We all experience fear at some point in our lives, some more than others. Facing our fears allows us to experience healing and renewal.
Fear is a fascinating and terrifying thing.
As an emotion, it is universal. Everyone experiences fear at some point in life, some more than others.
Yet what causes one person to shake in their boots may serve as a source of joy for another.
Think about a group of people going to a theme park for the day. There will be a few people who can’t wait to ride the largest rollercoaster. Others will agree to go along after some coaching and encouragement. Still, others are content to sit on a bench, and people watch while the adrenaline junkies get their fix.
The theme park bench rider may get a thrill from speaking in front of large crowds, while the coaster riders will search for any excuse to avoid public speaking.
The emotion is universal. What elicits fear will be as unique as each person.
The Source of our Fears
Rather than talk about specific fears, reflecting upon the broader sources of our fears is probably healthier.
- Past Trauma: Difficult experiences from our past can cause us to move with an attitude of fear.
- An Imagined Future: Looking to the future and only seeing what might go wrong can result in our being paralyzed in fear.
- Very Real Danger: Sometimes, there is a threat in front of us that we must deal with.
- Peoples Projections: If someone speaks words that belittle and demean us, we may forsake the truth of who we are and live with a spirit of fear.
- Being Unfamiliar or Uninformed: Some of our greatest fears come from things we know little or nothing about. Without experience or knowledge, we are afraid.
I am sure there are other sources of fear. Fear is a universal emotion. Since fear is universal, we are left with a simple yet complex question. How do I face my fears and move past them?
Addressing our fears in a healthy manner requires a balance between the will (I can do this) and giving it to God.
Overcoming our fears requires learning to walk the tightrope of personal responsibility and following the invitation of the Spirit of God at work in your life.
If we rely too heavily on the will (I can accomplish this, give me the five steps and turn me loose), we set ourselves up to either become self-focused or end up in a spiral of not quite measuring up. The spiral of not measuring up (falling short) is a dangerous place to be. Pretty soon, it becomes one of our biggest fears.
Turning everything over to God without taking any personal responsibility is foolish. God promises to walk with us, to guide us, but we must take steps forward.
Facing Our Fears
So, how do we face our fears in a healthy manner?
- Speak your Fear: There is something powerful about naming something. No more hiding and pretending you are not afraid. Speak it out loud. Share your fear with a trusted friend. In your times of prayer, share your fear with God.
- Ask: Invite the Spirit to show you a path forward. “God, you know this ____ terrifies me. How would you have me deal with it?” Do you have a mentor, counselor, or spiritual guide (spiritual director)? Share your fear with them and invite them to help you discern a path forward.
- Remain Open: Fear often gives us the impression that our choices are limited, the outcome pre-determined. Fight to keep an open mind. While fear limits and diminishes, the path forward will often appear like a bright light at the end of a tunnel. So keep your head up and remain open to what might be.
- Resources: What resources can you use to help you overcome your fear? Think of lessons learned in the past, places of support and encouragement during previous challenges. Be willing to think outside the box. Is there someone who shares your fear? Might you work together to support each other?
- Plan with Measurable Steps: Any plan to overcome our fears should have measurable steps. Start simple and slowly build to a time when your fear is a thing of the past. For example, if you are afraid of the ocean, maybe your first step is driving to a spot that overlooks the sea. The next step might be going to stand on the boardwalk. Later you might want to consider a walk on the beach with a trusted friend. You get the idea. A plan with measurable steps forward is much more likely to succeed.
- Boldly Go: With a deep breath, boldly step forward. Take your unique and beautiful self and step into what will be.
Facing our fears is seldom easy. I am confident that as you summon the strength to face yours, the Spirit will meet you at that moment and provide exactly what you need. As you boldly step into your fears may these words from the scriptures give you hope and strength.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” I John 4:18
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7