

  29. Another very readable and interesting story. So true about fear holding us back. I heard, or was it read, that we either move towards love or away from fear. There are only those two options.

    I really enjoy your writing,
    The Rabbit


  30. Beautiful post, which any person can relate to. Fear is that doubt inside, which whispers constantly until it becomes a shout. Eventually, you’ll begin to hear absolutely nothing but that voice inside, limiting a specific thing or all things for that matter. I have a friend that always asked for company when traveling to the store, post office, mall, etc. Why? He is afraid of being alone. I had a friend, with had being the keyword here. Nonetheless, he wouldn’t get involved with a woman seriously, because he was afraid of getting hurt. However, he would consciously and subconsciously hurt the women he involved himself with. Fear is a funny and yet dangerous thing.

    • Gosh, I thinks we must have the same friend Errol! Cuz I know a couple guys who fit the exact description of what you’re describing your friend. Right on though “fear is a funny and yet dangerous thing” for sure!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: