Rewriting the Story of our Fears

Since you’re here reading this it means you want to do something bigger or better with you’re life. It means that you’re tired of being held back, tired of waiting, tired of being frustrated, and tired of being stuck and hopeful that there’s something better for you and ready to make that something else happen. As we’ve talked about fears this month, Wednesday I shared the ironic conclusion that what we’ve done this month was really the opposite of our goals; we don’t want fear to have that big hold on our lives: we want to be free. So on this last blog post of the month we are going to talk about the big challenge that fears present: getting past them to what’s better.

What holds us back in many areas of our lives, is not just our fears, but the story we tell ourselves about stuff. We make up stories about the people we see at Starbucks, we make up stories about our coworkers and boss, and we make up stories to convince ourselves that we’re right (even if we know we’re really wrong). We tell ourselves that we’re right to be afraid and that the fears are based in reality and we need to heed them and that we’ll never be able to do whatever the fear is about, and that we’re not good enough to do anything and that we’re not big enough to make a real difference in the world.

But in many cases a story is just that: a story. You probably played “Telephone” as a kid where the first kid whispers a sentence to the next person in line and by the time the sentence is repeated to the last person it doesn’t resemble the first sentence in any way. Sometimes this is because we don’t hear it right, other times it’s because the person before us (or even ourselves) added a little something to the sentence to make it sound better or be funnier. Stories can change, the question is are we willing to change them?

Ending a month means moving on to a new one. As we consider the new month before us I encourage you to consider if you have stories that you need to let go of or re-write. Don’t let your fears and the stories they have created ruin the freedom that could be yours.

“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story…” Cheryl Strayed

Seeing Beyond our Fears

The irony of the topic this month is that we’ve allowed fear to take over when our real goal was to be free of our fears. We’ve allowed it into our lives on a weekly basis, talked about it, thought about it, fought over it and struggled to change it. Yes, we talked about how it was necessary to face our fears and try to understand them to take our power back and be able to overcome them, but there’s more to fears than fears themselves. Fears really mask what could be and what we could have. So today and Friday we’ll be looking at the other side of fears and moving past them.

Did you know that when it’s daytime the sun is always there, even when clouds are present? I know this sounds obvious, but stick with me for a minute. When it’s dark for night time outside the sun isn’t present, it’s on the other side of the world. But when it’s daytime no matter whether it’s snowing, raining, hailing, or there are clear blue skies, the sun is always there, even if we don’t see it. It doesn’t just leave the proverbial room while the wet weather happens and comes back when it’s done, it’s always there, we just can’t see it because our vision is blocked by clouds and precipitation. It is easy to not try to see past the cloud to the sun behind them, and to forget that the sun is there, especially during storms that last for days.

The same is true when it comes to fears. When we look at our fears we can get absorbed into them and forget that there’s more to life. Fears are really good at keeping us distracted so that we aren’t able to see what we could if we weren’t wrapped up in them.  But if you’re able to look beyond your fears it becomes a lot easier to face and overcome them and do more with your life and dreams than those who stay stuck looking at their fears.

So what about you? Are you allowing your fears to block your vision of everything else, including the path to freedom?

“Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.” Marilyn Ferguson

From Fear to Freedom

What if there was one thing that you could do that would make all the difference in the world?  Like you knew the winning lottery numbers, or knew the career that would guarantee you success, or the person to be in a relationship that would be fantastic forever, or the thing to say to your kids to keep them on the straight and narrow?   This month we’ve talked about a lot of things with regards to fear and the challenges it brings to our lives as well as the blessing in a different kind of fear, Fearing God.  And while I probably don’t have answers to the one thing that you think will make your life great in that list, I do have the answer to your fears: take it one step at a time.

With the exception of the Resurrection Jesus really did things step by step during His time on earth.  He walked among people just like you and me, He built relationships, told stories, got involved in people’s concerns and their joys, and each day was one step closer to the big moment of His death and Resurrection.  Yes, He could have just come to earth and proclaimed that we were all free because He said so, but instead He chose to take the time to get to know us and let us get to know Him and then show us how much we matter(ed) to Him.

On this blog we spend a month on each topic (this month is fear), and some topics we cover over the whole year (this year is about freedom) because we don’t usually learn things instantly, instead we have to be exposed to them over and over again.  God doesn’t expect us to conquer our fears by ripping off the proverbial band-aid, but knows that typically we’ll work through our fears a little at a time.  The goal with each step is to move out of fear and into the powerful, competent, amazing person that God has created us to be.  Which way are you moving in your life?

“We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings more and more glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Overcoming Fears Part 2

On Wednesday we started talking about overcoming our fears and trying to understand where they originated as the first question to consider.

The second question to consider is does this fear hinder my life or am I not doing things that I would try if I didn’t have this fear?  If you don’t feel that your life is limited by the fears you have and aren’t restricting yourself and your dreams it’s not a fear that you have to devote a lot of time to overcoming.  But if you have dreams of traveling around the world but are afraid to because of your fear, as we discussed on Wednesday, of running into the Tasmanian Tiger, your fear is hindering your life and is something that you should consider working to overcome.

