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The Mastery of Fear

Author: 
King, Martin Luther, Jr.
Genre: 
Sermon
Topic: 
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry

Details

King delivered “The Mastery of Fear” as the second in his series on “Problems of Personality Integration.”1 He kept the following three handwritten documents in the same file folder. In each, King urges his listeners to openly confront their fears. He incorporates quotations found in Harry Emerson Fosdick's sermon “The Conquest of Fear,” Fosdick's essay “Dealing with Fear and Anxiety,” a newspaper column by Benjamin Mays, and Robert McCracken's sermon “What to Do with Our Fears?”2

The Mastery of Fear, Sermon notes

They are part of the fee we pay for [citizen?]

  1. Of primary importance in dealing with fear is making a practice of looking fairly and squarely at the object of our dread.3 Emerson “He has not learded the lesson of life who does not eveyday surmount a fear."4

    One of the chief services of ministers and psychiatrists is to be listening-posts, where crammed bosoms, long burdendd with surreptitious fears, can unload themselves.5

    Fear of dark, of water, of closed places, of high place, of cats, of Friday, of walking undr a ladder, fear of resposinblity; of old age and death6

    Get them in open and sometimes laugh at them. Dr Sadler said “Ridicule is the master cure of fear and axiety.”

  2. There is an area of fear which mist be mastered with goodwill and love.

  3. It is overcome by possessing adequate interior Resources

The cure of fear is Faith7

"The Mastery of Fear," Sermon outline

  1. Int. There is probably no emotion that plagues and crumbles the human personality more than that of fear. Every where we turn we meet see that monster fear; every road we travel we meet that monster fear. Fear expresses itself in such diverse forms—fear of others, fear of oneself, fear of growing old, fear of death, fear of change, fear of disease and poverty; Russia fears America and America fears Russia, the young lady fears that she will not be married, the impure wrongdoer fears that he will get caught.8 Every where we turn we see that monster fear; every road we travel we meet that monster fear. Fear begins to accumulate to the point that at last many face what psychiatrists call phobo‐phobia, the fear of fear, being afraid of being afraid.9 Fear of death. The terrifying spectacle of atomic warfare has put Hamelet's words “To be or not to be” on millions of trembling lips.10 Fear has risen to such extensiv propotions in the contemporary world life that one of the leading psychiatrists of the world has said: “If fear were abolished from modern life, the work of the psychotherapist would be nearly gone.”11

  2. Text: It seems that Jesus had an amazing insight into the tragic and ominous effects that can flow forth from fear. He was continually saying to his followers “fear not” “Be not afraid” Be not anxious”

  3. Now we must make it clear that the admonition Be not afraid does not mean get rid of all fear. Without fear the human race could have never survived Fear is the elemental alarm system of the human organism which make it sensitive to the first sign of danger. Fear of darkness, fear of pain, fear of ignorance, fear of war.12

  4. Fear is a powerfully creative force. The fear of ignorance leads to education etc … Every saving invention and every intellectual advance has behind it as a part of its motivation the desire to avoid or escape some dreaded thing. And so Angelo Patri is right in saying, “Education consist in being afraid at the right time.”13 So if by “a fearless man” we mean one who is not afraid of anything, we are picturing, not a wise man, but a defective mind. There are normal and abnormal fears

  5. So the difficulty of our problem is that we are not to get rid of fear altogether, but we must harness it and master it.14 Like fire it is a useful and necessary servant, but a runious master. It is fear when it becomes terror, panic and chronic anxiety that we must seek to eliminate

  6. How do we master fear

    1. Of basic importance in mastering fear is the need of getting out in the open the object of our fear and frankly facing it. Human life is full of secret fears.

    2. A further step in mastering fear is to remember that it always involves the misuse of the imagination

"Mastering Our Fears"

  1. Introduction

    1. The universality and oldness of fear

    2. The prevelance of fear everywhere

      1. Russia fears America and America Russia

      2. Mangement fears labor and labor [management?]

      3. The Negro fears the White man and the White man the [Negro?]15
        Everywhere we turn we meet see that monster fear; every road we travel we meet that moster fear—fear of others, fear of the future, fear of change, fear of old age, fear of disease—and at last many come to that chronic state of what the psychiatrists call phobophobia, the fear of fear, being afraid of being afraid.16 And so our homes, institutions, prisons, churches are filled with people who are hounded by day and harrowed by night because of some fear that lurks ready to spring into action as soon as one is alone, or as soon as the lights go out

    3. Jesus realized both the gravity and the disastrous effects of fear in human life. He said again and again “Be not afraid,” “Be not anxious.” All of this shows his clairvoyance into many a broken and hopeless life.17

      So that one of the great questions of life is how to harness fear.

