Okay, I’ve shared some of my thoughts about how love’s most gentle influence can one day overcome fear’s more violent control. I’ve highlighted the Bible verse from I John 4:18 that reads: “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.” And yet I last posed the question of why we sometimes resist letting go of our fears, even when something tells us love is right and fear is wrong. Why do we sometimes hold onto fear and let go of love? Even when it’s not in our own best interest, or anyone else’s, to do so? And especially when love makes us so happy, and fear more likely makes us miserable?
To attempt an answer of such questions, I’ll share on where it is I believe fear comes from. As a therapist for those 25-30 years in my practice, I typically referred to fear as a sandwich emotion. That is, it lies in between our hurt and our anger. Adding a different metaphor, fear is like the fire that lives in between the spark (hurt) and the smoke (anger). In terms of common human experience, some hurt in our life or that of someone else we care about triggers our fear. Fear always has a trigger. Something always has to spark the fire.
I used to believe that our fears stemmed from only our own hurts. Clinically, it’s very common to see people who were traumatized in some way now having post-traumatic fear, worry, anxiety, panic (choose your word). But then I learned more about what is called “secondary post traumatic stress.” Exposure to another’s traumatic pain can induce the same symptoms of anxiety as if we’d been the actual victim ourselves. So generalized human trauma can produce some generalized human anxiety and stress. That’s what I now believe is true. It’s like a house fire that spreads to the house next door, even when the original spark was faulty wiring in house number one. Fear, like fire, has a way of spreading “out of control.”
Our first and most natural defense mechanism against fear is to “get in control.” Control everything around me and I’ll be safe again. Let me have control and then I can relax. Remember the metaphor of the sandwich with hurt and anger covering the fear in the middle? Anger energizes us to fight for control. Interpersonally, anger is about gaining control over someone who may, we fear, be trying to control us. Think of your last “road rage” episode, if you will.
In an earlier blog, I sought to understand who we feel more loved by: someone trying to control us, or someone trying to influence us (in a softer, more subtle way). Here, I would proclaim, God is the most loving of all. God never tries to control us, for control is a “fear” behavior. God does not fear us; hence God only tries to influence us out of a deep, DEEP love for us. Lovingly, gently, not in angry shouts but soft whispers.
Consider this: we all have a certain amount of fear in our lives. It’s called being human in a world of hurts. There’s lots of pain out there, so we have secondary fear. And we all want to be in control. Just ask Adam & Eve and every other sinner who ever lived! Now here’s the ultimate irony: controlling people and things around us cannot cast out our fears. No. Our controlling behaviors in relation to other people, places and things can only perpetuate the lie that “I’m not afraid anymore because I’m now in control.” The truth is that, A) we are not in control of the world around us, and B) even if we could be, we would then live in even greater fear (worry, anxiety, panic) of losing that control.
Bottom line for today: We resist love and hold onto fear instead, because we choose not to let go of control. Human fears tell us “I don’t have time for loving influence, I need CONTROL and I need it NOW!!!!!” That’s a lie. Satan is at it again. It’s a temptation to eat the apple all over again to prove that, by God, we’re still in control. The truth that frees us, that casts out all fear, is God’s perfect love which provides not control OVER us but empowering influence WITHIN us by the Holy Spirit.
Next blog will then be about God’s Holy Spirit and how it has the power to communicate love, rid us of fear, and bring lasting peace and happiness. It will be more of why I am STILL so happy.