Fear of consequences derives from the Soul Trait Yirah. Yirah can be translated as either fear or awe. American Mussar splits those into separate soul traits.
We all experience fear. Fear of consequences is a special case of fear – fear that something bad will happen if we act in a certain way. Traditional Mussar and Judaism sometimes describes the “Fear of Heaven” as the basis of good behavior. In other words, if we don’t follow the commandments or act in a good way, we will be punished in the world to come. On the surface, this is harsh and draconian – after all, we all make mistakes, and punishment down the road can seem arbitrary, unfair, and is frankly ineffective. Yet at the same time, if we never think through the consequences of our actions, we will constantly be hurting ourselves and other people. As it says in the book of Proverbs, “The prudent person sees trouble ahead and hides, but the naive continue on and suffer the consequences.”
For example, when we practiced Silence, we learned that we should anticipate the impact of our words on other people before we speak. This is Fear of Consequences.
 Proverbs 22:3, International Standard Version.
The goal of the soul trait is to cultivate the wisdom to look ahead and try to avoid unnecessary pain.
Too Little Fear of Consequences: Reckless, capricious, and/or brash behavior.
Too Much Fear of Consequences: Risk averse behavior, such that we never leave the comfort zone.
American Mussar practice has three parts: a morning mantra, daily actions, and journaling. If you haven’t done so already, watch the video above.
Fear of Consequences is challenging. It can bring up painful memories of disappointing a parent, or feelings of inadequacy. Often fear is an indication that another soul trait is out of balance. Sometimes fear leads to paralysis. Which leads to the mantra for this soul trait.
Write the following mantra on an index card, and place it by your bedside
Fear Consequences but not actions.
In the morning, recite the phrase out loud several times and contemplate the meaning. This will frame your thoughts for the day. Pay attention to times when your Fear of Consequences Soul Trait comes into play.
If you tend towards too little Fear of Consequences, focus on slowing down and thinking through your actions. Each day, write down decisions that you made, and list all the consequences of your actions. Be sure to include both good and bad consequences.
If you tend towards too much Fear of Consequences, try to understand the underlying soul trait that is causing the fear. Is it the fear of not being enough? Practice Trust – Trust that whatever happens, you will be able to handle it.
You don’t need to do anything dramatic – just take a small step outside of your comfort zone.
Write about your experiences at night in your Mussar Journal.
If you are not into journaling, just take a few notes in your phone, or record yourself a voice memo. The key is to contemplate the action in a non-judgmental way to help enable small gradual change in the soul.
Janet Cappellanti-Adams says
This ‘soul-trait’ is much appreciated, verified, confirmed & supported by the Holy Scriptures, per those that Mr. Marcus provided; I will continue 2 practice & apply 2 my life, because it is very important & conducive 2 benefitting in all aspects of life.