You know what I wish sometimes? I wish I wasn’t afraid. Fear holds us back from so much in life.
This year has been a pretty amazing year for me. There’ve been so many big changes happen, and it’s a far cry from last year. It’s been a similar year for so many other people in my life – new jobs, new relationships (there’s about a billion of these at the moment), new friendships, new career opportunities, new children. It seems like life is always presenting us with new opportunities, and so many of the ones that have been coming up have been those big ones taking people into their area of calling.
I get so annoyed at myself sometimes though. On the outside, I present myself as fairly confident. And I usually am. But when I get by myself, when I’m driving somewhere, when I’m thinking on things, when I’m about to go to sleep at night, sometimes I find myself trying to talk myself out of things. It’s illogical, it’s persistent, it’s a nagging thought… but I’ve learnt to call it by its true name – fear. And I wish I wasn’t afraid. But it’s something I find myself facing all too often.
I think fear is one of the most devious, destructive things I’ve ever had to face in my life. The more I talk to people, especially lately, the more I’m convinced it’s the same for them too. So often fear dresses itself up in different uniforms and injects its presence into so many parts of who we are – into our views of ourselves, into our views of our future, into our decision making, into our dreams.
I wonder if fear has been leaving its impact on your life, too?
Let’s have an honest look at the areas in our lives where fear holds us back.
If I’m honest, this is one of the areas in my life where I’ve been unsettled the most recently. This is the one that got me thinking along the lines of the role of fear in my life. One of my friends was joking around and saying yesterday how every year I seem to be given new opportunities and promotions of different kinds. It’s certainly the case this year. I guess at the moment I’m getting more and more opportunity to be a support and encouragement to an ever growing number of people.
Helping others is a big dream of mine. Supporting leaders at different levels, investing in people’s relationships, helping people find their purpose, seeing people break free of their hurting mindsets. I always love being given the opportunity to do this more and more. And lately as the opportunities have been coming up, I’ve been finding myself afraid of not doing a good job. Afraid of being seen as being too young. Afraid of not looking after things entrusted to me well. It hasn’t been the crippling kind of fear where I’ve found myself hesitating or running away, but it’s that fear that has caused me to probably devalue the role I can play in people’s lives and sell myself short. And if I let it, fear could undermine a great opportunity to do good and to serve others.
I think many people never grow into the positions or leadership they were made for because the fears associated with responsibility creep in and take over. Imagine if we could just get rid of our irrational thoughts and fully embrace all that’s been entrusted to us. Because if we’ve been entrusted with it, it is likely we are already capable of doing the right things.
Life rarely stays the same. Each year, each new decision, each different season brings something we’ve never encountered before. We are creatures of habit. I remember the other week going out for a work lunch, and on the way back, we all got into exactly the same seats in exactly the same cars we’d taken on the way there. We like things to stay the same. We get used to the way things are.
I guess this is why the idea of change is so terrifying to us. We’ve spent so long learning a particular way of doing life or of getting involved, and now all of a sudden we have to learn again. You’re used to school, now you have to get used to uni. You finish uni, and now you have to get a job. You’re used to being looked after, now you have to look after yourself. You get used to one job, now you have to learn a new skill. You are used to doing things alone, now you have to do things with others.
Not all change is good, and I think it’s good that we are taking a healthy measure of consideration into the changes that do come into our lives. But we can’t be crippled by the idea of something new, because something new could be better than the way we’ve always known.
I’ve had heaps of friends getting engaged and married lately. Like, heaps. Seems like every week over the past few months I’ve been at some engagement party or wedding – I even got to do a video interview for a bridal shower this week. And it’s amazing how often fear gets in the way of the love in our lives.
I had a friend send me a picture that she saw at an art exhibit this week of a heart flying out of a cage, saying “Let love take flight”. I think so many times we’re so afraid of letting our heart fly away that we lock it up and keep it bound up. So many people keep telling me about how they’ve had experiences in their lives that have made them want to hold back and not give all of themselves to somebody else, whether it be to a lover, a friend, a group of friends, or even family. Some of the people I know keep saying how much they care for someone, but the tragedy is often the only thing stopping them from giving it a go is being afraid. Of rejection. Of not being heard. Of not feeling good. Of making a mistake. It’s sad because we’d rather accept a 100% failure rate by withholding our heart than to risk the potential hurt (and unfortunately the potential joy) of involvement.
Love is actually the antidote of fear, which is crazy because we often let fear get in the way of loving others. I know people who have been going through hard times, and sometimes their friends and even family members hold themselves back from getting involved because loving them may mean they feel their pain or have to inconvenience themselves. But it is actually the decision to love, not the feeling of love, that actually destroys fear. Instead of holding myself back and keeping myself locked up, I decide to build trust and give my best to others. Instead of being ashamed of someone seeing me as I am, or not wanting to see something unappealing in someone else, I free myself and others by allowing myself to see and be seen.
Very similar to change – we love being in control. We love knowing where things are, we love knowing when things will happen, we love having it all nicely laid out. But not everything is within our control. The decisions of others, for instance. Changes in the economy. Downsizing in your organization. The rate of return on your investment. Not having your plans work out the way you wanted.
I think we need to pay attention whenever we experience a loss of control. Because I think it’s often where we lose control that we find those moments of destiny that are bigger than what we expected. And we can either live in fear of these moments, or we can embrace them and let them teach us what we need to learn.
It’s amazing how frightening it is to talk about your truest feelings and wants. One of the pastors at church this morning was talking about how we often don’t even know how to answer this simple question:
What do you want?
Can you answer that? When you look at your own life right now, what is it that you truly want to happen? Usually it’s difficult because we don’t often listen enough to ourselves to know how we’re really going.
And then to be honest with others. That can be frightening, too. Because for a lot of us, honesty has led to a lot of heartbreak and turmoil in the past. Or we think it might. Or there is potential that it could.
But honesty is what our hearts yearn for. We die on the inside when we keep everything to ourselves.
I know there’s been so many times when I’ve been afraid of honesty. It’s usually been because I’ve been afraid of how I’ve felt. In a previous stage of my career and volunteer involvement, I felt trapped, but I was afraid to say that’s how I felt. When I had to leave some things behind, I felt like a failure, but I kept it inside because I didn’t think I could say it. Why? Cause I was afraid. And most of the time, I was afraid of things that didn’t matter or weren’t even real.
What is it that you’re afraid of?
Breakthrough comes when our truest desires are spoken and known. I think that’s what true prayer is, too. I look at any of the Psalms or examples of prayer and all I see is people just saying how they feel. Maybe that’s the lesson right there. It’s not about being eloquent, but about being real.
There are so many times where I wish I wasn’t afraid. And sometimes you can’t get rid of the feelings or irrational thoughts that fear brings. Sometimes you just have to do it afraid. Maybe that’s what it is to have courage.
I think though as we actually start to talk about our fears that they lose their power. When you call fear by its name, it doesn’t seem so big or intimidating any more. And all of a sudden we’re left with what is real and we’re purged of the fears that so many times really aren’t justified or rational.
I love a scene in The King’s Speech where Lionel, a speech therapist, has finally gotten to the root of why Albert, the king, struggles so much to speak without stammering. It turns out he had a traumatic upbringing that he’s never been able to get to leave his mind. Lionel comforts him with a beautiful line that holds so much truth and was worth the Oscar in and of itself – “you don’t have to be afraid of the things you were afraid of when you were five”.
And the great thing is you and I don’t have to be afraid any more, either.
How about you? Have you found times in your life where you’ve had fear hold you back? What have you done about it?