One of my favorite quotes is “Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone,” by Robert Allen.

Which means, I have to accept being uncomfortable if I want to change and grow.

The challenge for me is, the discomfort triggers fear.

As a coach, I read A LOT about personal growth, and one of the books I read recently gave me a very helpful insight on the distinction between discomfort and fear.

The book is called Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead, by Tara Mohr.

In one of her chapters Tara Mohr draws on Judaic scripture and explains that the Hebrew Bible uses two different words for fear: pachad and yirah.

The distinction between these two fears can be very helpful.

Here’s how Mohr explains them:

Pachad is the over-reactive, irrational fear that stems from worries about what could happen, about the worst-case scenarios we imagine…It’s the kind of fear that we try to conquer in ourselves. It’s the fear that speaks through the voice of the inner critic.”

Yirah has three different meanings:

  1. It is the feeling that overcomes us when we inhabit a larger space than we are used to.
  2. It is the feeling we experience when we suddenly come into possession of considerably more energy than we had before. 
  3. It is what we feel in the presence of the divine.”

Without endorsing the Old Testament source, we can nevertheless draw upon the distinction between these two types of fear to help us grow.

Most of us are heartbreakingly familiar with pachad.

“I’m a fraud.”

“What’s going to happen if…?”

“I’ll never make it.”

The list could go on forever.

But if we stick around the rooms, we’re guaranteed to experience yirah.

The challenge is, even yirah can be very disconcerting.

Because if we embrace yirah, that means we embrace the responsibility of doing what we were divinely ordained to do.

It means that we suit up and we show up for what we never thought was possible, for what we never thought we would be able to do.

And that can be scary.

However, that is also where all the promises lie.

You can take it or leave it, but I personally believe that we often will stay stuck in the bludgeoning fear of pachad, because then we don’t have to take responsibility for the Truth revealed to us in the experience of yirah.

I know that’s been true for me.

So, I’d love to hear from you. Take an inventory of your experiences of these different kinds of fear in your life.

I’d be curious to know: have you, too, used the inner-critic fear of pachad to avoid the responsibility of Truth of yirah?

Share your experience, strength and hope in the comments on the website. I read every one.

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