Letters to my sons

A collection of thoughts and lessons I've learned along the way for my little men, and anyone else that's interested.

Posts tagged with #Fear

My sons,

We live in a noisy world. The growing allure of cities that never sleep, the 24/7 nature of online communities, the endless stream of echo chamber social media updates, the constant notifications and interruptions brought about by our connected devices; these make moments of true silence a scarcity, or even a rarity. Our world prides itself on being able to entertain us and hold our interest at all hours of the day with anything and everything that we may desire at the tip of our fingers. Instant messaging, same-day shipping, fast-food services; all of these reinforce the man-made belief that we are extraordinarily busy, and that any moment spent without a pressing action to take is a wasted one.

When I was younger, I read a beautiful essay titled “The eloquent sounds of silence” by Pico Iyer that spoke to me as much then as it does now, and speaks volumes on the topic. Masterfully written, the essay begins by describing the nobility and loftiness that our thoughtful selves identify with silence. Quoting Herman Melville, he begins:

“All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by Silence.
[It] is the general consecration of the universe. Silence is the invisible laying on
of the Divine Pontiff’s hands upon the world. Silence is the only Voice of our God.”

It is no accident that the greatest honor we can pay someone is a moment of silence. Sacred places are purposefully silent. Reverent places. Honored places.

When one visits the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center, one is instantly transported to a place of honor, of grave silence, of respect and admiration for those that lost their lives and to those that gave them to save another. In that silence, in that reverent space, one’s words and thoughts cease and make room for emotion and feeling to rush in. It is in falling silent that we allow ourselves to truly feel. It is in that space that the most beautiful and divine elements of humanity can be experienced.

And yet silence is something that at best eludes us and at worst terrifies us. We are constantly seeking to drown out the silence with noise. We prefer the bustle, the white noise, the incessant notifications of a busy life.

“In silence, we often say, we can hear ourselves think;
but what is truer to say is that in silence we can hear ourselves not think,
and so sink below ourselves into a place far deeper than mere thought allows.”

Perhaps we fear the things we cannot control. Perhaps the thought of something deeper than our consciously controlled thoughts terrifies us. Or perhaps, hopefully, our avoidance of silence is not a conscious one and is therefore one that we can remedy. Perhaps all it takes is a bit of desire and some strong intention to allow ourselves to be silent, to allow ourselves to be taken to that transcendent place that allows us to simply be.

“In love, we are speechless; in awe, we say, words fail us.”

Beautiful.


My son,

One of the most remarkable things about our world is how diverse it is. From the thousands of different species of plant and animal life to the millions of tiny organisms that the eye can’t even see, there is such diversity and imagination in every living breath and being that we encounter. And yet it all works together to form something more beautiful in its entirety than its individual parts.

As I’ve grown and learned over the years, I’ve realized that just as how the natural world has much harmony in its diversity and is more breathtaking and awe-inspiring as a result, our social world ought to follow nature’s path.

It’s an interesting phenomenon, our natural instinct to stay close to the similar, the familiar. It starts so young - little boys sticking together in packs because the girls have cooties, strangers from the same race sitting at the same lunch table together, people who dress the same way forming their own little cliques. Part of this stems from a feeling of familiarity and belonging in shared similarities; this much is totally fine and good, but the other part, the part that stems from fear of the unknown and fear of things that are different, that part is a bit trickier.

My challenge to you today is to be brave. Ever since you were little, your mother and I have been encouraging you to be brave, encouraging you to face your fears with bravery and be willing to stand up to things that aren’t right. You’ll need that bravery to be inclusive, to welcome all comers, to embrace those that are different than yourself. Not only because you’ll need to overcome your own fears, but because you’ll need to stand up to the masses that are telling you that you’re wrong, that those that are different aren’t welcome.

The Bible tells us that God so loved the world. The whole world. Not just one race, not just one gender, not just one demographic, not just one intelligence level, but the entire world. And our goal is to spread that inclusiveness in all our circles, be it professional, academic, or social.

So my prayer for you today is that you’ll be someone who is known for being kind, for being inclusive, for bringing in those that need shelter from the storm, for being the one that stands up for the little guy.


My son,

Recently, I took the opportunity to look back on some of the key moments of my life, and realized that while each of those moments was vastly different, there was one thing in common across all of them - I went big. I threw caution, fear, hesitation, and laziness all to the wind and went all out. I gave it my all, and the result was that I got it all right back.

If I haven't yet, bug me to tell you about my 30th birthday party, about proposing to your mom, about my bike trips around America, or about a hundred other stories from my college days. The common thread across all of them? We put all that we had into those experiences, and were rewarded because of it.

Now, I'm not saying that every adventure has to take months of preparation, weeks of practice, or days of concerted thought and effort. Rather, I'm encouraging you remember that time is the only resource in this life that we'll never get back, and to make the most of that time. When you go big with your time, you'll make lasting memories that'll span your lifetime.

So I urge you to go and wait in line for 3 hours with your best friend for the latest release of Halo, or to go and plan a big surprise for your mother's next big birthday. Go and plan a world trip with your friends, or take a spontaneous day off to try something really new.

Whatever you do, I guarantee you that if you go big, even if you flame out big, you'll build a memory that will last you a lifetime, and will make a great story for you to tell your children too.


My son,

Despite my best efforts, by now you'll have experienced fear in your life, and will hopefully have recognized how you deal with those fears, and what your perspective for responding to those fears are.

The etymology of the noun fear comes from the old English "fær" for "calamity", or "danger", and its verb "færen", meaning "frighten" but also "revere". Reverence and fear are very closely related, and can be seen many times fairly interchangeably in the Bible (Proverbs 9:10, Psalm 111:10, Ephesians 5:21). This is because they both inherently have to do with our reactions to things we don't fully understand or have control over.

Reverence is a response which focuses on the awe and amazement of the unknown. It deals with the sense of solemn greatness by which we approach the object of our reverence, and instills in us the desire to be better, to imitate, and to emulate.

Fear on the other hand, focuses on the threat and possible danger of the unknown. It places emphasis not on the unknown, but on ourselves, and the damage that can be done to us by the unknown. It causes our self-preservation instincts to kick in, and makes us take a defensive posture thereby drawing our vision and attention inward.

As a father, I've come to a whole new level of understanding of fear. Where my life before merely had my own personal well-being to be fearful for and that of my loved ones, those threats and dangers were never particularly imminent, and were easily understood and mitigated. Being a father though, changes everything. As I'm writing this, you have just turned 9 months old, and there are so many threats in the world that are very real and can cause a severe amount of damage to you, and that is certainly something that causes fear in me. Suddenly, all the physical, emotional, and psychological pains that you might experience become very tangible and within the realm of possibility, and I'm forced to learn to trust that God will take care of you when I can't.

They say that faith is fear that has said its prayers.

I believe that to be true, and though I may not always be able to live it out, and my fears may sometimes get the best of me, in the deepest places in my heart where my convictions and ideal projections of myself live, I know it's true.

The Bible tells us that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and that God has given us a spirit not of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). My prayer is that in your life, you will understand and experience the deep and perfect love that God has for you, and that you will never doubt the deep and complete love that your mother and I have for you as well. I pray that our love for you can help you approach the unknown with awe and wonder, and can help encourage you down the path of reverence rather than fear. I pray that you will grow up always knowing that you are deeply loved. Know that we want to do our best to support you and walk with you through it all. I love you, my baby boy.


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