How Not to Be Afraid

Seven Ways to Live When Everything Seems Terrifying

How Not to Be Afraid

Seven Ways to Live When Everything Seems Terrifying

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Available April 13, 2021

The world seems terrifying. Whether your fear is about violence, shame, illness, money, meaning, or the collapse of certainty, you are not alone. Yet the power of the fear we feel depends on the story we tell about fear. Fight, flee, or freeze: are these are only options?

Growing up near the troubled city of Belfast, Gareth Higgins was schooled in suspicion, mistrust, and paranoia. Would someone be lurking behind the door? Was there a bomb under that car? Yet fear feeds on the stories we tell ourselves, Higgins claims, and in the pages of How Not to Be Afraid, he delves into the mechanisms of fear, as well as the quiet, immense strength of individuals and communities that refuse to let it reign.

Grounded in personal experience and expert reflection on violence, conflict transformation, and trauma recovery, Higgins traces vulnerability as strength to address seven common fears that plague each of us at some point in our lives. By examining such topics as the fear of being alone, the fear of not having enough, and the fear of violence and death, he invites readers into habits of hope rooted in Celtic spirituality and the mysteries of love.

In the rich spiritual, activist, and literary tradition of Walter Wink and Kathleen Norris, Higgins points us toward tenderness, empathy, and gentle encounter with each other and with our deepest and most relentless fears. He shows us how we can replace our narratives of fear and cynicism with better stories. Peace is the way to itself, he reveals, and when we choose this path, our lives will never be the same.


"In a world in which everything seems to be imploding around us, I don't find it particularly realistic or helpful to be told that I should really be transcending fear. But I totally trust Gareth Higgins when he writes about his own fear and how it's actually possible to transform it into something powerful, something capable of healing us and the world."

Nadia Bolz-Weber, author of Shameless; Accidental Saints; and Pastrix

"It is easy to say 'Do not be afraid,' but it is difficult to live it. In this book, Gareth Higgins brings us on a journey from fear to courage, from being afraid to not staying afraid, from defensiveness to an imagination about what justice might look like in private and public. Gareth Higgins is a friend. This book is too."

Pádraig Ó Tuama, writer, poet, Theologian-in-Residence at On Being, and author of In the Shelter

"In How Not to Be Afraid, Gareth Higgins doesn't dismiss the very real fear we feel, but instead invites us into stories and practices that offer us ways to process our feelings and experiences, create the communities, and bravely cultivate substantial, generative love. This book is a much-needed resource for skill-building through our fear and trauma so we might create the belonging and communities we desire."

Micky ScottBey Jones, the Justice Doula, director of healing and resilience initiatives with Faith Matters Network

"Through his brilliance as a storyteller, Gareth Higgins has allowed us simple but deep insights into the possibility of managing the debilitating emotion of fear. By bearing his soul-exhausting experience with fear, he allows us to take our own hero's journey to find our way through."

Dr. James McLeary, former CEO of Inside Circle Foundation and executive producer of the award-winning documentary The Work

"Gareth Higgins spent years feeling trapped in fear, but you wouldn't guess that about him now. He has worked out an escape route from fear, and he was kind enough to write down each turn along the journey. This practical book makes it a lot easier for each of us to find a way to not be afraid."

David Wilcox, storyteller, singer, and songwriter behind The View from the Edge

"I'm so happy this beautiful book is here. Gareth Higgins has a certain rare magic as a writer and human being. This book will touch you and help you overcome fear, live with courage and creativity, and find meaning on this frightened planet."

Brian D. McLaren, author of Faith After Doubt and The Galápagos Islands: A Spiritual Journey

"How Not to Be Afraid is a wholehearted blend of memoir and practical suggestions for coping with fear. . . . It's a gentle, open invitation, full of hospitable storytelling that allows us to find ourselves in its pages."

Kathleen Norris, from the foreword

"This storytelling is really captivating! The depth I sensed in the writing touched and opened my heart. I'm already thinking of many people I want to give this book to. I'm grateful Gareth poured his precious time and singular abilities into this work."

Mark Silver, founder of Heart of Business

"This is a book written exactly for these challenging times. I don't remember ever reading a book so creatively structured."

Nancy Hastings Sehested, prison chaplain and pastor

"Uniquely crafted! Sure to be an important, transformational read for a lot of people."

Tyler McCabe, former program director at Image Journal

Product Info

  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506469034
  • Dimensions 5.75 x 8.75
  • Pages 256
  • Publication Date April 13, 2021