Lately, I’ve been doing a bit of soul searching. One positive takeaway from all my sicknesses this year was the ability to do a lot of thinking! As may be true for many of you, I often deal with a level of dissatisfaction in my life. When I’m lying in bed coughing, while everyone else I know is having a fun weekend, my level of dissatisfaction is rather high. When I’m surrounded by friends at a birthday party, my dissatisfaction level is rather low…
… but, over the past year, I’ve become disturbed by how many days I feel “let down.” There has to be a reason for this phenomenon, right?
As I’ve considered the ins and outs of my daily life, listened to sermons, and evaluated my reactions to people and potential opportunities, one word keeps popping up in my mind again and again: Fear.
What keeps me from getting involved in ministries and volunteer projects? Fear.
What if I cannot do what needs to be done? What if I am more of a hindrance than a help?
What keeps me from reaching out to my neighbors? Fear.
What if they want to be left alone? What if I don’t know what to say? What if I look like a fool?
What keeps me from witnessing to others about the good news of Christ’s death, resurrection, and God’s gift of eternal life? Fear.
What if I don’t know what to say? What if they hurl insults at me? What if they ask me questions I cannot answer?
In general, what keeps me from reaching out and building more connections in my life? Fear.
It is easier to stick with who I know. Trying to build connections can be a painful experience. I’m safer tucked away in my personal space.
A Lifetime of Fear
Fear has been a staple in my life. Not the kind of fear that makes you sleep with a night light on, or the kind that makes you suspicious of everyone and everything. My fear issues have always dealt with the unknown.
Going on that vacation sounds amazing, but what if I get sick? What if I cannot communicate with the people there? What if I get lost?
I think I would enjoy pushing myself hard on a new adventure, but what if I can’t do it? What if I try and fail, and then ruin the experience for everyone else?
I would love to get to know those people better, but what if they have enough friends and don’t have time for me? Is the possibility of rejection worth the risk?
What if I Fail? What if I’m Rejected?
Fear is the word that has been coming up repeatedly in my journey of self-discovery, but the two specific questions which keep rising to the surface are, “What if I fail?” and “What if I’m rejected?”
When I was a teenager, one of my closest friends seemed to be afraid of nothing. She still seems that way. ~smile~ She could (and can) talk to anyone, try anything, and have a blast no matter what the occasion. One day, I remember her saying, “Heather won’t do anything that might embarrass her.”
Ouch! Her truthful statement was not something I wanted to hear. She was right, but I didn’t know why living an embarrassment-free life mattered so much to me!
In retrospect, it makes perfect sense. I had so much respect for people who “had it all together” – the smart, witty, cool, and collected people who always seemed to be a step ahead of the crowd. Because I valued these traits, I wanted to appear competent at all times and in all areas of life. Even the TV shows I watched praised clever wit and disparaged anything less. Risking embarrassment meant risking failure (i.e., being exposed as imperfect, uncool, and less intelligent than my peers) – and if I failed, surely I would be rejected!
Call it only-child perfectionism, or my specific temperament, but I truly attached my value to not looking foolish. The idea of others thinking I was an idiot was pretty much the end of my world. Fast-forward several years… and so many of those childhood fears still pound on my heart.
What if you embarrass yourself? What if you look like a fool? What if someone laughs at you or whispers about you to someone else? What then???
So, I must ask myself. Is this an effective way to live? Is fear holding me back? Am I believing lies? What do I truly have to fear?
Now I Have a Choice, and So Do You…
Will we continue to allow our fears to dictate our decisions, or will we overcome our fears and take some risks? Living enslaved to fear is no way to exist. The first step to overcoming fear is admitting it. When my fears swim around inside of me, they seem bigger and more paralyzing than they do once I’ve spit them out and acknowledged them.
The great and powerful Oz seemed terrifying and grandiose when he was behind the curtain, but after he was exposed, everyone realized he was not worth fearing at all.
The same is true of your fears and mine. When they are inside yelling at us – telling us to run and hide – they seem overwhelming; but, when we get to the root of our fears and write them down, they lose some of their grip on us.
Even while writing this post I’ve thought, “What if I fail at some endeavors? What if I’m rejected by some people? So what? At least I tried! And, God’s favor is all I truly need.”
Stay tuned for the continuation of Fear Week. In the meantime, consider these questions:
Has fear robbed you of making meaningful connections? And, if so, what can you do to make sure fear does not keep you from seeking out future relationships?