In case you didn’t catch the story, recently, a group of guys from a YouTube channel called Yes Theory, a channel created by four friends who spend their time doing crazy feats and documenting their experiences, challenged actor Will Smith to bungee jump from a helicopter over the Grand Canyon.
The reason for such a crazy and dangerous idea, or for any of the activities documented on Yes Theory? In the words of the YouTubers, “Life can be as fulfilling and authentic as you wish so long as you’re willing to seek discomfort.” Basically, growth and good things lie on the other side of your fears. So, if it’s uncomfortable, that could be evidence of a positive outcome.
Smith’s personal life philosophy resonates with the whole idea of Yes Theory, so he accepted the challenge, planning to jump on his fiftieth birthday. He explained that he doesn’t like being afraid—he’s scared of being scared. Whenever something comes up that makes him afraid, he makes a point of “attacking” that fear. So, when the Yes Theory guys challenged him, and he felt scared, he knew he had to do it.
In my opinion, bungee jumping out of a helicopter over a 6,000-foot gorge in order to conquer your fear is a little overkill. At the same time, though, Smith’s words hit a nerve in me.
…since the fall of humanity, many of us live our lives around a “No Theory” rather than a “Yes Theory.”
Fear is the most primal human emotion, and since the fall of humanity, many of us live our lives around a “No Theory” rather than a “Yes Theory.” We tend to make decisions based on our desire to avoid what’s bad rather than the desire to pursue what’s good. And it keeps us from really living.
In professional, recreational, or personal growth settings, we know this mindset isn’t healthy, and we’re inspired by those who deliberately make sure they don’t let fear run the show. That’s why the Yes Theory channel has over two and a half million subscribers.
Because, on some level, we all want that fearless, risky, spontaneous kind of life.
Take a look at any self-help section in Barnes and Noble and you can find a whole forest worth of books that promise to give you tools to build your confidence and courage to tackle the things that scare you the most. Spend five seconds on Pinterest and you’ll find tons of hand-lettered inspiration for following your dreams and having an amazing life.
But as I think back on Smith’s words, what strikes me is that, for some reason, in religious or moral settings, we’re often OK with letting fear call the shots. Our theology is defined by who we’re not supposed to be and who we’re scared of becoming. Negatives versus positives. For years, it didn’t occur to me that this mindset isn’t spiritually sustainable. I thought it was a good thing because it was producing good behavior.
But it’s not. Life simply becomes a lot of work.
The day after Smith made his epic jump, I took a walk and started writing down the things that make me uncomfortable. (If you’ve never tried this exercise, I highly recommend it. You’ll feel really pathetic, but the act of writing down the things that scare you somehow gives them less power.) Some felt pretty silly and obviously have kept me from growing.
For example, I get scared of doing new things in front of people. As a bookworm kind of girl, it’s usually sports and outdoorsy things that make me uncomfortable. Sometimes, if my friends convince me to come on a wilderness adventure, it almost feels like I’ve taken off all my clothes and everyone is looking at me as I start to set up my tent. Feeling naked in public is terrifying, so I tend to stick with the things I know how to do. In the end though, when you live this way, you miss out on discovering things you might love.
It makes me sad to think of what joyful, life-giving friendships I’ve missed out on because of my own fear-based perceptions.
After high school, I was very afraid of choosing the wrong career path. For many years I stayed stuck and felt lost. Not making a choice felt safer than making the wrong one, and trying anything new felt too hard and scary.
I’ve judged and criticized other people because I felt inferior to them and was afraid of what they thought of me. It makes me sad to think of what joyful, life-giving friendships I’ve missed out on because of my own fear-based perceptions.
Some of my fears though, at first glance, seemed pretty rational, maybe even wise.
As a child of divorced parents, I made it my goal, while in my teens, to never go through what my parents did. This fear of relational pain made me take that area of my life very seriously, which, obviously, is a good goal. I probably seemed easy to get along with in friendships with both guys and girls and wise for “saving my heart” when it came to dating. But on the flip side, my fear of pain bred a fear of confrontation and intimacy and led me to often internalize my emotions.
