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Novice Karate Group (ages 8 & up)

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Leonardo Watson
Leonardo Watson

The Gift Of Fear

"I gotta be somewhere. Hey, don't look so scared. I promise I'm not going to hurt you." Kelly absolutely knew he was lying. She knew he planned to kill her, and though it may be hard to imagine, it was the first time since the incident began that she felt profound fear.

The Gift of Fear

Since he was dressed and supposedly leaving, he had no other reason to close her window. It was that subtle signal that warned her, but it was fear that gave her the courage to get up without hesitation and follow close behind the man who intended to kill her. She later described a fear so complete that it replaced every feeling in her body. Like an animal hiding inside her, it opened to its full size and stood up using the muscles in her legs. "I had nothing to do with it," she explained. "I was a passenger moving down that hallway."

What she experienced was real fear, not like when we are startled, not like the fear we feel at a movie, or the fear of public speaking. This fear is the powerful ally that says, "Do what I tell you to do." Sometimes, it tells a person to play dead, or to stop breathing, or to run or scream or fight, but to Kelly it said, "Just be quiet and don't doubt me and I'll get you out of here."

The thought had occurred to me. I know that what saved Kelly's life can save yours. In her courage, in her commitment to listen to intuition, in her determination to make some sense out of it, in her passion to be free of unwarranted fear, I saw that the information should be shared not just with victims but with those who need never become victims at all. I want this book to help you be one of those people.

Because of my sustained look at violence, because I have predicted the behavior of murderers, stalkers, would-be assassins, rejected boyfriends, estranged husbands, angry former employees, mass killers, and others, I am called an expert. I may have learned many lessons, but my basic premise in these pages is that you too are an expert at predicting violent behavior. Like every creature, you can know when you are in the presence of danger. You have the gift of a brilliant internal guardian that stands ready to warn you of hazards and guide you through risky situations.

Neither privilege nor fame will keep violence away: In the last 35 years, more public figures have been attacked in America than in the 185 years before that. Ordinary citizens can encounter violence at their jobs to the point that homicide is now the leading cause of death for women in the workplace. Twenty years ago, the idea of someone going on a shooting spree at work was outlandish; now it's in the news nearly every week, and managing employee fear of co-workers is a frequent topic in the boardroom.

As we stand on the tracks, we can only avoid the oncoming train if we are willing to see it and willing to predict that it won't stop. But instead of improving the technologies of prediction, America improves the technologies of conflict: guns, prisons, SWAT teams, karate classes, pepper spray, stun guns, Tasers, Mace. And now more than ever, we need the most accurate predictions. Just think about how we live: We are searched for weapons before boarding a plane, visiting city hall, seeing a television show taping, or attending a speech by the president. Our government buildings are surrounded by barricades, and we wrestle through so-called tamper-proof packaging to get a couple aspirin. All of this was triggered by the deeds of fewer than ten dangerous men who got our attention by frightening us. What other quorum in American history, save those who wrote our constitution, could claim as much impact on our day-to-day lives? Since fear is so central to our experience, understanding when it is a gift--and when it is a curse--is well worth the effort.

Objection 1. It would seem that God cannot be feared. For the object of fear is a future evil, as stated above (I-II:41:2; I-II:41:3). But God is free of all evil, since He is goodness itself. Therefore God cannot be feared.

Objection 3. Further, as the Philosopher states (Rhet. ii, 5), "we fear those things whence evil comes to us." But evil comes to us, not from God, but from ourselves, according to Hosea 13:9: "Destruction is thy own, O Israel: thy help is . . . in Me." Therefore God is not to be feared.

I answer that, Just as hope has two objects, one of which is the future good itself, that one expects to obtain, while the other is someone's help, through whom one expects to obtain what one hopes for, so, too, fear may have two objects, one of which is the very evil which a man shrinks from, while the other is that from which the evil may come. Accordingly, in the first way God, Who is goodness itself, cannot be an object of fear; but He can be an object of fear in the second way, in so far as there may come to us some evil either from Him or in relation to Him.

Reply to Objection 2. In God, we may consider both His justice, in respect of which He punishes those who sin, and His mercy, in respect of which He sets us free: in us the consideration of His justice gives rise to fear, but the consideration of His mercy gives rise to hope, so that, accordingly, God is the object of both hope and fear, but under different aspects.

Objection 1. It would seem that fear is unfittingly divided into filial, initial, servile and worldly fear. For Damascene says (De Fide Orth. ii, 15) that there are six kinds of fear, viz. "laziness, shamefacedness," etc. of which we have treated above (I-II:41:4), and which are not mentioned in the division in question. Therefore this division of fear seems unfitting.

Objection 2. Further, each of these fears is either good or evil. But there is a fear, viz. natural fear, which is neither morally good, since it is in the demons, according to James 2:19, "The devils . . . believe and tremble," nor evil, since it is in Christ, according to Mark 14:33, Jesus "began to fear and be heavy." Therefore the aforesaid division of fear is insufficient.

Objection 3. Further, the relation of son to father differs from that of wife to husband, and this again from that of servant to master. Now filial fear, which is that of the son in comparison with his father, is distinct from servile fear, which is that of the servant in comparison with his master. Therefore chaste fear, which seems to be that of the wife in comparison with her husband, ought to be distinguished from all these other fears.

Objection 5. Further, even as concupiscence is about some good, so is fear about some evil. Now "concupiscence of the eyes," which is the desire for things of this world, is distinct from "concupiscence of the flesh," which is the desire for one's own pleasure. Therefore "worldly fear," whereby one fears to lose external goods, is distinct from "human fear," whereby one fears harm to one's own person.

I answer that, We are speaking of fear now, in so far as it makes us turn, so to speak, to God or away from Him. For, since the object of fear is an evil, sometimes, on account of the evils he fears, man withdraws from God, and this is called human fear; while sometimes, on account of the evils he fears, he turns to God and adheres to Him. This latter evil is twofold, viz. evil of punishment, and evil of fault.