The Edge of Fear

By Jim Tune

A great power is unleashed when a person confronts her worst fears and steps out in faith anyway.

As an example, consider Katharine Graham. She ran the Washington Post during the Watergate era, taking on President Richard Nixon and the White House at considerable professional risk.

Long before Watergate, Graham was a 46-year-old housewife when her husband, Phil, committed suicide in 1963. Though grieving, she took control of the family company at a time when there were few women in senior positions anywhere in the corporate world. She was, in a word, terrified. She had no female role models and had difficulty being taken seriously by male colleagues and staff.

But Graham went on to lead a remarkable and fascinating life. In her new role, she came to know every president from Kennedy to Clinton. And though she was a novice in business, on her watch the Washington Post Company became one of the most successful media groups in the United States, propelled largely by the reputation it acquired when it exposed Nixon’s role in the Watergate scandal.

Her memoirs, titled Personal History, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998, and she was awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.

How did she do it? How did she succeed in a job she never wanted, but inherited only through personal tragedy? Graham gave credit to skilled managers, perseverance, and a positive attitude. “What I essentially did was to put one foot in front of the other, shut my eyes, and step off the edge,” she later recalled.

Eleanor Roosevelt wisely maintained, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”

May18_Tune_JNI recall the moments when I have steeled my nerves and stepped off the edge. Looking back, as terrifying as those moments were, I’ve never regretted them. Never. More often it was the moments of fearful hesitation that led to regret. Listening too carefully or too long to my fears has mostly led to stagnation, procrastination, or missed opportunity.

Mark Twain makes me smile at the truth concealed in his humor: “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and the success is sure.”

Today you may find yourself paralyzed by fear or indecision. Perhaps a circumstance has been thrust upon you that you never wanted or imagined. This is a test. One you can pass.

The apostle Paul faced bewildering circumstances. He wrote: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; . . . struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8, 9).

Put one foot in front of the other. Press on. Otherwise you might miss out on something great.

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