"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 2:7, NLT).
Fear is a powerful emotion that can aid in your survival or hasten your demise. Destructive fear is cunning; it controls your body, mind and soul with an iron fist, demanding decisions are made according to its own agenda. It thrives in the past and venomously guards against the future. This was the kind of fear the Apostle Paul was speaking against when he wrote, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 2:7, NLT). Addressing this same fear, author Max Lucado wrote, "The presence of fear does not mean you have no faith. Fear visits everyone. But make your fear a visitor and not a resident."
Destructive fear is typically the product of painful experiences. The mask that it wears is that of a protector: "I will never experience that depth of pain again". In doing so, it abolishes sorrow, but also eliminates joy. It is impossible for fear to allow pleasure and segregate pain at the same time.
Because fear is so cunning, many behaviors may be exhibited, none which point to being fear-based. For example, a commitment-phobic person may not realize that fear (and further down, pain) is the root of their unhappiness. They may rent a home, rather than make the commitment to purchase one. They may shield away from any responsibility such as owning pets or even house plants. They may travel extensively and live a hobo-type lifestyle. These behaviors individually do not scream "fear" as the motivating emotion, thus diagnosing it as the underlying problem can be difficult.
Fear can also manifest itself in other ways. Women in abusive relationships often stay because knowing what the relationship cycle is, albeit abusive, is preferred to the anxiety (fear) of the unknown. Others may unconsciously sabotage their career with the underlying fear of success; "If I am their boss, what if they do not like me anymore?" can be translated into a fear of peer rejection.
Recognizing fear as the debilitating emotion and praying for God to help you overcome it is the first step to reducing its strong emotional grip. Then, one question can be asked before any decision is made, any response is put forth or any reaction is given: "Is this a fear-based decision?" Is the anxiety of making a large purchase masked as the fear of financial demise? Is the fear of being alone the motivation to stay in an unhappy marriage? Is the pain of losing a former pet the deciding factor of not having another?
Threatening tasks can be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps. For example, the fear of being alone may be lessened by strengthening support systems. Owning a pet may become less intimidating by first volunteering at the local animal shelter. Researching insurance options may decrease financial anxiety.
Visualizing beyond the fear is a positive step in breaking down its power. How many years of happiness would a pet bring versus the pain of it dying? Would purchasing a vehicle make life substantially easier? Would an increase of income come with accepting a promotion? Conquering fear-based decisions is the first step in allowing the positive energy of life to freely flow.
Acceptance of pain as a natural ingredient of the human existence is essential to reducing the monster of fear to an insignificant opponent. Fortunately, pain also has a natural marriage to joy, love and happiness.
Progress is made with conscious practice and diligence. Those who have faced fear and rose above it often develop a character depth that cannot be dispelled. It is a valuable exercise of self-exploration that can develop into wisdom, maturity, self-confidence and contentment.