So what’s the point? The point is that there’s a lot more to life than your fears, so when you let your life be limited by them you’ll never be able to have all the experiences you want or do all that you dream about. Also, you’re a lot more than your fears, unless you’re letting the fears take you over. If fears are running your life it’s time to take back control of your life and one of the best ways to do that is to face your fears and work on overcoming them.

It doesn’t usually happen all at once, but just taking one or two steps each day towards exposing and facing your fears will help you free yourself in no time.  This weekend I encourage you to take a look at the fears in your life. Are they holding you back from truly thriving?  If so make a plan of action about how you will overcome them first by trying to understand them and then taking steps to safely face them.

“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”   Frank Herbert

Overcoming Fears Part 1

It’s not easy to face our fears, they are fears for a reason after all.  But things like a fear of bugs, heights or public speaking are things that we can usually safely face and work on overcoming or at least lessen our fears of.  It’s not usually a good idea to face your fears with someone who can’t help you through the inevitable panic attack or can’t understand on any level the fear you have, you need someone there who can help support you through it and help you to release some of the fear you have.

If we agree that many fears are in place for a reason we first need to remember why would we bother to try to overcome our fears in the first place: because fears can hold us back like nothing else can. When we’re scared of the opinions of others and how they’ll judge us or scared of something that we could run into on a regular basis like heights or small spaces it limits our lives, and living a limited life means we can’t truly thrive or fulfill our dreams.  So today and Friday I’ll be sharing some insights into overcoming our fears so that we can begin to thrive and fulfill our dreams.

When considering whether you have a fear that you should work on overcoming the first question to answer is about whether or not it’s an irrational fear like being afraid that the Tasmanian Tiger will take over the world; an animal that all evidence points to being extinct.  Some fears are exactly like that: they don’t really have a base in reality as far as anyone else can see.  If there’s no base in reality, it’s not something you can really do anything about, you can’t face and overcome something that doesn’t seem to exist.

Last week we talked about revealing the truth behind things that scare us, and while your fear of a Tasmanian Tiger takeover could be exactly and only that, your fear might not really be about an extinct animal, but is actually based in an attack you experienced as a kid by a dog that looked a lot like the Tasmanian Tiger that you had coincidentally learned about that week in school. No, not everything is that easily understood or connected or remembered, and just because you can see the rationale behind the fear doesn’t mean it will go away.  But it does give you a starting point to understanding what’s behind the proverbial black curtain and overcoming it.

What fears do you have that may seem irrational to other people?

Fearing God

This week we’re going to talk about a different aspect of fear than the one that we’re talking about for the most part this month: the fear of God. Yes, there’s still some aspect of scared-fear here, but the majority of this aspect of fear is about healthy respect, the dictionary even calls it “reverential awe.” Let’s back up a bit and first talk about the connection between the fear we typically talk about and the fear of God.

Should we be scared of God? Yes, if we’re doing things that are not in line with His commandments we should be aware of the consequences of our actions. There are certainly a bunch of situations in the Bible that have shown the power of God and are good reasons to be scared of what He can do (The Red Sea, the walls of Jericho, Job, Jonah and the big fish etc.).

But if we spend all our time being scared of God we’ll never be able to develop the relationship with Him that He desires and wants with us, and we should want with Him. Fearing God allows Him to retain His deity and yet not be so removed from us like some ancient gods and goddesses were that we didn’t have access to them or that they didn’t care about what goes on in our lives. Because God definitely does.  Having a healthy respect for God means that we can appreciate His power and what He can do without it being too intimidating to be close to Him.

Are you in awe of God? Do you respect Him and what He does or have you forgotten the power that He has? Maybe it’s just that you’ve been so busy keeping up with the fears that drive your life that you’ve forgotten that you’ve got the best source of courage accessible anytime you need Him. I encourage you to work on redeveloping your healthy fear of God this week.

“The Lord is a friend to those who fear him. He teaches them his covenant.” Psalm 25:14

Learning About Your Fears

On Wednesday we talked about the very different experiences you have if you visit an open or closed haunted attraction, how the closed attraction reveals what goes on behind the scenes during the open one, and how if we were to take a different perspective on the fears in our lives we’d be able to see the truth about them too. So today I wanted to go into that topic a bit more and see what we can discover about our fears.

Fear is part of our lives, it’s not something we can escape. It does serve a purpose, especially for keeping us alive. Fear can alert us if we’re doing something that could kill us or hurt someone else or is a risk that may be more detrimental than it could be worth. Most of us try to avoid our fears, but in fact if we spend time with them we’ll be better equipped to understand future fears we face and if they’re worth the risk of following through or not.

It’s not easy to face our fears, but if you approach them with the same interest that some people watch reality TV shows or the way people are unable to look away from accidents and tragedies it may be easier to face because then they’re not so seemingly personal or real. In the case of fears it’s not such a bad thing to look into them and see what makes them tick and how they work. Maybe we’ll find something interesting or learn something we never knew (that’s not about the dating habits of people in remote parts of the world) and we can apply to our lives and our future.

