What Would You Do if you Weren’t Afraid?

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

Lately I’ve been thinking about this question:

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

It’s a good question, meant to inspire us to dream beyond our boundaries, to “think big,” to pursue our goals. But I think we tend to hear it and then brush it off, not really spending time with it.

Maybe we think we’re not afraid of much. Or the opposite — thinking about our fears overwhelms us. Maybe we don’t have time for such silly exercises.

I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the point of the question. And I found myself getting defensive, if only in my mind. I’m doing the best I can. Why must I feel bad for not doing MORE?

But then I decided to honestly consider the question.

What would I do if I weren’t afraid?


  • Maybe I would take a week at a spa all by myself…if I weren’t afraid of upsetting my family and falling behind on client work.
  • Maybe I would write my memoir… if I weren’t afraid of how much work it would be and the time it would take.
  • Maybe I would stop all social media—no blogging, Twitter, Facebook, anything… if I weren’t afraid of the results of being invisible.
  • Maybe I would speak up about politics on Facebook… if I weren’t afraid of the fallout.

By going through this process, I realized something important:

The point of the question is to discover our hidden goals, dreams and desires—the truths that are down so deep, we might not even realize they are there.

And in this discovery, we might figure out how to begin pursuing those desires in a way that circumvents the fears.

I doubt I’ll take a spa week by myself. But simply allowing that desire to surface showed me that perhaps I am weary and have a deep need for rest. Is there a way I can find rest in a non-scary way?

Every time we answer the question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” we come into contact with important information about ourselves. We can look beneath our answers to find our deepest truths. We can also confront our fears, and assess whether they are worth heeding, or if we should charge ahead right through the fear.

  • If you weren’t afraid of rejection, would you be sending out more queries to agents?
  • If you weren’t afraid of being vulnerable, would you write your books more truthfully?
  • If you weren’t afraid of technological challenges, would you have self-published that book already?

Tell us:

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

And what can you learn about yourself by answering the question?

Image copyright: epicstockmedia / 123RF Stock Photo

42 Responses

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  1. The only this I really feared was that I would not run to the sound of the guns.
    * Groundless as it turned out, but proving it wrong was not an unalloyed blessing. Having that loose a hold on life made me very hard to live with, and not a good friend, because folks thought that my indifference to death devalued their presence in my life.
    * I protested that vehemently, but as it turns out, friends and family are right. Making myself expendable makes everyone else expendable. Love thy neighbour as thyself; dismiss thy neighbour as thyself. You can’t have it both ways.
    * Lessons learned? Be wary of trying to discard your fears. They may be protecting you from the Road To Hell.

  2. Jason Sautel says:

    I dropped out of highschool and the thought of college scares me to death but I pray that one day I will have the courage to go to college. Thank you for this thought provoking article.

    • This reminds me of the college entry math test that I took that said I needed to do 5 makeup classes in order to reach college level math. I graduated from high school with great grades, except in math oh and PE (really, who grades you on whether or not you actually hit the target in archery? And basketball, ugh!). So I took a tutoring course over the summer, did one makeup class, and then took that college math and passed with a better grade than I ever got in high school. You can do this, yes it is scary. I was terrified. It was a lot of work. Everyone can work. That is something you can do. Hang in there!

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Not sure you need college, Jason. But it’s always a good idea to investigate our biggest fears, isn’t it?

  3. CJ Myerly says:

    Of all topics, lol.

    Early this year, I decided to enter the Genesis competition. Then, funny story, my 1 y.o. son had an accident on our computer ruining my sole means to write. Fearful, I almost used it as an excuse not to enter, but my husband prodded me. So I entered. Now I’m a semi-finalist. Fear always kept me from submitting my work, but I finally did it.

    Even now as I prepare my query letters and polish my manuscript, fear crowds in on me. But I’m trying not to let it rule me.

    Beyond writing, I struggle to let go. I’m the type of person that panics in the car, afraid of an accident. In many ways, I let fear run my life. If I didn’t, I’d loosen my grip in the car. I’d trust God a little more deeply. I’d take my kids out by the lake when it’s just me and them. In short, I’d let go.

