In Hiding: A Fear Problem

The world has a fear problem and it hides behind hate and judgment for protection.  Ultimately we’re all scared of rejection and kicked enough times, the best of us can become hardened through our pain.  We’re all interconnected and affecting each other with our actions and attitudes whether we see it or not.

We all form outlooks on life based upon our experiences and pick up our shields and defensive weapons along the way, desperate to protect our hearts in what often can feel like a cruel and uncaring world.  In the midst of our experiences, in our formative years we make unconscious assumptions and adapt coping mechanisms along the way.  We’re all just trying to make it through the scary stuff, guarding our hearts as we go.

When I was a little girl growing up in the mid 1970’s in Mobile, Alabama, I remember being afraid every day that I went to school in the first and second grade.  Differences among the student body created a hostile environment.  Division was so charged in the school I attended that it felt a bit like walking into a cage housing predatory animals that were natural enemies being forced to live together.

Racial division was major during that time period but the division wasn’t all racial.  I remember many fights of people of the same race as well over all kinds of different things.  I lived in fear of offending anyone.

Never Truly Alone

Each day when I walked in the doors of the school I tried my best to be invisible.  The fear actually started on the bus ride to school.  When I stepped on that bus each day I felt very alone and afraid but I know now that even though I felt that way, I was never truly alone.  Many days would begin and end with fistfights that would break out on the school bus.  By the time I reached school I was already terrified and still had to get through my day – never knowing when to expect more hatred and violence to pop up and steal my sense of security.  In the midst of this I learned that it didn’t pay to be different in any way or to risk saying or doing anything that might make someone mad.

I, as an innocent young child, didn’t care about the differences leading to the violence, I just wanted peace.  I was fortunate to have been raised by a mom that didn’t speak words of judgment based on the differences of others, but over time as a small, vulnerable little girl I began to form fears based upon what I saw in the world around me.

Each day I walked onto that bus and into that school the battle lines had been drawn and I just wanted to be invisible and avoid the danger lurking all around me.  I was a peace loving child and there was no peace to be found around me.

I would imagine that fear radiated off of me to the eyes of anyone who had eyes to see, but probably few noticed, blinded by their own fears and hatred born out of their own pain and suffering.

As I grew up I considered myself to be a nonjudgmental person, but at my core I can see now that I was affected and at times had thoughts where I compared myself to others, drawing lines of division in my mind.  I could feel superior to this person on my right but inferior to the person on my left.  What is it that causes us to automatically compare ourselves to those around us?

Measuring Up

If we can measure up to or surpass the standards of those in our world we feel great and then we can go on Pinterest and immediately feel like we are failing at life.  Where does the need to tear down those who are different come from?  Perhaps it’s our desperate attempt to push our fragile selves up as we push others down as we use those around us like steps of a ladder climbing out of our pits of low self worth.

If you turn on the news or scroll through social media you can see that not much has at its core has really changed since my childhood.  Human nature and behaviors are unaffected by modern conveniences.  We think ourselves as evolved beyond it all, but are we?

Today’s Division

The school bus and playground fights look different now.  Maybe more often fists aren’t swinging literally, but the words hang in the air on the computer and phone screens inflicting their blows all the same.  Cyber bullying is at a high and it’s not just among the kids.  Our differences are many, and we can hide behind them as justifications of our value.  And when the differences are questioned our very worth seems to come into question.  The battle lines can be drawn along many different battle fields: political differences, Christian vs. Non-Christian, race, intellectual opinions and yes, even our children’s sporting events.

It’s Complicated…

It’s complicated because growing up in poverty being looked down upon because of my financial situation had wounded me deeply and, therefore, I have always felt a deep sympathy toward those who suffer for any reason.  I would never want to cause others to feel looked down upon the way I did; yet over time, the Holy Spirit began to deal with me that I had areas of pride I needed to address within myself.  It’s as if I had an invisible measuring line within me with marks to measure up to.

These marks defined worth and success for me.  A big area He began to point out for me was defining my worth through intellect.

