The Fear of Going Down

Last week, I was in Toronto speaking to the Family Studies Leadership Council of Ontario and one of the members asked me to expand my thoughts on a quote I used in my presentation:

There are three things that do not serve a seaman: an east wind, a calm sea, and the fear of going down.

Its meaning is simple: an east wind brings stormy weather, a calm sea means a ship cannot catch the wind and go anywhere, and the fear of going down stops a seaman from setting out on a voyage.

In terms of the masculine journey, the fear of going down stops a man from asking for help when he needs it, stops him from entering into his wound, and, hence, from finding healing and growth.

The man who is afraid of going down, afraid to ask for help (advice, assistance, counseling, therapy, etc.), will hold onto his pain.  Inevitably, it will come out in maladaptive behaviour (escapes such as alcohol, over-working, gambling, pornography, angry outbursts, etc.).   It is the lot of every man to have difficulties, to have crosses to bear, but the mature man recognizes his dependency on others to get through life.  “Pick up your cross and follow me, ” Christ said.

But the man who is willing to open his heart to another person, a man who is willing to be vulnerable – to be weak – is the man who truly finds himself and his treasure.   The generalized fear many men have of showing weakness and admitting their pain serves to keep men captive and isolated from others.   This fear keeps a man from experiencing the beauty of his heart and the full meaning of his life.    Yet, the man who is willing to die to himself and enter into the messiness of his heart, will find his true self.  In finding his true self, he will be able to give his love and strength to those who need him most.


  1. by Tim

    On November 18, 2011

    Nicely put. It’s tough, but without grief, there’s no great joy. In other words, until I go way down I will never truly get high… you know, naturally.

  2. by Patrick O'Connor

    On November 18, 2011

    Yes sir, you got it!

  3. by dennis

    On November 20, 2011

    Pat, great message. Wish I had heard it 60 years ago.

  4. by TAMMY

    On November 28, 2011


    You have such profound insight into the masculine heart. Your message should be read and heard by men and women alike. Life can only be experienced fully if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to open our hearts to receive. Both the “stormy weather” as well as the “calm seas” are temporary conditions. God holds us tight to make sure that joy is waiting at the other end of the difficult journey.

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