  4. Carol Ashby says:

    I guess I’m fortunate to have worked in a career where you were always trying things no one had done before because that meant the potential for failure was always there and nothing to fear. Lab research inoculates you against fear of failure at some level. It’s never fun, but it’s not that scary. You learn to view failure as something that just points you down a different path that’s more likely to succeed. The only certain way to fail is not to try.
    *It trained me to ask what’s the best that can happen if I try something? What’s the worst? Unless the worst is something horrible, I almost always say, “Go for it.”
    *As a Christian, I ask one more question. Is this what God is calling me to do even if I’m not sure how to do it or I don’t feel like I can succeed at it quickly? If so, then again I say, “Go for it.” If it’s really His call, I will succeed at the time and in the way God want me to.

  5. I think the key here is “what is the source of my fear?”
    * If it’s my pride (fear of being vulnerable in my writing, fear of rejection), then my fear isn’t coming from God.
    * If it’s becoming a stumbling block on someone’s road to faith (fear of politics on FB), it may be a fear placed in me by God.
    * Fear of the work and effort? Is it my laziness (a definite possibility) or is it the Spirit’s whisper? Maybe God wants me to put my energy and experience into face-to-face relationships.
    * May my true fear be a deep desire to do only what God directs. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).

  6. Courage isn’t really about overcoming fear. It’s just being willing to face the consequences of what we choose to do, and inaction is a choice as well.

  7. Katie Powner says:

    Excellent point, Shirlee. I think the source of the fear does make a big difference in how we should deal with it. I’m tempted to say I don’t really have any fears, but I know that’s not true. Maybe my biggest fear is admitting I’m afraid.

  8. A thought-provoking question, Rachelle. I’ve been thinking about it since I saw your post on Facebook. I’m still mulling over it. Because I have conquered a lot of fear in the past year or two. Fears of the past. Fears of the future. But it seems there is always more fear to conquer. More faith to grasp.

    If I weren’t afraid my WIP isn’t polished enough…that it won’t be accepted because it’s not a romance…that it will be rejected because the timing isn’t right…I would have submitted it to Books and Such or other agents last year.

    If I weren’t afraid that a traditional publishing contract would require time commitments that would stress me to the hilt with a job, church, family and ministry…I would have tried much harder and faster to pursue that route.

    If I weren’t afraid of failing my family and ministry…I’d spend more than an hour or two per day writing and promoting.

    If I weren’t afraid of conflict…I’d share my faith with more people.

    You have a great point. This is deeper than the surface question of fear. Digging down to those hidden truths. Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Rachelle.

  9. Ah, If I weren’t afraid, I would send that ms. out right now instead of revising it one, two, three, thirty more times. Perhaps it is good that I’m afraid, I know that the story needs work.

  10. I wasn’t going to contribute this…thought of it, then thought it sounded stupid: “I’d spend more time outdoors if I wasn’t afraid of collapsing and not being able to make it back to the house.”
    * That craven stance preyed on my mind all morning, and since stupid is as stupid does, I decided to visit my long-neglected workshop, about 100 feet away.
    * Didn’t make it. I’ll spare the details as they are not pretty, but the service dogs dragged me back to the house, one pulling each arm.
    * And that is it for my day; I proved my courage, I suppose, but now am totally bushed. Syl and Ladron are lying next to the door to ensure I won’t try it again.
    * There’s a lesson here somewhere. Not sure what it is.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Maybe the lesson is that “fear” is sometimes warranted. And maybe fear is the wrong word. Sounds like wisdom to me, Andrew.

  11. I’ve thought about this for a few long minutes, and I think if fear wasn’t a deterrent, I’d tell a few specific people a few specific things. And what does this say about me? It tells me that for some relationships, I reserve my true self. There are times when I smile and wave, but really would just like to never deal with that person again. The thing is, that is a universal problem that involves maturity and constant vigilance to maintain personal and professional boundaries. I’ve gotten to the point where I do not accept every friend request going. I don’t chat non-stop to people who are clearly fishing for information in order to share it online. Nor do I hug someone just because they ask for it.
    The Pleaser is on her way out the door, but she might just turn around and “Columbo” the crowd and lay it all out.
    Then again, who are we kidding? If I wasn’t afraid, I’d hire a crew and turn my backyard into an outdoor spa!

  12. Angela Mills says:

    I knew right away what my answer to this was. I would write a memoir of my early life. But I could never do that because I’m afraid of hurting my family. And this definitely would, so it’s not worth it to me.

    Maybe my deep need is to just write it all out for myself, since that’s how I process things.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      I think that is not really fear, but wisdom. You’d rather write the memoir, but will sacrifice that desire in order to protect others. Very honorable.

