How Fear Silences Us

How Fear Silences Us - Brownicity

Dan Berry – March 28, 2023

Have you ever sat with a person as they tried to explain to you how your new computer, phone, or some electronic device worked and you nodded in agreement, left the impression you understood everything they just explained to you, but were actually clueless?  Okay, maybe that’s just my story, but why?  Why did I act like I understood them when I did not?  In the world we live in today, how many times have I (we) been in situations, where conversations about race needed to be had, where my voice needed to be heard, but I sat silent?  Even though I knew what was going on was wrong and somebody needed to say something, I chose to do and say nothing.  

I realize that I’m not alone in the world of silence. But WOW, did I need to figure out what was holding me back.

Of all the reasons I explored, the one that kept floating to the top was this thing called “Fear.”  Fear had paralyzed me and was keeping me from being a voice of hope. 

As a pastor, I can’t tell you how many sermons I preached about how God has not given us a spirit of fear —  that in scripture, we are told over and over to not let fear control our lives.  But the reality is that fear had become the duct tape that was keeping me from using my voice.

masking tape on the lips of a man
Image source: GETTY

As I purposed to overcome my fear, I realized I had to identify what was behind it –in other words, what was I afraid of?

In my racial healing journey, I identified four things that were at the root of my fear.  I hope this helps you.

  1. Fear of being judged:  What if I said the wrong thing.  What if when it comes to conversations about race, I come off as being ignorant, insensitive, or even racist? Making it about me just gave me an excuse to not engage and be a much needed voice.
  1. Fear of conflict:  Offending White people and/or traumatizing Black people is not something anyone wants to do, so we keep our mouths shut and avoid conflict at all cost. Forget what Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9, NIV). Fear of conflict will leave all the peacemaking to others.
  1. Fear of consequences:  I am sure at one time or another we have all made attempts to talk about race/ism that didn’t go well.  Family, friends and coworkers could get upset and lash out at you.  In order to avoid coming down on the wrong side of this issue, we choose to not bring it up or engage when others do.
  1. Fear of acknowledging privilege:  Could it be that I was afraid to acknowledge my own privilege and how it contributed to racial inequalities?  Could confronting my whiteness make it too uncomfortable for me to engage? 

I have only listed four fears. I am sure there are many more. But we need to recognize that our fears become powerful barriers to overcoming.

In order to overcome our fear, we have to own it.  We have to push past fear in order to engage in honest and open dialogue about race/ism.  

My challenge to all of us is to identify what fears are holding us back.  As we reflect on them, we all remember that: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind.”  2 Timothy 1:7

Dan Berry is the author of Navigating Diversity In Our Most Segregated Hour, a Certified Instructor for the What LIES Between Us and Confronting Whiteness courses, and advises individuals and organizations on how to take first steps toward racial healing through Bridge Building Solutions.
He has pastored for forty years in Iowa.  After pastoring in predominantly white spaces for several years, he began to realize the need to bring about racial healing in the body of Christ. For the last 30 years he has worked to bridge ethnic and cultural divides, a work that has led him into confronting the churches complicity in upholding systems of racism.

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