Photo by Caroline Ro
I spent most of my childhood and adolescent years believing that the best way to handle fear was to deny its presence.
Denying fear doesn’t make it go away any more than denying your garbage can is full makes the stench disappear.
I can only be set free from fears I know are there.
I used to see admitting fear as a sign of weakness and denial of God. Now I think it’s the bravest thing we can do, and sets us on the path toward freedom. I hope that sharing my biggest fears will help you acknowledge your own, and that we’d both find freedom.
What I fear most:
I replay conversations over and over, worrying how something I said came across. I worry that I’ve offended or said something that made me sound like someone I’m not.
Sometimes these memories will stick with me for months, or years, even. Unexpectedly, the conversation will come to mind and I feel exposed, panicked, even, still unsure of where I stand with that person.
I fear that you’ll read these little snippets of who I am online, and mistake me for someone I’m not.
I worry that people who’ve known me forever will think I’ve changed in ways I haven’t, that people meeting me for the first time will think I’m more serious, more religious, more tidy than I actually am.
Being found out
On the flip side, I fear the dark corners of my heart seeping out onto the surface. This particular fear has relented some, but a few years ago, I would mentally debate imaginary people, my mind’s compilation of any who’d accuse me. I’d respond point by point to their accusations. In reality, I was both the accuser and the accused.
I also fear being found out as less capable or worthy of a task. I fear being given a responsibility only to be found out as not smart enough, old enough, popular enough, mature enough, skilled enough to handle it.
Falling short of expectations
Even when expectations are unreasonable, I fear falling short. I want to be the person who always shows up, follows through and meets the deadline. While these qualities serve me well in life and work, they can be a burden when I’m motivated by fear instead of love.
Caring too much or not enough
I fear over-investing in a friendship to be disappointed that it’s not reciprocated. I fear caring too much about writing, only to be disappointed when no one reads. On the other hand, I fear not caring enough to see success, or hurting someone by not caring enough about a relationship.
What’s to learn from all this?
It’s a sad, burdened life if I choose to live here. While I pray and work towards freedom from these fears, they also point me toward what’s important to me.
A common thread is relationships. I am tender toward people, and I want to serve and love them well. Instead of fearing the converse, I can lean into it with love.
My fears also tell me that I crave to be known and secure. I experience a reflection of this security in some friendships and in marriage, but I’m enveloped in it by God in Christ. There’s no place I’m more fully known or secure than in His presence.
When it comes to being found out for my faults or falling short? The fear is alleviated by a simple “yes,” a quiet acknowledgment that yes, I have ugliness in my heart and I miss the mark sometimes. It was in the midst of this brokenness that the light of God’s love broke through and He called me His.
It’s okay to be afraid. Fears only multiply in the face of denial, but their only choice is to back down in the face of the truth.