I’ve struggled for years with a fear of God and of losing my salvation. On the one hand, it was good because people were never worried about me getting pregnant, doing drugs, or robbing a bank. They celebrated my good behavior. However, this fear led to obsessing over my every thought and action in a hyper-moral way. I never loved God or knew what it was like to truly rest in Jesus’ salvation. Life was quite torturous much of the time.
If we let fear be the sole rudder that steers our lives, even fears of legitimately bad things, it will eventually drive us into a prison that, though it might keep us safe from “unrighteousness” for a while, it will also keep us from wholeness.
The other night I was talking with a friend who, though I know he has his own fears like anyone else, comes off to me as pretty brave. I asked him what helped him get over his own feelings of inferiority and he said, without skipping a beat, “Jesus. It might sound cliche, but it’s true. Knowing that I’m known and loved, I just don’t have to care about what other people think.”
In 1 John 4:16, it says “God is love.” Then, in verse 18, we read, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
When we believe the gospel—the good news that God is love and His love saves us—it means fear, as the primary driving force in every area of our lives, is replaced by God’s freedom-based, courageous love, the same love that led Him to take the risk of becoming a human and dying for us.
God Himself lives by the Yes Theory.
Open up the Bible and you find that when God reveals Himself to someone, He primarily identifies Himself by who He is and what He does, rather than by who He isn’t and what He doesn’t do.
Taking the form of a servant.
The “I AM.”
Not the “I AM not…”
Ultimately, God defines Himself by His love, and His love is defined by freedom, which means He takes risks. He stepped into scary and uncomfortable places for us, even when He knew everything about us. When Someone loves you that much, it makes you free and fearless. You start making choices based on what is good and beautiful and true instead of what you’re afraid might happen to you.
Ultimately, God defines Himself by His love, and His love is defined by freedom, which means He takes risks. He stepped into scary and uncomfortable places…
So, it turns out the hippies were right. The Beatles were right. The Bible is right. Love is all you need. If you struggle with fear—not just of people, but of anything—look for perfect love. The answer to dealing with our brokenness isn’t avoiding the things we’re afraid of. The answer to dealing with our fears and brokenness is saying yes to good things, namely the person of Jesus. He gives you the power to live by a “Yes Theory” and to start stepping into those uncomfortable places so you can experience healing.
It’s not easy for sure. It feels counterintuitive. But most of the solutions to our problems are. You can stay up all night studying in order to get good grades, but you’ll do better if you make time for play and a solid sleep. You can try to increase productivity by being a slave-driver, but your employees will work harder if they feel supported and cared for. You can try and try and try to be happy, but you’ll actually be happier when you quit trying to be happy and focus on making your life meaningful. And spiritually, you can try and try and try to manage your badness and dysfunction by focusing on avoiding everything you’re afraid you’ll become.
Or you can start saying yes to Jesus.
And as you do, you’ll find you can start saying yes to other things too. It doesn’t mean they won’t feel scary. Because some of us have gone for years letting fear call the shots, our bodies and emotions may still react the way they’re used to and freak out. In fact, choosing Jesus’ love and letting that rule every area of your life might even feel a lot like dying.
But it’s the only way to really live.
I think that’s why Jesus said if we try to save our lives, we lose them, but if we’re willing to lose our lives, in the end, we find them.
Here are some good questions to ask yourself: Is my life primarily defined by fear or curiosity and the confidence found in God’s love? As a Christian, do I live in pursuit of good things or in avoidance of bad things? Am I chasing after God because He is beautiful in the extreme? Do I have the values and standards that I have because I’m scared of being punished and I’m trying to keep myself from becoming unrighteous, or because I’m saying yes to the beautiful life God wants to give me?
Be honest with yourself. If you don’t like your answers, my friend, then it’s time to adopt a Yes Theory and jump with full confidence into God’s love for you.