  2. Let me say first that fear in itself is not an we should not seek to eliminate fear altogethr. We could not survive without some fear. There is a constructive use of fear.

    1. Fear is the elemental alarm system of the human organism18

    2. In modern life fear helps us through.
      Although there is some fear that is necessay, there is some fear that is ruinous and destructive.

    Our problem is not to get rid of fear altogether, but to harness it master it.19

    How do we harness fear.

  3. For one thing, a great deal of fear can be overcome by living a clean and upright moral life.20

    1. [strikeout illegible] Many of the fears of the modern world can be traced back to moral wrongdoing.

    2. The garden of Eden21

    3. There seems to be a moral imperative or moral consciousness in every man. Whenever he lives out of harmony with this moral imperative guilt feelings begin to emerge. Then fear arrives.

      1. the fear of the white man

  4. Again, we can overcome fear through goodwill and love. So the New Testament says: “Perfect love casteth out fear.22

    1. Now you are asking what relation does love have to fear. Let us look at ourselves. The There are within all of us tides of evil which [can?] rise to flood proportions and the slumberig giant …

      Someone is asking what relation does love have to fear. Let us look at ourselves. There are within tides of

      But did you ever stop to realize that this envy and jealousy grow out of fear. We are not jealous of people and then fea them, but we fear them first and then become jealous and envious—We are afraid of the superiority of others, afraid that

    2. How true this is in international relations.
      1. The basic cause of war is fear. Of course there are other causes—economic, political, racial,—but they all spring from and are shot through with fear.23

      2. We are accostomed to hearing that hate cause war. But the sequence of events is generally quite otherwise—first fear, then war, then hate. Fear of another nation attack, fear of another nations economic supremacy, fear of lost markets.

      3. The old remedy for fear was great armaments. But how futile. Instead of being a remedy great armament has become a cause for fear. It is only love that will solve the problem.

    1. of basic importance in mastering fear is making a practice of looking fairly and squarly at the object of our fear.24 “Ridicule is the master cure of fear”25

    2. A great deal of fear can be overcome by living a clar and upright moral life26

    3. Fear is mastered through love. A common cause of fear is the awareness of inadequate [resources?]

    4. Fear is mastered through faith.}

  5. Finally, fear is overcome by the possesion of adequate interior resources. So many people are attempting to face the strain and tensions of life without inadequate interior resources.

    1. Now it is true that many fears which people possess they are not responsible for. There fears got an early long start in them from early childhood from unfortunate accident and unwise parents. The are only two fears which a baby is born with—fear of falling and fear of loud noises. Every other fear is accumulated—name the fears.27 Every parent is responsible

    2. But beneath all of this is the fact that most people do not have the proper spiritual equipment to face the tensions of life.

    3. This is what religion gives a man. It gives him internal resources to face the problems of life.

      It gives him the awaness the he is a child of God. He knows that he is

1. “Members Enjoying Sermon Series,” Dexter Echo, 7 August 1957.

2. Fosdick, The Hope of the World, pp. 59-68; Fosdick, On Being a Real Person, pp. 108-132; Mays, “Two Fears,” Pittsburgh Courier, 20 July 1946; McCracken, Questions People Ask, pp. 122-129.

3. McCracken, Questions People Ask, p. 125: “The first is that we make a practice of looking fairly and squarely at our fears.” Fosdick, On Being a Real Person, p. 112: “Of primary importance in dealing with fear is the need of getting out into the open the object of our dread and frankly facing it.”

4. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Courage,” in Society and Solitude (1870). Fosdick also used this quote in On Being a Real Person, p. 115.

5. Fosdick, On Being a Real Person, p. 113: “One of the chief services of ministers and psychiatrists is to be listening-posts, where crammed bosoms, long burdened with surreptitious fears, can unload themselves.”

