The fear of failure is likely the most widespread of all fears. It comes in many shapes and sizes. My kids face it on a daily basis and I am always quick to encourage them to overcome it. I know that if they allow fear to win, they will be robbed of the opportunity to enjoy the best parts of life. Every time they go to the batter’s box, stand at the plate and stare at the pitcher, I am telling them, “You can do it! Don’t be afraid to try!” When Joel stands at the edge of the diving board, hangs his toes off the end and stares at what seems like the plunge into certain disaster, I’m there to say, “Jump! I’ll catch you!” Even when my two year old, Madison, sits at the top of the slide you can see the thought run through her mind, “Am I going to make it to the bottom?”
It’s easy for me to be confident for my children; to always encourage them and at times demand them to face their fears … knowing that even if they don’t succeed, they are at the very least going to give it their best try. After all, I’ve walked through the challenges that they are facing. I’ve stood at the plate. Sometimes I got a hit; other times a big swing and a miss. But you live through it and learn you can always try again. Recently, most of my “pep talks” have been with my oldest daughter, Hannah. She made the All-Star Team in the local fast-pitch softball league. That alone is an achievement. However, since the level of competition is higher (and this is her first year to play with other athletes like this) she has, at times, needed a motivational speech or two to help get over the fear factor that comes with the new challenge.
The other day we were driving home from practice and I had just delivered what I considered to be one of my best “Coach Dad” speeches. Hannah sat quietly for a long minute and then asked,
“Dad, when will I be brave like you?”
“What do you mean? You are brave baby.”
“No. I am always afraid that I’m not going to do well.”
“Yeah I know, but you try anyway right?”
“Well, yeah. I try, but I’m still afraid.”
“I know you are, but that’s what bravery is. It’s being afraid and trying anyway.”
Then her eyes brightened and she got a slight grin. She whispered to herself, “I am brave!”
It might have been a small thing in respect to all of the problems in the world today, but in that moment between us, that one confession meant the world. For her to understand that bravery is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to face the fear and try your best in spite of what you are afraid of. She may only be 10, and we may have only been talking about little league softball, however, I know that someday life will throw major league challenges at my child. Life does not give anyone a free pass. It rains on the just and the unjust. But if she can remember, “She is brave”, then no matter the fear she faces, she’ll never be too afraid to try!