One of the most mind paralyzing aspects of life has to do with our relationship to the people around us. Although it is expressed in all of us in different ways, it impacts us all in a significant way. Some of us would be very reluctant to admit it. Many of us would even by resistant. But if we dig deep enough into our hearts we can always see at its foundation, the reality of this debilitating problem.
Relationships in general are one of the most complex aspects of life. And this specific aspect of our relationships has to do with our relationship to the way that other people see us, and relate to us. Because we are such social creatures, we constantly struggle with the dichotomy of desiring love, care, and affirmation from others and not having full capability of always getting these things.
Because of this we fear rejection and alienation. We fear the opinions and thoughts of others because we believe that they have power to change our lives and bring us joy. Fear of others always has to do with a fear of transparency. We don’t want to put ourselves in a vulnerable situation. We don’t want to be put in a situation where we will lose others affirmation and support. We don’t want to open ourselves up to them because we believe that, just as they have the power to bring us joy and confidence, they also have the power to take these things away.
What if I fail? What if I look stupid? What if they prove me wrong? What if they don’t accept me? These are the questions that often direct our thoughts and actions as we learn to relate to the people around us.
What we can see here is that fear of others is fundamentally a selfish thing. It is an attitude that is consumed with self, self image, and personal well being. It seems everyone else as potential enemies and blocks them out for the sake of preserving our own goodness.
But the deepest problem with this fear is not just that it is selfish, but that it kills our ability to truly love. 1 John 4:18 says that, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts our fear.” Fear and love are opposites. Fear has to do with self, love has to do with others. Fear has to do with keeping everything to yourself, love has to do with giving it all away. Fear causes us to close up, love opens itself up to the lives around.
Looking at Christ, the epitome of love, we all see these things in action. Despite the great pressure that he had from the crowds and the people that surrounded him, he never wavered or shook. He never seemed to have lost his focus and his direction. He was able to stand in front of the frustrated Pontuis Pilot and tell him that despite the fact that Pilot was a ruler, his fear of the people meant he had no control of the situation.
Why is this? Why didn’t Christ ever let the ideas and opinions of people ever put a dent in his convictions? The answer is simple – he loved them too much. He loved them to much to be focused on his own image. He loved them to much to believe their masks and their pride. Perfect love casts out fear because it focuses on the heart of the individual rather than on personal well being.
The only cure to self love is love of others. It is a selfless love that gives without any demand of receiving anything in return. We are freed from our fear that others might take something away from us only when we willingly give it all away. Identity, pride, self-image. Being shaped by the love of Christ, and defined by his love, we make our lives open to their scrutiny and observation with the desire that somehow this can serve and challenge their own thinking and living.
There is no room for fear in this kind of love.