Fear is a great oppressor. It causes us to live defeated lives. It causes a lifetime of regrets.
It manifests in multiple ways — self-doubt, procrastination, perfectionism — all of which I suffer from. In fact, I’ve dubbed myself the Queen of Procrastination because I’m not sure anyone does it as well as I do! I sat down to my laptop with time to write and instead spent hours checking and deleting emails, scrolling through the FaceBook feed of my Writer’s Confidence group, popping in and out of fellow writers’ websites, reading their blogs and leaving them a word of encouragement, and perusing the forum discussions on the Jerry Jenkins’ Writer’s Guild I belong to. I’ve finally finished typing this blog post, but I haven’t touched my fiction work-in-progress for days, maybe weeks.
And it makes me so mad because, once again, I’ve disappointed myself for failing to set and stick to concrete writing goals. If I’m honest, I’d have to admit that I have a little nagging thought in the back of my mind that God’s disappointed in me, too. Although, since He already knew what I was going to do, or not do in my case, then my not doing it comes as no surprise to Him, so can He really be disappointed?
What am I afraid of?
I’m afraid of success because that involves networking and I’m not really a “people person”. I’m afraid of being in the limelight — being interviewed and photographed, having to speak in public, and being visible to the world with all my faults and past exposed. I’m afraid of putting myself out there for people to scrutinize.
I’m afraid of failure. What if people discover I can’t really write? I’m afraid of making a fool of myself. I’m afraid I’ll keep disappointing myself and never get a novel written. I’m afraid that when I do finish my novel, no one will want to read it…
In a Joyce Meyer audiobook I’m listening to (for the third time) called Living Courageously, You Can Face Anything, Just Do It Afraid, she starts out with a “Dear John” letter to “Fear” that basically says she’s through with listening to and living in fear. As I was listening to that, I thought, “That’s a great idea for a blog post!” so I started my own letter to “Fear” fashioned after Joyce’s, as follows…
I only refer to you as “Dear” because we’ve had such a long and intimate relationship, not because you are loved or wanted in any way. You have lied to me and pushed me around. You have tormented me with “What if?” questions and filled me with self-doubt. You have held me back from doing the things I wanted to do and should have done. You are, indeed, a pathetic and dreadful companion and I have allowed you to make me miserable way too long.
Although, you have been lurking close and hanging on to me from a very young age, I have decided I no longer want to live with you or even be involved with you. In fact, I don’t want you anywhere around me. It’s past time for a change, so I’m writing this letter to inform you that you are no longer welcome.
It is true, I cannot stop you from showing up and nosing into my business, but be forewarned, I will ignore you. Even though I may feel your presence, I will press on anyway. I will no longer listen to anything you try to whisper to me and I will not bow down to your demands. In fact, I will do the exact opposite of what you want me to do.
It was during that third paragraph that I realized I wasn’t sure if I believed what I was writing.
True, I want to be rid of fear, but am I convinced I ever will be? There are times I feel bolder than others, and they are encouraging, but then fear sneaks up behind me and grabs me around the throat, choking the self-confidence out of me again.
That thought, that I don’t really believe I’ll ever be completely free of fear, depresses me. I feel like I should be able to get rid of it, to live free of fear, especially as a Christian. After all, I know my fear doesn’t come from God because in 2 Timothy 1:7 it says: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” I know it’s one of the devil’s main ploys to oppress us and prevent us from living the full life God has planned for us, but knowing that and living it are two totally different things.
It makes me wonder if something’s blocking me or if I just haven’t allowed myself to truly experience God’s perfect love, which, according to 1 John 4:18, should drive out all my fears: “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” I can’t say I’m afraid of punishment, but I am afraid of ridicule, rejection, and reaching out.
So, what am I going to do about it?
- I’m going to persevere because quitting would mean I’ve let the devil win. I’ll only really fail if I quit or don’t try at all — fail to do what I feel like God’s put on my heart, fail to trust God’s leading, fail to finish.
- I’m going to surround myself with positivity, pray for courage, and fill myself with God’s Word, three sure-fire ways to not let fear get a foothold.
- I’m going to look up, not around, for love, approval, and self-worth, and remember that all people are flawed and that’s the reason they may ridicule me, reject my writing, and not reciprocate when I reach out. It’s not because there’s anything inherently wrong with me. I will remind myself that no matter what people do to me or say about me, I am loved by God as His child, that my main objective is to obey Him out of my love for Him, and that His will for my life is what’s best for me.
- I’m going to do it afraid. Whatever it is that I’m afraid to do, it’s probably a sign I should do it. If the devil’s trying to stop me from doing something by upping the fear factor, then I need to resist the devil, not give in to what he wants, and instead do it anyway, even if that means I have to do it afraid.
What about you? Do you find fear stops you from doing things you’d like to? What are you doing to defeat it?