To be honest, I didn’t want to share this article. It sat in my inbox for months while I read and re-read it several times with an ever increasing conviction that it was written directly to me. Has that ever happened to you?
This hits me right between the eyes. Not every detail of course, but Dr. Raymond Force pretty much nails the subject. I’ve never thought about fear this way, even once I admitted that I had some fears (fear of rejection/ failure primarily) that keep me from being an awesome husband.
It is because of my fear that I don’t want to share this with you. So here I am facing my fear head on making myself vulnerable to you. Dr. Force’s complete article is below (in red). My personal comments follow that. Read on.
Dr. Force’s Article
There are two emotions in life that cause hardships in our relationship with God, our spouses, and our children. Though one seems to get a pass on many an occasion, both are extremely destructive. These menaces are fear and greed.
If fear and greed were villains, greed would probably have a higher price on its head. However, I believe fear to be a little worse for the following reasons:
Fear is not as easily identified as a problem in the mind of the fearful
Everyone that is fearful feels justified in their fear-based approach to life and relationships. In their mind, they are protecting their marriage and the ones they love. However, it should be noted that though we should be cautious in some areas, there is a fear based in our unbelief, our idiosyncrasies, and our insecurities that can destroy healthy relationships.
A fear-based spouse will often see darkness where there is simply light, feel hostility when there is peace, or read something into a situation while others are just doing life. Nonetheless, the results can lead to as many fights as a marriage that is plagued with a greedy, self-centered spouse.
Fear-based people do not take the blame
People that are prone to fear-based actions are more likely to blame others around them for not being equally afraid. Thus, it is harder to identify the true culprit in the relationship because the focus of the blame is often misguided at best.
Fear-based people often have logic and scriptures to back up their actions
Though their logic and scriptures will often be faulty or out of context, they seem all the more believable and sincere because of their arguments.
Dr. Raymond Force’s Story
I like to tell people that I have better me-sight than insight on subjects like this. In other words, I was a horrible fear-monger in our marriage during the early days, and I still have to watch my thoughts and actions. There was a time when my wife was afraid to be herself. She hid behind a shell of stoicism as she never knew when the next fear-based bomb was about to drop. To make matters worse, my fear was cloaked with religion (which is the worst kind), and I failed to see how debilitating it was to our marriage until about 5 years into the marriage.
Here is what I found that helped me to move into a more loving approach to my marriage and life in general:
- I had to enter into a John 14:21-23 relationship with the Lord.
In other words, sensing the presence of my Heavenly Father helped me to relax and see goodness where previously I saw the opposite.
- I had to stop blaming others in the marriage and home.
The Greek word for devil in the scriptures is diabolos. The word is actually translated slanderer or accuser in a few places. I had to realize that though I was religious, I had many of the characteristics of the evil one in that I was proud and a slanderer of those around me.
- I had to become a man.
Manhood means taking sole responsibility for your actions instead of blaming others. It also involves taking the consequences of your actions on the chin and doing whatever it takes to ensure that the original actions that caused negative reactions from others are no longer in play.
- I had to detox my mind.
I often encourage spouses and families to do what I call a Philippians 4:8 detox. In this passage, Paul tells us to think on things that are praiseworthy. Mark it down. When you stop beating dead horses of negativity in your mind, you will see a release of tension in your spirit, marriage, and the rest of your home.
- I had to realize that fear was greed.
When people are fearful, their focus is hardly ever on God’s glory. In fact, the energy swirls within them and around them, but it hardly ever is an energy that causes the focus to be on God and the true betterment of others. Truly, love, agape love, never fails and it certainly “casts out fear”.
I believe most people are quite unaware, clueless really, of their negative behaviors and how they impact their relationships. I am no different, having spent the majority of my adult life believing that most of the relationship problems I faced were the fault of my circumstances or someone else. In just the last few years though I finally discovered something radical. A key part of my healthy living journey is to become more self-aware through a frequent process of “sober self-assessment” (Romans 12:3) that I learned in a really good Bible study resource.
It is by this prayerful self-assessment, the therapeutic exercise of journaling, and a study on the topic of hidden idols in my heart that the Lord revealed to me my issue with fear of rejection. I realized that I had made an idol out of approval/ acceptance from others- particularly from my wife Angie. I won’t get into the details about fear as an idol here, but if you are intrigued how they are connected, I recommend you take a close look at the last link about hidden idols. Read the book.
My point is that it’s humbling to learn that the source of my problems in life and relationships is my own fault and I’m responsible to make it better. What hits me hard about this article is that fear is actually very selfish. Greed is selfish obviously. But fear is even more selfish than greed. Ouch. Here’s what my fear of rejection looks like: (Gulp)
- I work really hard to earn approval or acceptance from Angie. I work my butt off because I NEED her approval like a fish needs water. I feel like I can’t live without her acceptance & approval. I fear failing her and I fear her rejection of me, so I knock myself out by doing things that I think will win her. My self-esteem is based upon how I perceive Angie feels about me & my performance.
- My fear of rejection and my NEED of her acceptance/ approval are tied together. What happens is inevitably I do not receive the acceptance/approval I EXPECTED for all my “sacrificial efforts” so I feel rejected. My expectation is entirely selfish. I am not working my butt off for her sake; I’m doing it for me. I’m trying to feed my idol of “acceptance/ approval of others.”
- Once rejected, I reason that I must protect myself from this horrible feeling so I quit doing anything for Angie. I blame her for rejecting me. “How dare she?!” I foolishly believe I will feel better if I don’t do anything for Angie because I will save myself all the hard work and I won’t be rejected. How ridiculous is that?
- The results are obvious. Angie does not feel loved in the least. She loses. She does not accept or approve of my behavior at all. Her rejection of me continues. She is conditioned to wonder if anything I do is really for her, or just for my own selfish motives. I am a mess, because from my point of view I can’t avoid rejection no matter what I do. I lose too.
- We both lose and our relationship is stuck in a rut because I am afraid of rejection.
To remedy this, I have to keep reminding myself of the list of items above. Particularly the ideas of ownership of my behavior, detoxing my mind from all the lies Satan tell me about my value, claiming key Scriptures like Phil 4:8, Psalm 23, 27 & 139, Romans 8:28-39, Joshua 1:9, 2 Timothy 1:7, etc., and realizing how selfish my fear really is. Fighting my fears is a battle that I expect to fight to my grave, but I know I will get better with practice. And the truth is that I have an awesome advocate on my side. His name is Jesus. His great love for me wipes out all my fear – if I let him. I wonder, do you know him?
I’m embarrassed to share all this with you. I feel like I should have it all figured out by now. The truth is, the older I get, the more I find that I don’t have figured out. But here is what I know for sure:
-Fear is real and it can be debilitating.
-Fear is a selfish choice.
-The perfect love of Jesus casts out fear, so I will forever cling to him.
-Focusing on Jesus, his love for me, his attributes like mercy, grace, & forgiveness, instead of my fears is a key way to experience victory over it.
I’m so thankful to have Jesus on my side to help me through my life journey. I can’t imagine how I would handle this struggle without him. If what I’m saying here sounds completely foreign to you, or you think I’m crazy, I welcome your feedback. I would love to chat with you personally to discuss your thoughts on fear, faith, marriage, etc.