Confront your fears, find your strength

Shannon Venegas

More than a year ago, I wrote a column about my horse, Hi Phi, who had recently passed away. At the time, I said the only regret I had was not spending more time with him before it happened.

But I lied, that’s not my only regret.

See, this is not the only animal I have ever owned. In my lifetime, my family has owned many animals, some of which we have had to make the tough decision to euthanize when they reached an advanced age. For each one, I could not handle staying there for the actual euthanization. I would say my good-byes and walk away crying. Then my mom (also in tears) and I would usually go for a drive while my brother or husband stayed with the vet.

I always felt comfortable having my brother or husband there, but I promised myself with Phi, it would be different, that I would toughen up and stay by his side during his final moments.


I have to own up to my cowardice and admit that I could not fulfill this wish of mine. In the end, I was too afraid to see it happen and instead went and hid in the barn, bawling like a baby while my husband stayed with Phi.

I knew between him and the vet, he was in good hands, but it didn’t matter. To this day, every time I look at his picture, I regret not having the strength to stay with him. It was cowardice, plain and simple. It wasn’t that I couldn’t bear the emotion of staying with him, I was just afraid of seeing the process of euthanization, and in the end, I couldn’t just wait with him in his final minutes.

Sometimes my cowardice in moments like these makes me question my strength. This isn’t the first time I’ve let my fear overcome me. My senior year of high school, I was supposed to go on a two-week trip to France with my French class.

I will admit that I was scared out of my mind. I had never been on a plane, let alone been out of the country, and I had always been a bit of a homebody. The thought of spending two weeks in a foreign place was exciting but also daunting.

Some time before the trip, my dad ended up leaving and my parents faced an impending divorce. On top of it, my horse ended up getting an abscess in his foot that required care.

I used these two things as excuses to back out of the trip when, deep down, I know my mom would have battled through on her own and someone else could have cared for my horse.

These situations of weakness have made me consider how much strength I really have. I always considered myself tough because I could get back on my horse the day after getting kicked in the leg or because I could stack 200 bales of hay. But physical strength is very different from the tests our minds have to endure.

I hear stories of martyrs, and I admire them for their courage. I always figured, if that happened to me, I could handle it, and I could stand up for my beliefs. But if I’m not even brave enough to travel to Europe, how could I ever be brave enough to stand up for my faith?

In the most extreme examples that many of us cannot even begin to imagine, there are Christian Syrians who struggle to leave their homes without being berated, assaulted, raped or even killed by Muslim extremists. Yet they do it; they gather their courage and try to live out their lives.

If we bring it a little closer to home, in the Columbine High School massacre, there were reports that one of the students was asked if she believed in God, right before she was gunned down.

I don’t know if I would have had the strength to say “yes.”
I probably would have buckled under the pressure and tried to save my life by answering “no.”

I have a husband and a 4-year-old daughter. Would I want to leave her motherless just to prove something with a verbal confession? Could I live with myself if I didn’t tell the truth? Would God forgive me? These are the tough questions I ask myself sometimes.

I hope I am never faced with these tough decisions, but I also hope that I can gather more mental strength in the future. I am proud to admit that I did finally get on a plane several years ago and leave the country, but that was just a baby step.

Moments of weakness typically lead to moments of regret, and I don’t want to live my life like that.

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