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 came into my office visibly upset about something that had happened at work. She needed someone to talk to, so she flipped through the yellow pages and found our church’s ad in the yellow pages. And even though she wasn’t a person of faith, she thought, what the hell, I’ll see if someone there can help me. Many years before, she had sat on a therapist’s couch trying to figure out what she felt and why she felt it, desperately trying to get over her overwhelming fear of everything, but most of all, her crippling 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 her job, she sounded like “you’re a talentless idiot and I’m so sorry I hired you.” She had taken every mild criticism her superior had suggested as a personal affront and left her office feeling dejected and alone.
Her years of therapy had helped her realize that she was, in fact, completely overreacting and bummed out because she was once again dealing with debilitating anxiety that had kept her up all night. This time, having had enough of traditional therapy, she decided to see if God, someone whose existence she doubted, could help her. She assumed that, unlike in the therapist’s office, where she was asked to talk endlessly about her childhood, I would be asking her to repent of her multiple sins. She had no intention of asking Jane for any kind of confession, nor was she going to invite her to believe better, live better, give to church, or volunteer at a bake sale.
Jane was dealing with a deep and very lonely fear of not being good enough. Good enough that I’m not sure, but it was something I could definitely relate to, because I struggled with this myself. In short, Jane lived her life in fear, like many of us. We all react to it in different ways. Insecurity is masked by many faces, but low and dirty is a childish fear of not being nice enough. There were many things I had learned before my meeting with Jane about this crippling emotional ailment, but only one thing was giving me the daily help I needed.
Simply this: when we feel loved, we stop being afraid.
In a very practical way, this is shown to be true. Think about how you feel with the people who love you. Those people who find you a joy to be around seem to “understand” and love you even though they are certainly aware of your flaws. 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 fully accepted. Now think about the people in your life that you are always trying to impress. When you’re around them, you find yourself embellishing who you know, how much you own, and how smart you are. After each encounter with them, you’re reliving the interaction and turning the conversation around and hoping you didn’t say something stupid to make them think you were a freak. You are not sure how they feel about you, and you really want them to like you, so you feel uncomfortable, insecure and not your true self, because you are afraid of rejection.
I knew then as I know now, love secures the pangs of fear.
Unfortunately, in many cases, Jane is included; her tremendous insecurity prevented her from really having those deep and loving relationships that we all desperately need. Shirley MacLaine writes, “Fear makes strangers out of people who would be friends.”
And fear torments us all! So how the hell 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, through their own fear, hurt deeply. So, at the risk of sounding like a big-haired TV evangelist, I gently offered Jane the idea that she (like me) needed to find her worth in a force outside of humanity… She needed to feel approval from God.
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 she adhered to. Jane needed to know deep within herself that the Prime Mover of all creation totally and utterly accepted her, allowing her to relax into a divine love that makes no demands or judgments, and 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 most 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 utter acceptance. Yet many Americans have experienced nothing but rules and judgments from the world’s organized religions, leading them to believe that God is a self-righteous, cranky old man.
So we must reimagine what it means to be loved by “God.”
We must begin to see ourselves trusted 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 he 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, the real you, the person who is filled with compassion for pain and passionate about so many good things. I reminded him of a truth he already knew deep down and asked him to make it a daily mantra.
I am worthy of love, because I am living.
The end of the story with Jane is simple and beautiful. She began to practice what I taught her about acknowledging her kindness and every morning before work she would sit quietly in her house and ask God to come close and remind her why she was loved.
In essence, Jane was able to reimagine what God, and then others, thought of her. In a matter of months, most of her fear dissipated into the cloud of love she was meant to cover. This changed a number of things in her life, one of which was her ability to fall in love and marry a really cool guy.
Start reimagining your love today, find a quiet corner for 20 minutes a day. Don’t talk, just stay in the presence of the ONE who is always present and listens.
And watch your fear slowly disappear…