Fear Is A Reaction, Courage Is A DecisionBusiness
Rafe and Paul stood off to the side, where they were framed by a pair of oil paintings of paunchy old men with mutton chop sideburns who seemed very satisfi ed with their own importance. Everything about the room was designed to intimidate: the walnut paneling, the ornate chandelier, the granite fi replace, the massive conference table. Sitting across the table from the bankers and lawyers, Paul’s image was clearly intimidated. “Well, Mr. Peterson . . .” the senior loan offi cer began.
Paul knew that when Marty Weatherford used such formality, it was going to be a tough meeting. With his short hair and powerful build, Marty looked more like a Marine than a banker. Paul had fi rst met Marty through Rotary, and now they tried to play racquetball together on Thursdays.
“It seems that your business—”
“It’s a school,” Paul’s image snapped. “It’s not my business, it’s a school for kids who would otherwise be out on the street, or in jail. Or dead.”
Marty sighed dramatically. “Well, yes, of course it’s a school, but perhaps if you’d run it more like a business, you wouldn’t be having these problems today.” He whispered a question to the man sitting next to him, and in response was handed a folder.
“Now, according to our records, Mr. Peterson, you are three months behind in making payments on the school’s building loan, and your debt ratios have all fallen below the accepted . . .”
Paul cut him off by drilling an exclamation point into the table with his fi nger. “You know well and good that I will pay off that loan, Marty! For crying out loud, you’ve got my house as collateral. I’ll catch up on the payments, I just need some more time to work things out.”
Marty gave Paul a “this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you” look, then closed his briefcase. “I’m sorry, Paul, but you know as well as I do that you’re behind on house payments as well. I’m afraid we have no choice. We’re going to have to foreclose on both loans. I’m sorry.”
Paul’s image exploded out of the chair. “You’re afraid! You don’t even know what the word means.” Although the breadth of a solid mahogany table was between them, Marty and the other bank offi cers backed off defensively as Paul’s image erupted. “And you don’t know the meaning of the word sorry, either! What am I supposed to do now? Take my family and my students and go live under a bridge somewhere?”
Paul watched himself rage at his friend the banker, who in a fl ash of temper had transmogrifi ed into his banker the enemy. At that moment, he saw how ma-
lignant fear could be. It wasn’t Marty’s responsibility to pay off his loans, yet he was screaming as though his friend and banker had hurt one of his children. In fact Marty was right. Paul didn’t have a clue how he would pay off those loans.
“Did you see how fear changed the subject?” Rafe asked as Paul’s image subsided back into a despondent slump in the leather conference room chair. Paul shook his head.
“Fear rejects criticism, especially when it’s legitimate. Rather than facing up to the problem in a mature, rational way, it uses anger and guilt and self-pity to refocus the discussion. It doesn’t want to hear about those things that you aren’t doing but should be doing and instead wants to blame someone else for your predicament.”
Security guards had come into the room from both doors, but Marty waved them back. “Everything’s okay now. Perhaps someone could just escort Mr. Peterson to his car.”
Paul’s image snapped his briefcase shut. “I don’t need an escort. I know the way.”
Rafe gave Paul a nudge. “We’d better hurry if we’re going to keep up with your double. Let’s take a shortcut.” Rafe pulled Paul through the wall into the teller’s cage, and then right through the counter into the lobby. Paul’s image was steaming around the corner, knocking people out of his way as he went.
“Look at that face,” Rafe said. “All that anger, you’d never know that he is running away scared.” The two fell in behind as Paul’s image plowed through the front door.
“Of course he’s scared,” Paul said defensively, rather embarrassed at the performance that looked so much more outrageous seen from the outside than it had from the inside. “He’s about to lose everything—he should be scared.”
“Everything?” smiled Rafe.
“Don’t give that ‘perspective’ routine again, Rafe. This is an impossible situation and you know it.”
Just ahead they watched Paul’s image slam his briefcase down onto the hood of the car and rip the parking ticket out from under the windshield wiper. He threw his briefcase across the seat, got in, and slammed his fi st onto the dashboard.
“It’s not impossible, Paul. You just haven’t yet decided to have the courage to deal with it like a problem instead of reacting to it like a threat.
“Fear is the parent of both cowardice and courage.
Which child will you choose to raise?”
THE MOST POWERFUL STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO CONQUER FEAR ARE TO TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN LIFE AND TO REFRAIN FROM BLAMING OTHERS FOR YOUR TROUBLES AND FAILURES.