Growing up, my one saving grace in the midst of the shame of the poverty I lived in had been that I was a very good student.  Some subjects came easily and I excelled.  Others I worked at to the point of exhaustion because I learned along the way that I could be noticed and receive words of affirmation for academic achievement.  If I worked hard enough I could pay the price for love and acceptance.

At home it often seemed to go unnoticed…I felt unnoticed, but at school I was a somebody.  It felt good when others in their moments of panic automatically turned to me before the pop quiz, desperately hurling questions about what might be on the test.  In fact, it was empowering.  I could cling to this for my self-worth.  But what was I unconsciously thinking about those other kids who were coming to me for the right answers….and what kind of bitterness was I feeling toward those who seemed to have everything without having to work for it the way I did?

Years later after I grew up and thought I had put that season of my life behind me, the Holy Spirit began to deal with me in this area.  I want to point out that these areas where God wanted me to grow were not glaringly obvious to me.  My wrong attitudes disguised themselves as thankfulness for my advantages.  I was doing what I believe we all do when we are defining our worth outside of  our heavenly Father.  I was comparing myself to others.  I could feel great if I was at the level or above the level of those around me but what does that mean about the worth of those whose strengths are not the same as the measuring stick I was measuring with?  If our value is defined through physical appearance what happens when that fades?  If our worth is defined by intellect what happens if I get in a car accident and suffer a brain injury?  If I’m measuring myself against others, what does that say about their worth if I judge myself to be better in any way?

One day, as I overheard my own children squabbling about their differences, I came to the stark realization about how my own attitudes were grieving the Holy Spirit. There, in that moment my heart broke with the understanding that this is how we make Him feel when we elevate our own “differences” as better than or an advantages above others.  He created all of us and we are all so special in His eyes.  We all add something to this world and He is grieved when we consider ourselves better than anyone for any reason.  Judgment is a slippery slope to slide down.  Is the child born with any disorder, even my baby girl who died due to a chromosomal abnormality, any less valuable in His eyes then the Albert Einsteins of this world? We are ALL his creation just like my children are on a certain level my creation.  It pierces my heart when my children fight or look down upon each other.

I want them to love each other in spite of their differences because they are family and they are mine and they can be there for each other building each other up instead of tearing each other down.  I love each one and when judgmental hateful words are spoken to the other, I as their parent witness the damage.  Because of their free will I’m powerless to stop it, and it hurts my heart.  It also pierces my heart when they think they need to compare themselves to each other or feel they are less or more than each other because of their differences.

Holy Heartbreak

Like my children can make me feel, so we are making Father God feel.  His heart breaks when we think we are superior to others, when we think we are justified in our anger and hatred and when all of these negative emotions result in division within His family.  He wants us to be able to be at peace and laugh together and cry for each other when the other is hurting.

Like we are with our earthly children, our heavenly Father wants us to stop lashing out at each other because of our differences and love each other in spite of them.

Because He is a good Father and loves all of us as His children, He wants us to see each other’s pains and needs and be able to look beyond ourselves to love and help each other, because that’s what family’s supposed to do.

Our Prayer

Father God, help us to see all of mankind as our family.  Help us to look past our own needs and love the way you call us to love.  Lord, help us to see our heart attitudes and any place within us where we are judging one of your children.  Help us to see them through your eyes.  Help us to recognize worth and value where others do not.  May we not put false security in any area of our life.  You have gifted us with abilities and advantages but may we never see ourselves as superior to any of your creation because of any gifting or advantage you have given us.  May there be no area of our lives that we are giving Lordship over you Father God.  And Father God, it’s easy to be thankful for advantages, but help us to also always be thankful for what you are teaching us in the midst of our struggles. Help us to be grateful for ALL things.

Scriptures for Meditation

13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

~ John 15:13-17

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[a] There is no commandment greater than these.”

~ Mark 12:31

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

~ 1 Cor. 13:4-8

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

~ Ephesians 4:2

18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us.

~ 1 John 4:18-19

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

~ 1 John 3:16-18

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

~ 1 John 4:8