However, if we choose to avoid our fears and avoid thinking about them or trying to understand them, we’ll only make things worse.  No, you don’t need to invite fears to be part of your life or create them so that you can experience them, but when they do happen take the time to try to understand them.

“What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.” Jiddu Krishnamurti

Behind the (Haunted) Scenes

Have you ever been to a haunted attraction when it’s closed or been part of the crew, or worked at an amusement park? If so you know that the attraction that is seen by the public is much different than the one you see behind the scenes and after hours. When it’s closed it has no life, you can see the wires and chains, you see that there are real people getting into costumes and makeup, you can see the dust and dirt, and it seems to have lost the magic it has when it’s open. When it’s closed you see all of what makes it work and what makes it scary or exciting when it’s open, but without the thrill factor. All too often we don’t stop to think about the why or how of these places, we just appreciate the magic, which is what they’re there for after all.

But just like a haunted attraction or amusement park our lives can have two sides as well. We have the side that we present to the world and the side that we hide away. We don’t like to dig into the hidden side because it contains our biggest fears, secret desires and things that we think no one would ever understand. Maybe we hide them because we don’t want to have to admit them or do anything about them. But the more and deeper we hide them the harder it is to show our real selves to the world and the harder it becomes to unravel the lies and fears we build up. But just like visiting a haunted attraction when it’s closed, if we were to just take some time and unpack things when the fear isn’t in full force, we’d be able to see what makes them up and what we’re really afraid of and maybe even overcome them.

If you’ve been hiding something or hiding from something I encourage you to try a safe “closed park” visit if you will of fear or secret this week and see if you can’t discover what you’ve been hiding from and if it’s really as scary as you’ve made it out to be.

“Don’t turn your back upon your doctrinal doubts and difficulties. Go up to them and examine them. Perhaps the ghastly object which looks to you in the twilight like a sheeted ghost may prove to be no more than a table-cloth hanging upon a hedge.” A.H. Boyd

Trust and Fears

This month in our talks about fears an important topic to address is that of trust. Our fears tell us that we can’t trust people or things, and some of our experiences or the experiences we hear about do back up that distrust. So how do we build trust when dealing with our inevitable fears?

Often all we need is one person we can trust in order to start trusting ourselves and others.  A good place to start is with God. Throughout the Bible, the lives of countless Saints and my life as well are reminders that God can be trusted and that He will always come through for us.  Maybe it won’t be in the way or timeline we think it should be, but He will follow through and will do all that He promised. Through our daily interactions with God little by little He reveals that we can trust Him and that He won’t let us down.

God gives us experiences that teach us that we are capable humans and we can trust ourselves in the face of many different types of challenges and obstacles, and that we can still trust ourselves even when our fears come to fruition. He builds our trust in Him and our trust in ourselves so we can keep going in the face of life’s uncertainties.

Our experiences with God and trust show us that fear and trust aren’t about knowing everything or having all the answers.  Sometimes our fears will come to pass and sometimes our trust will be rewarded.  But much of life and faith are about going forward without knowing all the answers and hoping, believing and trusting that it will all work out.

So if you’re dreading the week ahead because it’s Monday, because there are so many unknowns or because of what happened in the past week and the trust that was broken or you broke, spend some extra prayer and devotion time today reminding yourself that God trusts you and you can trust God to help you work everything out.

“Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.” Isaiah 26:4

One Thing

October is often the time that we feel things speeding up, in a race to get to December 31st.  We rush through summer to get to school, through September and October to get to Halloween, almost bypassing Thanksgiving to speed on to Christmas and Hanukkah, and then tripping towards New Years Eve and all those resolutions we never keep.  So yes, my advice to you is, as always, to take time to enjoy the moments around you.  Take at least 5 minutes each day for reflection, another 5 for time in nature and 5 to be alone.  Just taking those 15 minutes each day can help you appreciate today and not just think about and move towards the future.

But what I really wanted to share with you today are 5 questions I encourage you to work on this month before things get really crazy.  They’re questions that you can work on a little at a time each day and be able to see some really great transformations in your life.  They will also help you enjoy the last 3 months of the year better and create a better foundation for the new year (no resolutions required).  I have one more thought to add, but here are the questions:

What one relationship do you most need to repair?
What one relationship do you most need to establish or improve?
What one thing do you most need to learn?
What one habit do you most need to break?
What one contribution would you most like to make?

So what’s great about these questions?  They remind you to break down what could be a monumental task into much more manageable pieces.  Yes, you probably need to work on all your relationships, but what is one that needs the most work, or that you could make a difference in today?  You may want to learn how to cook, so what is one thing you can do today to start accomplishing that goal?  We all have things in our lives that need stopping or fixing, so which one do you want to focus on and what’s one thing you can do today to start?  Finally, with every day you’re making a contribution with your life.  Each moment is part of that contribution, it’s not just about the big things.  So what’s one thing you can do today that you will be proud of years from now?

Choose just one area of your life that you most want transformation in and get started on it this weekend.