Fear and Loathing

Some of my friends are so brave, but me? I’m afraid of everything.

Physically, I’m afraid of heights. I hate roller coasters. I cry on Ferris wheels. I love to travel, but I’m actually afraid of flying.

Emotionally/Mentally, I’m afraid of confrontations, and I’m utterly terrified of offending anyone. I’d much rather speak of pleasant things, happy things, but, well, this is reality. We’re not always dealing with sunshine and rainbows.

Inevitably, disagreements and confrontations come. When they do, it feels like an iron fist clamping down on my heart, and everything within me constricts–my throat, my chest, even my blood vessels–and I tremble all over.

It sucks. I hate it. I hate being afraid. No…I loathe it.

My whole life, I’ve tried to wish the fear away. To will it away. To pray it away. No matter what I do or how I reset my thinking, fear is always hanging around–like a squatter hangs around an abandoned house–until one day it dawned on me:

Deep Thinking Postcard

What if it never goes away? What if I’m always afraid of confrontation? Rejection? Failure or missing the mark or falling short or whatever? What if facing these giants in my mind, heart, and life never gets any easier?

This is a real possibility, I realized.

But I also realized that I have a choice. I can let fear immobilize me, like it has my entire life, or I can simply and resolutely choose to step past it.

My Own Prison

I had a revelation the other day.

A lot of my anxiety stems from my childhood and things that happened to me when I was a kid. I played sports from a very young age: basketball, softball, track and field, cheerleading. I was a clarinetist in marching and concert band, and I was involved with various school clubs (4H, JETS, etc.).

People might’ve thought I had a lot of friends, especially since I was an athlete, but I felt like the loneliest kid in the universe. I was an only-child, too, so I didn’t have siblings, and the kids in school were really cruel to me in elementary school and junior high. Some of them were abusive (mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically).

I’m not ready to talk about the trauma I experiened, but the point is, I never felt like I had a safe place to go. I carried all my fears around in my stomach, and I never found relief from that knotted-up feeling.

At home, I didn’t feel like I could talk about what was going on at school.

At school, I couldn’t let my guard down.

I was plagued by nightmares and night terrors throughout my childhood, so I found no relief in sleep.

I was so terrified of the dark I would wrap myself in all my sheets and blankets until I felt like I was suffocating, and I dreaded walking down the hallway at night.

In high school, I found more acceptance, but I was already traumatized. By the time I reached adulthood, my heart automatically expected more of the same – more rejection, more betrayal, more ostracizing.

More abuse.

Carrying around all that fear, worry, and anxiety became a natural part of my existence, and I’ve realized – I need to forgive the kids who bullied me. I need to forgive the teachers who allowed it to go on. I need to forgive a lot of people, and I probably need to ask for a lot of forgiveness, myself.

See, the brokenness in those people created brokenness in me. And the brokenness in me perpetuated that cycle of brokenness in others.

Brokenness breeds brokenness. But freedom births freedom.

Written in February 2014
from a hotel in the Dominican Republic

This wasn’t a touristy region of the DR, and the hotel had burglar bars and even metal gates that staff could shut and lock if a threat ever arose (gangs, armed criminals, etc).

I find it ironic that this place was like a small prison and how, at the time, I was processing through childhood trauma that had been imprisoning me most of my life.

I hadn’t thought it that way at the time. Looking back, I see the deeper symbolism…

Perfect Love

An act of love prompted by guilt isn’t really love at all. It’s selfishness, to ease the guilt we’re experiencing.

But real love isn’t selfish. It’s selfless, putting the well-being of the other person ahead of our own feelings or well-being. This cannot be accomplished through guilt, because of the way guilt-based motives are inherently self-focused; meaning, the focus of this “act of love” inevitably becomes us, ourselves, instead of the the person we’re supposed to be helping/loving.

Love also can’t be accomplished through fear. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.Black and White Graph