  13. This is a thought-provoking post. God has been working me through some of my fears, and one of the biggest things He’s teaching me is to look at what motivates it. So, your post resonated with me.
    *Let’s see, if I wasn’t afraid, I would spend more time each day dedicated to writing. I’m searching for the balance (especially with summer break here) between time with my boys and knowing it’s okay for me to pursue my dream. Those thoughts of, “Am I a good mom if I spend time locked in my room, ignoring my boys so I can write?” This is the thought I am working through.
    *And being real honest, my other thing is, if I wasn’t afraid, I would lay all my emotion out on the page. God’s been teaching me the power of being vulnerable in my writing. I trust that the things He’s showing me will show up in my writing in ways that point others to Him.
    *There are other, “If I wasn’t afraid . . . “‘s but I’ll stop here. 🙂

  14. Angie Quantrell says:

    Oh, this is an excellent post with great ideas! I think I need to reread it every. Single. Day. Thank you!

  15. Camille Eide says:

    The Memoir I’m afraid to write… is not a fear of vulnerability as much as a fear that my transparency would hurt people I love. So that one is shelved until I can figure out how to resolve it.

    But this does point out another fear I could tackle: fear of writing fiction with an abandon that may not suit the market or audience I was writing for. I believe both are changing so much that I ought to forget this fear entirely and just wrote the blasted books I really want to write. 😉

  16. Courage isn’t the lack of fear, but doing the right thing in spite of fear. I could spend the whole day listing things I don’t do because I’m afraid of failing, but the ones that are most important to me I usually manage to do anyway. I need to remember to tell myself that sending out that last message to a publisher means I have courage.

  17. If I weren’t afraid of many things, I’d go on a European tour, possibly during Wimbledon, and I’d be real choosey about who went with me (this would step on all kinds of toes). But sometimes I surprise myself, like writing novels in spite of my fear of wasting time and money. And recently, my husband asked my daughter to paint him something for his empty wall at work. She refused. I said that I would. What? I don’t paint. But … I purchased 3 large canvases, found a picture of an antique fan that I thought he’d like (he loves fans, like the electric air-blowing kind … it gets hot in Texas), I sketched it, and I’ve just about finished painting it. Normally, I wouldn’t do something like that, because I’d be afraid of wasting money and precious time. But … it’s not half bad really. The test will be if he actually hangs it on his wall. Lol. His only requirement was that he be able to recognize what it is. I think he’ll be able to. 🙂 The sweetest gifts sometimes come along when we step out of our comfort zones, too. My youngest daughter, the one who refused to paint, loves to draw. When she saw what I’d sketched, she said, “That’s really good, Mom. I don’t think I could have done that.” I said, “Well, I’ve really always loved to draw. I just don’t do it.” She said, knowing she’s adopted, “I guess I get that from you.” She smiled. My heart swelled, and I offered a “thank you” to the Lord.

    • Mary Kay Moody says:

      Thanks, Shelli, for sharing this delightful story. It brings a smile to my heart. What a gift (for 4 people at least!) that you took that risk for someone you love. I get absolutely giddy when I see God rewarding such!

  18. Julie Garmon says:

    Great question.

    I did something sorta scary today. I blogged about how I won’t be blogging again until July 6th because I’m finishing the rewrite on my novel. For a dutiful type person like me, this is a biggie!

  19. In thinking about this, I wonder if the root of all of our fears is something more basic, almost primal. It’s the fear of love.
    * We are afraid to love others, because they might not love us back, and we’ll be hurt.
    * We are afraid to love others because they might love us back too much, and we’ll fail them.
    * And we’re afraid to love God with all our hearts, because He might ask us for what we think is impossible.

  20. Interesting question with some tough answers.

    * Maybe I would invest and make time for a writer’s retreat.

    * Maybe I would pick up ballet again.

    * I would definitely take a month off of work and simply dedicate the time to cleaning the house and catching up on reading.

    While I love my job, it tends to take over your life because there are no set hours. Though the loss of income would be detrimental, the peace would be so wonderful.

  21. Thank you so much for this post. <3

  22. Mary Kay Moody says:

    Thanks, Rachelle. I hope you find a way to ease your weariness now that you realized your need for refreshment. So grateful for this post. Often fear raises its hand and slaps me around. But not often enough do I take the time to explore it and find the ways to disarm its power ~ for there are always ways when I remember to ask God to highlight them.

  23. Edward Lane says:

    Fascinating blogs. Love them!