The juxtaposition of fear and love
Her name will be “Jane” for the sake of this article, I could add “Plain” for the rhyme, but that would be far from the truth. She was smart, funny, beautiful, and extremely creative.
She walked into my office visibly upset about something that had happened at work. He needed someone to talk to, so he flipped through the yellow pages and found the ad for our churches in the yellow pages. And even though she wasn’t a person of faith, she thought, “what the heck, I’ll see if someone can help me.” Many years earlier, he sat on a therapist’s couch trying to figure out what he was feeling and why he was feeling it, desperately trying to overcome his great fear of everything, but most of all, his paralyzing fear of rejection.
The day before, the sleeping giant woke up.
Her boss called her into his office to give her some criticism about a recent job she was supervising as a project manager. What was essentially just a supervisor doing his job sounded like, “You are a talented hacker and I am so sorry I hired you.” She had taken every polite criticism that her superior had suggested to her as a personal affront and left his office feeling dejected and alone.
Her years of therapy had helped her realize that she was, in fact, completely exaggerating and discouraged that she was once again dealing with a debilitating anxiety that had kept her awake all night. This time, after getting fed up with traditional therapy, she decided to see if God, someone she doubted existed, could help. He supposed that, unlike the therapist’s office, where he was asked to talk ad nauseam about his childhood, I would ask him to repent of his many sins. He had no intention of asking Jane for any kind of confession, nor was he going to invite her to believe better, live better, give to church, or volunteer for a bake sale.
Jane was dealing with a deep and very lonely fear of not being good enough. Good enough for which I’m not sure, but it was something I could definitely relate to, because I struggled with this myself. Simply put, Jane lived her life in fear, like so many of us. We all react in different ways. Insecurity is masked by many faces, but the bad and dirty is a childish fear of not being kind enough. There were many things I had learned prior to my meeting with Jane about this crippling emotional ailment, but only one was giving me the daily help I needed.
Simply this: when we feel loved, we stop being afraid.
In a very practical way, this proves itself to be true. Think about how you feel about the people who love you. Those individuals who like to be around you seem to “get” and love you, although you are certainly aware of your shortcomings. When you are with these people, you feel safe, calm, warm, ………….. loved.
You are free to be yourself, knowing that you will not be judged or made fun of, you know that you are totally accepted. Now think about the people in your life who you are always trying to impress. When you are around them, you realize that you embellish who you know, how much you own, and how smart you are. After each encounter with them, you’re reliving the interaction and spinning the conversation and hoping you didn’t say something stupid to make them think you were a weirdo. You are not sure how they feel about you, and you really want to like them, so you are uncomfortable, insecure, and you are not the real you, because you are afraid of rejection.
I knew it then as I know it now, love relieves the pains of fear.
Unfortunately, in many cases, Jane’s included; Her tremendous insecurity kept her from having those deep, loving relationships that we all desperately need. Shirley MacLaine writes, “Fear makes people who would be friends strangers.”
And fear haunts us all! So how are we going to find the fear-killing love we need? Human beings are fickle, easily offended, and in the blink of an eye they can, because of their own fear, hurt deeply. So at the risk of sounding like a big-haired television evangelist, I graciously offered Jane the idea that she (like me) needed to find her worth in a force outside of humanity … She needed to feel God’s approval.
An approval based solely on the fact that she is a beautiful part of creation that has nothing to do with the behavior, doctrine, or world religion that she clung to. Jane needed to know deep down inside that she was fully and completely accepted by the Prime Mover of all creation, allowing her to relax into a divine love that does not demand or judge, and that only extends grace. This idea, of course, is not original to me. Many ancient writings throughout history give voice to this beautiful reality; here is one of the more succinct:
There is no fear in love. Instead, perfect love drives away fear. Fear has to do with being punished. He who fears does not understand the love of God. First letter of Saint John
In the presence of total and absolute acceptance, fear dissipates. Unfortunately, no human being has the ability to give another complete and absolute acceptance. Yet many Americans have experienced nothing but the rules and judgment of the world’s organized religions, leading them to believe that God is a moody, moody old man.
So we must re-imagine what it means to be loved by “God.”
We must begin to see ourselves safe and loved. Not loved for what we bring to the table: our talents, our circumspect lifestyle, our good looks, or our ability to follow certain rules. Instead, we are loved solely because we are created beings who live and breathe on this planet. God (however you see it) has great affection for us and loves humanity just as we are. I invited Jane to spend time daily meditating on this truth, you are deeply loved by the Creator, who sees an intrinsic value in you, your true self, the person who is full of compassion for the injured and is passionate about so many good things. I reminded him of a truth that deep down he already knew and asked him to turn it into a daily mantra.
I deserve to love, because I am alive.
The ending of the story with Jane is simple and beautiful. She began to practice what I taught her about acknowledging her kindness and each morning before work she would sit quietly at home and ask God to come closer and remind her why she was loved.
In essence, Jane was able to re-imagine what God, and then others, thought of her. In a matter of months, most of her fear dissipated into the cloud of love she chose to be covered in. This changed several things in her life, one of which was her ability to fall in love with and marry a great boy.
Start reimagining yourself today, find a quiet corner for 20 minutes a day. Do not speak, just be in the presence of the ONE who is always present and listens.
And watch your fear slowly disappear …