You can see it pretty much everywhere you look if you look closely enough. It's there, glaring out at you behind most things. It's a tiny little four lettered word that has enough power behind it to cripple even the most resilient of us all. Fear.
Most of my surface fears are easy to describe:
- Flocks of birds flying towards me (there was an incident with bird seed at trafalgar square when I was a child that brought this on...ask my mother)
- Large groupings of small circular bumps or holes (I swear, it's a thing - Tryophobia *shudder*)
- That the stuff that goes on in Homeland is actually true in real life (Sarin gas leaked into Capital cities? I'll never sleep again)
- Falling down the stairs while carrying Levi (I have this visual in my head every. time. I go down the stairs with him in my arms)
Some of our fears are less easy to describe, though - and they lurk beneath the surface of our brave exterior, showing up in places and situations we might not expect. Our actions and reactions reveal a lot about our fears. Let me give you some examples of what I mean:
When we look in magazines or in celebrity gossip columns - our inner voice tells us we don't look like that, have enough of that or are having as much fun as that - that's the voice of FEAR and it holds the power to make us feel inadequate instead of the TRUTH that it's all just smoke and mirrors.
When we see racially isolating, sensational or inflammatory social media posts or articles - Muslims are out to kill us all, more guns is the answer, it's us against them - those posts are driven by FEAR, the world has gone nuts and we badly want to control the narrative and we demonise a whole entire religion instead of the TRUTH that there is more good in the world than there is evil and that violence begets violence.
It's there in relationships that are difficult, where there is back-biting, jealousy, power-playing - FEAR makes us withdraw, be defensive or attack instead of seeing each other as flawed humans that are all just trying to figure things out.
It's there in our overspending and consumption, when we see what everyone else is wearing or having and we break our necks to keep up appearances - it's our FEAR that runs ahead and cripples our finances to make sure we're not left behind instead of getting out of the rat race and enjoying the simple things.
It's there in Churches when heads are buried about important topics that are changing the face of our culture like LGTB issues, climate change, peacemaking, consumerism, racism and addiction - it's FEAR that refuses to face up and keeps the Church looking like a Sunday club for safe-talking holy joes instead of a place of acceptance and of strong leadership on justice issues.
It's there in parenting when we react poorly to our kids - it's our FEAR that rises up and causes us to resort to threats and punishments to try and enforce good behaviour instead of listening and being patient and modelling gentleness.
It's there in the smaller more subtle things too - so many of our decisions are based on our fears and it would seem that if we dig a little deeper we're all just walking around a bit scared of life, aren't we?
I've been thinking about how different it would be if only we could really hear the fear instead of how we see the fear manifested in these often unhealthy ways. If we could hear the fear, it would say:
"I'm worried that I'm not enough"
"I'm worried that I'm not safe in my country"
"I'm scared that if we talk about difficult things in our Church we'll be ridiculed or seen as wishy-washy"
"I scared that I'm missing out on all the fun"
"I'm worried that if I give other people a platform, I'll become redundant"
"I'm not sure that my life is exciting enough"
"I'm worried about losing my religious freedom"
"I'm worried that if I give this person too much of myself they'll hurt me"
"I don't want people to think I can't handle being a parent"
"I'm afraid that if I can't do this that I'll lose attention from the people I want to respect me"
That all sounds a lot more human doesn't it? Who wouldn't hold empathy if someone stood in front of them and confessed these things? Who could turn someone away that told such naked truths? And yet, every day we chose to let our fears have power.
You see, it's not that fear is bad - I think it's inevitable. I think a certain dose of it is healthy and normal but when fear manifests itself in ways that aren't healthy it can lead to destruction, broken relationships and a lot of collateral damage along the way.
It's scary to be human, to be vulnerable and open, isn't it? I'm challenged by how fear manifests itself in my own life, and how I can find the courage to be more vulnerable with my trusted people.
I think that truth-telling pierces holes in dark places. When our difficult truths are exposed to the safe people in our own lives, the dark stuff (like our fears) have less control over us. We can begin to face up to them and find healthier ways to manage. I know this to be true.
I also know that when we begin to see how fear manifests itself in others we can hold back our judgement a little easier; cut each other some slack; carve out a road for vulnerability and invite those people to join us.
What are your thoughts on fear? Are there ways that fear has been manifesting itself in your own life that have been unhealthy for you? How can we live less afraid and give each other more permission to tell the truth? I'd love to hear what you think about this... let's continue the conversation in the comments or on my facebook page.