One of the lessons I’ve learned from watching what has unfolded in Ferguson, MO is this:
We fear those that are no longer afraid.
Most of us live in fear. Fear of not fitting in. Fear of losing our jobs. Fear of our darkest secrets being found out. Fear of not having enough.
For some this fear is even more drastic. Fear of being hated. Fear of being harmed. Fear of being killed.
But something incredible happens when a person is no longer afraid: Change.
Suddenly, what seemed impossible yesterday is possible today.
It doesn’t really matter whether or not you agree with those protesting in response to Michael Brown’s murder. The reality is that when people decide they can no longer allow fear to determine their actions they make change possible. None of us can deny that what has happened will change issues such as race, privilege and policing in this country.
We have a name for those that choose to set fear aside: Rebels.
It’s not that rebels don’t experience fear. They are human and most certainly do experience fear like the rest of us. But one becomes a rebel when they decide to no longer allow fear to determine their actions.
We tend not to like rebels when they’re up close. They scare us a bit because they don’t follow the rules, they ask questions the rest of us dare not ask, they challenge the powers that manage status quo. From a distance, rebels are invigorating, compelling. But up close? Well, when we share context with rebels we’re forced to choose a path. We can no longer be passive bystanders.
We need rebels.
We live in an era that has brought us the most access to the most possibilities than ever before. Yet, most of us retreat to cafes lit up by laptops, clicking “like” buttons as rebels flicker on our screens. And why do we watch these rebels from a distance? Because we see ourselves in them. Each of us has the capacity to be a rebel in some way. Each of us has some unique perspective, idea or voice that we’re afraid to let loose.
So, if you’ve been waiting for someone to tell you don’t have to be afraid … To go ahead and color outside of the lines … To be yourself … Well, consider yourself told. Permission has been granted.
It does not mean you’ll be the most liked. It does not mean you’ll be successful. But it also does not mean you have to be anything more than exactly who you are right now. Some of the most incredible rebels throughout history were quite normal individuals. The difference? Rebels figure out how to be comfortable in their own skin for the sake of helping something greater than themselves come into being.
Several years ago, my daughter was intimidated by a bully at school. As her mother and I did our best to comfort and encourage her one evening, the best advice my daughter articulated herself. “To be brave doesn’t mean you’re not afraid,” she said, “it means you won’t let being afraid stop you.”
Photo (Flickr CC) by Ian Sane