The F-word

I am not prone to swearing. Perhaps it was my Protestant upbringing, the inner commandment that “Thou shalt be a good example to others,” or the visual of the little old ladies in my church shaking their coifed hair and furrowing their bushy brows in my direction with a look of utter horror on their faces that has kept me away from profanity. However, with a last name like “Dam,” it was kind of hard not to “swear” (sort of) on a daily basis.

Shortly after I got married and changed my last name from Dam to Van Huizen, I got a job in a Christian high school, where my maiden name was unknown to most of my colleagues. At one particular staff meeting, my colleagues and I were trying to set a date for the annual staff Christmas party. People were suggesting a bunch of different dates, and at one point I said, “Oh, I can’t go that day, I’ve got my Dam Christmas.”

Dam, as in beaver dam. As in my maiden name.

One of the staff members literally gasped out loud when I made that comment. He gasped. Like I had committed an unpardonable sin.

It took me a moment to realize what had transpired before I started to fumble and mumble, saying, “Oh, ‘Dam’ is my maiden name . . . I meant my Dam family Christmas, as in the Dam side of my family, not the swear word. . . .” Fumble-mumble. Fumble-mumble.

Oh, how I miss that last name.

My point is that that I don’t swear too often. And I especially have a dislike for the F-word. You know which one I’m talking about.


Okay, so I admit it’s not a swear word, but it should be. It really should. Because fear is harsher than any other swear words I know. It’s slippery and conniving, paralyzing, and it knows how to hit its target.

Appeal to anxiety
I know fear. I know it well. It’s always on the tip of my tongue, on the tip of my heart, often driving me in directions I don’t want to go, saying things I don’t want to say, making decisions that cause me to live my life small, targeting me at my core.

I come by fear honestly. Being the cautious, OCD-ish type, I have often been both boggled and jealous of those who live life jumping into the waters with no life jacket on. I find them brave, free, and, yes, sometimes . . . stupid. It’s like they just run off a cliff, worrying about the consequences later (which is where the stupid part comes in).

But at least they jumped. They experienced. They (hopefully) learned from their mistakes. They don’t live, in the words of my wise friend, in “supplication to fear.”

What a great word to use.

Supplication. It’s a religious word; it connotes the idea that one is laid down prostrate before it, begging for it to let go, to loosen its grasp.

I can honestly say I have spent a lot of my life in supplication to fear. And that is hard for me to admit. Because I grieve over the waste of “living.” Even as I write these words, I can feel the grip of fear on my life, the little devil on my shoulder with furrowed brows, whispering words that cause me to avoid or become numb.

Tomorrow, a new year begins. And, admittedly, I’m afraid to make any new year’s resolutions. My track record isn’t so great. My will power isn’t very strong. Fear takes up a wide space in my heart, and I have bowed to its presence a lot.

And I probably will again.

But perhaps this is the year to begin telling fear to F-off (and by that I mean, “Fall off the face of the earth”). In the words of my wise friend: “I like the idea of being open and free enough . . . to eat up all your fears . . . and to just embrace the journey. In my own way, I like to eat fear up, and taste it in all its bitterness and frenzy and then, when it has settled in me, just keep walking.”


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