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Tears for Fears

June 4, 2010

I want to talk about the four letter word, fear.  We all long for acceptance in life.  We want someone to fully see us and out of that fully accept us.  Yet there is a fear that keeps us from moving toward others with this type of exposure, it is the unknown possibilities and in particular, the fear of rejection.  To be fully known is one the greatest feelings but with it comes a tremendous dose of hesitation…

Will they see all there is to me and accept me or will it end in rejection?

Rollo May talks about two types of fear, healthy fear and unhealthy fear.  Constructive fear allows us to move out of the way of danger when necessary.  Destructive fear lingers long after the danger has passed us and creeps in to threaten our sense of self.  Dan Allender writes, “Fear distorts our perception of ourselves so that we seem weaker than we really are.  It distorts the size of our problems so that they seem huge and undefeatable.  Talks with bosses seem impossible and moves across the country makes each road feel impassable.  Fear twists our perceptions and makes us turn inward, a place where little to no strength can be garnered.  Our thoughts are always moving but have nowhere to go like a bullet from a gun in a room with steel walls.  It pings around in your mind and demands all your focus.

Some of us are very fearful right now.  Our identity is put into question due to losing our job or experiencing a relationship that is failing.  Our sense of who we are is threatened because we put our trust into flawed objects and notions.  Our middle names become, “good marriage”, “always well put together”, “funny”, or “stable”.  When our inadequacies finally show through we are left with the prospect of not living up to our name.

In some ways, destructive fear is based on what you find your identity in as a person.  If you need to come off as smooth and put together you will constantly live in the fear of being exposed because everyone sneezes, slips, farts, and doesn’t know how to do something.  If you need to feel in control of your life situation you will constantly live in fear of enduring the inevitable helplessness of trying to conquer a predictable life filled with accidents, multiple schedules, and independent human beings.

What is the harm you avoid?  In what ways would true exposure mortify you?

It is the perceived harms of life that make us either freeze in our tracks or run away screaming.  Fear can paralyze people caught in its grasp.  A young man doesn’t move a muscle when he sees a car wreck that demands his action.  A woman stays in an abusive relationships because she fears the unknowns of running away more than the knowns of getting beat up.

Allender says, “Fear is the flight from harm.”  We will do anything to get away from the anxiety and potential of being harmed in some way.  A middle school student prays to God he won’t be picked to read out loud for fear of everyone laughing at his reading capabilities.  In order to not come to grips with the reality of a bad marriage a husband works extra hours or a woman works relentlessly at home and work to never feel out of control.  We all run from stuff.

Where do you run to feel safe in life?

Fear keeps us from having community (support and acceptance) that I feel we were designed to have in life.  Fear keeps us from pursuing dreams and creating stories worth being told over and over again.  Destructive fear keeps us from loving others.  Whether we freeze, run, hide from fear we all need to confront our strategies that supposedly lead to a more comfortable life.   The ends we go to so we don’t have the possibility of feeling rejection often create the more troublesome scenarios in life that lead us into the counseling office or a deep depression.  It is in the long way around our fears that relationships falter and egos are bruised.  While it might seem illogical, to confront unhealthy fear is to take the path of least resistance.  To avoid the fears of rejection is to avoid the blessings of acceptance.

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