Fear is colder than one might think

Published 2:20 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2023

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By Lloyd Albritton


Fear holds us back from doing a lot of the things we want to do to accomplish our goals and desires.  Fear can paralyze us, especially when we are confronted by bullies or threatened by more powerful people.  Like all human emotions, fear has its proper place in human behavior.  That’s why God made all living creatures with a little organism in our brains called the amygdala, a fight/flight sensor which tells us instinctually when to run and when to stand and fight.  The flight impulse is a lot stronger than the fight impulse in most people.  That’s why there are more cowards in he world than heroes.

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Many years ago when I was a boisterous young Marine in a training group several of us fellows went out and got drunk one evening on that cheap nickel beer over at the Enlisted Men’s Club and returned to the barracks later that evening in a rather tumultuous state of behavior.  When ordered to settle down and turn the lights back off by our Class Leader, a tall, lanky and highly conscientious young fellow named Gootch, I made the mistake of expressing my objection to Gootch’s authority over me and, before I knew what happened, Gootch angrily punched me right square in the nose so hard that my personal lights went out immediately.  The only lights I could see were the stars in my head.  It was a disabling blow and it hurt ferociously!

The Duty NCO wrote the disturbance up in his log book as a “riot” in the barracks and my name ended up at the top of the list of those accused of instigating it.  Gootch marched the group of us to the First Sergeant’s office first thing the following morning for Non-Judicial Punishment, an informal version of a court martial. I remember snarling to him as we marched down the street in single file, “Gootch, my head hurts too much to fight you right now, but if my head ever quits hurting, I’m going to get you good for that sucker punch last night.”  I never did get Gootch back because when I sobered up and my head quit hurting and I came to my senses I realized that Gootch was right and I was wrong.  On the other hand, maybe I was just more scared of Gootch than I was mad at him.  In any event, Gootch’s anger had served him well that day.  He had quelled a riot with just one punch to my nose.  My fear of Gootch worked well for me too.  During my 8.5 years of military service, I never again had to be brought up for court martial for anything.

Fear fosters inactivity.  It causes us to “freeze up!”  Anger, on the other hand, tends to produce action.  It’s hard to get angry without pain of some sort, and it’s hard to get revved up to fight without getting mad.  I sometimes recall how I felt in my youth at the beginning of a high school football game.  At first, I dreaded (feared?) getting knocked to the ground by a big bruiser on the other team.  But, when that inevitably happened, I was left with only two choices: (1) get scared or (2) get mad.  A scared player might fake an injury to get himself taken out of the game. Or, maybe he will spend the entire game holding back on his blocks and tackles because he is afraid of getting hurt again, causing his team to lose the game.  A fightin’ mad player, on the other hand, will get up off the ground highly motivated to plow into anyone wearing a different color jersey than his own.

And that’s what I did.  After getting the fear knocked out of me, I could run with that football like nobody’s business.  I could block and tackle like I really meant it because I was highly motivated.  I was fightin’ mad!  My high school football coach once teased me after a practice session in which I got angry with him for chastening me about goofing off.  He said, “Albritton, you ain’t much of a football player until you get mad, so I guess I’m going to have to make you mad more often.”  When legendary NFL football player Howie Long was asked by a reporter why he retired early from professional football, he replied, “I couldn’t keep getting myself mad enough to play every week.”

My father once owned a bulldog puppy named Rusty. Daddy wanted to train Rusty to catch hogs.  As was a common practice at the time, Daddy introduced Rusty to the hog-catching business by tossing him into the hog pen with three or four large pigs.  The pigs did not like this strange creature in their living space and they immediately began running to and fro in the pen, snorting and squealing in protest.  Little Rusty did not like what was happening either.  The poor little fellow crouched to the ground and froze with fear and trembling right there in the middle of that pig pen with those wild and crazy pigs scurrying about all around him.  It didn’t take long before one of the pigs slammed right into poor little Rusty and knocked him skidding onto his back through the nasty mud, straw and slop.  What a humiliating experience it was for poor Little Rusty!

Now, did I mention that Rusty was a bulldog?  Well, if you know anything about bulldogs, you know that bulldogs are aggressive and instinctive fighters, so you never want to make a bulldog mad!  If you do, he’s liable to kill you and eat you for lunch.  Suffice it to say that an angry bulldog is a highly motivated bulldog. Consequently, Rusty came alive like a bolt of lightening and he went after those pigs fearlessly.  He had to be forcibly pulled out of the pen to rescue the pigs.

As the years rolled on, Rusty and I had to get control of our tempers to stay out of jail.  Uncontrollable anger is not a good thing and certainly is not a Godly virtue.  Still, I recall from my Bible readings when God Himself got angry with the people a few times and it wasn’t a pretty sight.  He did exactly what my father used to do when he came home from work and found five lazy sons laying in the floor watching television.  Daddy “kicked butt and took names!”  Some say God does not get angry, that He only gets “righteously indignant.”  Whatever!

In conclusion, I think if a lot more of us don’t start getting fightin’ mad about some of the things going on around us these days and start doing something about it, God is going to eventually get mad Himself (or righteously indignant or whatever you want to call it) and start seriously “kicking some butt and taking some names.”  It’s going be sort of like when my Daddy got home.  Oh Boy!