Fear is the Culture Killer

(With apologies to Herbert)*

This past week I confronted one of my fears.  I went kayaking!

The fear wasn’t being on the water, nor was it tipping over. No, my fear was that with my bad knees I’d never get out of the boat and back on terra firma without someone wielding a winch! (To my new friends at the Lakeside Park boat launch in Cazenovia, thank you ever-so-much for not laughing even though you were presented with several opportunities to do so.)

Fear can be an overwhelming emotion. In my case, it hits me in the gut causing indigestion and stomach pain. Other fears have resulted in restless nights or have caused me to sit paralyzed at my desk wondering how I can ever move forward.

Fear can keep you safe… which is not a bad thing! (Wash your hands!)

The trouble seems to be in navigating when our fear is justified (fire = hot! mask = good!) or when it is the overworking of our own minds. When the latter is confronted, no winch is needed and the joy is immeasurable.

Organizations also experience fear and in a way that can be more difficult to navigate. Management guru Peter Drucker quipped “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, but the corollary to this is that “Fear eats culture as dessert” (okay, that one’s mine… and it needs a bit of work, but you get the idea).

Fear keeps us from being who we are called to be, and if that isn’t bad enough, there are those in this world who will use our fear against us.

Fear occurs in organizations that have no clear understanding of their mission, and/or are fuzzy on their values. It’s fear that keeps bullies in power, and conflict under the floorboards where it can do the most harm. Fear is what keeps us from doing what we know is right, and true and just.

And so, we steer clear of fierce conversations. We allow bullies to control what direction we will paddle. We permit bad behavior, because we fear retribution. We don’t take risks because that’s no longer in our nature. We forget who we are.

We forget Whose we are… because we belong to the fear and not to the Love.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” (1 John 4:18)

I can’t describe the delight I felt on the water. The kayaking was fun, but it was the buoyant joy at facing my fears and the sense of returning to myself that was nothing short of elation.  Remember who you are. Remember Whose you are.

*Yes, I’m a geek. Yes, this is from Dune.

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