Updated on 07.14.11

The Ten Evils (Part Three)

Trent Hamm

This was originally one exceptionally long post. I chose to split it into five pieces for readability purposes. I’ll post a segment each day this week.

As mentioned previously, I was recently leafing through a book at the library discussing Japanese martial arts (I believe it was Budo Secrets) when I came upon a sidebar that listed the ten evils that prevent people from improving themselves.

As I read through the list, I couldn’t help but see how each of these evils – or character flaws, as I would perhaps describe them – have held me back in my finances, my career, and my life in different ways.

While thinking about these ten terms, I consulted a dictionary and spent some time reflecting on how each of these has held me back – and can hold you back, too.

(I decided to highlight these evils with some wonderful Creative Commons photographs that illustrate each of these traps.)

Here are the fifth and sixth evils from that list. You can check out the first two evils and the second two evils as well.

Dangerous Risk Adrenaline Suicide by Fear of Falling
Dangerous Risk Adrenaline Suicide by Fear of Falling, by epSos

A strong, uncontrollable, unpleasant emotion caused by actual or perceived danger or threat.

All of us experience fear at some point. We’re afraid of illness. We’re afraid of losing our jobs. We’re afraid of losing the things we hold dear in our life. We experience phobias – one of mine is a fear of heights that’s almost paralyzing.

Fear drives us to make mistakes. We walk away from things we should be addressing. We become obsessed with things that should be trivial. We avoid situations that might provide great value to us.

It was my fear of the possible economic consequences of pursuing a degree in English lit that kept me away from writing for a decade and a half. It was my fear of losing my soon-to-be wife that caused me to turn down several job offers during my last year of college, more than one of which would have been quite intriguing. It was my fear of looking like a “loser” that kept me spending money and falling into debt during my early adulthood.

Fear drove me in every instance. Fear drove me away from my potential. It pushed me from what I could be into something much smaller.

In opposition to fear is bravery. This doesn’t mean the lack of fear, but merely control over it. It’s an understanding that great things are accomplished at times if fear is overcome and it’s also an understanding that some events in life simply cannot be controlled, so fearing them is a useless emotion.

Bravery means following your passions. It means not choosing your college major due to expected income, but due to what you’re most passionate about and excited about. It means choosing the lower-paying job because of the opportunities and the upside.

Bravery means not doing what everyone else is doing. It means living frugally. It means rejecting crass consumerism. It means not lusting after the same material objects that others lust after. It means defining your own goals and chasing them, even if they’re much different than everyone else. It means having your own hobbies and interests, regardless of what those around you think is “cool.”

Bravery means being your own person and taking on what you fear. Doing that brings happiness and a fuller life. Doing that consistently eventually brings respect from those around you.

Doubt, by Shahram Sharif

To lack confidence in; to disbelieve, question, or suspect.

We don’t believe that we’re good enough to handle the task at hand, so we make an alternate choice that leads us down a sadder road. We hesitate – and in that moment of hesitation, our chance is lost.

Doubt leads us to second-guess our choices and to dwell on past mistakes instead of merely learning from our errors (and successes) and moving forward into a bright future. Doubt leads to a sense of failure, one that’s hard to escape from.

A hint of doubt is good, as it tells us that we can always sharpen our skills. More than a taste, however, and we convince ourselves that we’re not up to the task.

Opposing doubt is confidence. Not overconfidence, mind you. Overconfidence results in making impossible claims, acting arrogant, taking on unrealistic situations, and often failing to back up your statements. Overconfidence means looking like a buffoon and letting other people down.

Confidence, on the other hand, simply means that you’re certain of the truth of everything that you say and that, when you’ve chosen a course or path, you’re certain that it’s the best path. Hand in hand with having confidence is having reasons to back up your belief, while overconfidence means that you don’t have reasons to back up your belief and doubt means that you don’t take on a belief even in the face of reason.

I feel constant slight doubt about my writing, yet I keep writing. That’s confidence trumping doubt. That’s confidence using doubt as a push to keep improving, but not as enough of a hindrance to stop moving forward.

How can you build confidence? You build confidence by doing instead of avoiding. Try new things, particularly challenging ones. Tell youself that you can do this and do it.

If you fail, don’t dwell on the failure. Instead, look for what you did wrong (and the multitude of things you did right), pick yourself up, and try it again using what you learned. Keep the things you did right and try a different approach with the things you did wrong.

The more you try, the more you’ll succeed. The more you succeed, the more doubt will melt away from your heart.

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  1. Steven says:

    So, what are you doing to overcome your fear of heights? I’ll skydive with you if you want to come to Minneapolis. Let me know!

  2. kristine says:

    Fear is not inherently evil. It is not a character flaw.

    Fear of getting sick is why we wash our hands. Fear of getting hit by a car is why we look before we cross the street. Fear of not adequately providing for your family is why you changed your ways. Fear of being old and impoverished is why we save money. Fear of getting caught will often keep us on the straight and narrow- from not breaking vows, to not running a red light at 3am when no one is around.

    Fear is hardwired as a survival instinct. All it takes is the ability to pause and think rationally to discern if a fear is warranted or not, and if it should be ignored, or heeded. It can be that uneasy feeling that something is just not quite right, that ends up saving your life. The threat can be real, not just percieved.

    Fear can be powerful motivator, not just a paralyzer. Fear itself is merely a chemical impetus in the brain, and the outcome will be either negative or positive dependent on choice.

    Denial is a choice. Obsession is a mental condition. Avoidance is mild cowardice, and also a choice. Bravery is a choice.

    Fear is not the opposite of bravery. Cowardice is. Choosing cowardice is the character flaw, not fear.

    I hereby stickup for fear- a basic instinct getting a bad rap!

  3. kristine says:

    PS- People who do not have an adequate sense of fear are prone to risky behaviors. I see it everyday in teens, who have not yet outgrown their feeling of invincibility. They have far less fear, and that why parents worry a lot of the time. We fear for them, and that makes us protect and monitor our kids until they are more experienced, suffer a few consequences, and learn to fear negative consequences, thereby develop wisdom.

  4. valleycat1 says:

    I think using frugality as an example of bravery is taking it a little far. An example of acting responsibly and consciously, sure. But I don’t consider living as a responsible adult is brave of me, just as making it through surgery & chemo is brave (other than forcing oneself to show up for the treatments) – it’s called doing what’s set in front of you to do.

    And fear would keep you from standing that irresponsibly close to a cliff’s edge in the first place.

    I think both these two ‘evils’ would better if prefaced by ‘excessive.’ [I’m still having a little trouble considering any of these traits ‘evil.’]

  5. almost there says:

    I agree with valleycat1, way off base in your explaination of bravery. It has nothing to do with choosing a job one likes vs higher income. How can one equate living frugally to bravery? Perhaps one day you will do a brave thing or two, Trent. I know a man who recently died. He spent the last 11+ years without a tongue and with a trach. He spent the last 2 years on oxygen and the last 7 months enduring terrible pain from cancer. He did this so that his spouse would be able to receive his pension for as long as possible. That is bravery. I doubt I could do it.

  6. deRuiter says:

    After a while I think a person can do too much navel gazing.
    Fear is an important component of survival. Paralyzing fear of many things is bad, a healthy fear of danger is a good thing. I’m afraid to get between a black bear sow and her cubs, so I don’t and I remain safe, watching them from a safe distance.

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