6. Fosdick, The Hope of the World, p. 63: “Fear of the dark, fear of water, fear of closed places, fear of open places, fear of altitude, fear of death, fear of hell, fear of cats, fear of Friday the thirteenth, fear of walking under a ladder—anybody who knows that hinterland and slum district of the mind knows how tragic it is.”

7. Fosdick, On Being a Real Person, p. 132: “It was a psychiatrist, Dr. Sadler, who, having said in one place, ‘Ridicule is the master cure for fear and anxiety,’ struck a deeper note when he said in another, ‘The only known cure for fear is faith.’” For the source of this quote, see William S. Sadler, The Mind at Mischief (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1929), p. 43.

8. Fosdick, The Hope of the World, pp. 60-61: “Everywhere, all the time, men and women face fear—fear of others, fear of themselves, fear of change, fear of growing old, fear of disease and poverty …”

9. Fosdick, The Hope of the World, p. 61: “… and at last many face what the psychiatrists call phobo‐phobia, the fear of fear, being afraid of being afraid.”

10. Shakespeare, Hamlet, act 3, sc. 1. King wrote this sentence in a second pen.

11. Fosdick, On Being a Real Person, p. 111: “When it becomes terror, hysteria, phobia, obsessive anxiety, it tears personality to pieces. Dr. J. A. Hadfield says: ‘If fear were abolished from modern life, the work of the psychotherapist would be nearly gone.’” For a similar quote, see Fosdick, The Hope of the World, p.65. For Hadfield's words, see J. A. Hadfield, The Psychology of Power (New York: Macmillan, 1924), p. 36.

12. Fosdick, The Hope of lhe World, p. 59: “Fear is the elemental alarm system of the human organism, one of our primary and indispensable instincts.”

13. Fosdick, On Being a Real Person, p. 110: “Angelo Patri is right in saying, ‘Education consists in being afraid at the right time.’” Fosdick may have gotten this quote from William H. Burnham's book The Normal Mind (New York: D. Appleton, 1924), p. 417. Patri, an educator and expert on child psychology, disavowed any use of fear in child-rearing (Child Training [New York: D. Appleton, 1922], pp. 19, 250).

14. Fosdick, The Hope of the World, p. 60: “Indeed, this is the difficulty of our problem, that our business is not to get rid of fear but to harness it, curb it, master it.”

15. Morehouse president Benjamin Mays devoted his 20 July 1946 newspaper column to the issue of fear: “Thousands of Negroes live in physical fear of what the white man might do to them … The fear on the part of many white people is equally disturbing and must be overcome” (“Two Fears,” Pittsburgh Courier).

16. Cf. Fosdick, The Hope of the World, pp. 60-61.

17. Fosdick, The Hope of the World, p. 59: “Jesus, however, while he did say, ‘Go, and sin no more,’ said again and again, ‘Fear not,’ ‘Be not afraid,’ ‘Be not anxious,’ which shows his clairvoyance into many a broken and hopeless life.”

18. Cf. Fosdick, The Hope of The World, p. 59.

19. Cf. Fosdick, The Hope of the World, p. 60.

20. Fosdick, The Hope of the World, p. 61: “One primary condition is a clean and upright life, for if we could be rid of the fears that follow moral wrongdoing we should be a long way out of our problem.”

21. Fosdick gave an account of the story of the Garden of Eden in “The Conquest of Fear” (The Hope of the World, p. 61 ).

22. Cf. 1 John 4:18.

23. In his 20 July 1946 Pittsburgh Courier column “Two Fears,” Mays asserted, “Fear is the greatest enemy of mankind. It is the foundation of many wars.”

24. Cf. McCracken, Questions People Ask, p. 125; cf. Fosdick, On Being a Real Person, p. 112.

25. Cf. Fosdick, On Being a Real Person, p. 132.

26. Cf. Fosdick, The Hope of the World, p. 61.

27. Fosdick, The Hope of the World, p. 63: “A normal baby's fear instinct has only two expressions, the dread of falling and the dread of a loud noise. That is all. Every other fear we possess we have accumulated since … We parents have few duties more sacred than to see to it that our children do not catch from us unnecessary and abnormal fears.”

Source: 

CSKC-INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands, Sermon Files, folder 118.