When someone asks me what I’m afraid of, the song “Spiders and Snakes” by Jim Stafford always comes to mind. I can hear the tune and sing the lyrics of a boy walking a girl home named Mary Lou. They stop at a water hole, and as typical of a young boy, he picks up a frog and shakes it at her. She responds with “I don’t like spiders and snakes and that ain’t what it takes to love me. I wanna be loved by you.”
Everyone has a fear of something. I’m afraid of spiders, snakes and heights. As a child I dreamed often that I was falling. Some friends recently went to the Grand Canyon, and I remembered when I took my kids years ago. They begged to ride the mules down to the bottom. I watched the movie of what it would be like and between the trail sometimes only being 18 inches wide and the possibility of falling or a snake appearing at that moment, there was NO WAY I was going to make that ride! I wasn’t going to allow the kids to do it either. Snakes, heights and falling was the trifecta of fear for me. We can usually overcome fear of objects or heights because we have control of those; we avoid them.
Fears start in our past
The more debilitating fears are usually fires that started in our past. Some are small campfires that we can hem in. Others are brush fires, but some are towering infernos and destroy our relationships with the people we love the most. Gary Smalley calls them “Core Fears.” Everyone has them, some more than others, but most people are unaware that we have emotional fears, and they are often the match that strikes the fire that could potentially burn our homes down.
- Fear of failure or not being good enough
- Fear of not being loved or being rejected
- Fear of being alone and unwanted
- Fear of being helpless or controlled
- Fear of being worthless or inadequate
Unless you identify your own Core Fear and understand how you tend to react when you get triggered or your “button gets pushed,” your relationship will suffer every time.
Identify your Core Fears
The best way to discover your Core Fears is to identify a recent conflict, argument or negative interaction you had with your spouse, friend, child, neighbor, co-worker – something that really “pushed your buttons” and upset you. Think about how you were feeling and how you wished the person would not say or do the things that upset you. You might have said something like, “If only you would stop saying or doing ____, then I would not be so upset.”
Ask yourself, “How did this conflict or negative interaction make you feel about yourself? What message did it send about you? What did the conflict ‘say’ about you?”
Understanding our response when afraid
Once we identify our Core Fears we can examine why we respond that way when a conflict arises in our marriage or someone we share life with is careless with their words. As I said, our core fears usually are based in our past.
My primary core fear was that I never felt good enough, so if something happened or something was said that triggered that fear, I would withdraw. After I pondered those feelings and examined where they were birthed, I realized it was in childhood when I felt so inferior to my family members. I was born into a family of athletes, and I had zero athletic ability; I couldn’t even do a cartwheel. So, I played the piano and hoped to excel in the area of music until I walked the halls of FSU Music School and listened to people practicing in the music halls. I interrupted one student and asked how long they had been playing, and they responded with “6 months.” I felt that although I had played 15 years that I’d never be good enough, so I withdrew and rarely played ever again.
Today, when I feel that same sense of not being good enough, I’m reminded that I’m good enough for Christ to die on the cross for me.
Perfect love casts out fear.
Lisa May is Executive Director of Live the Life South Florida. She can be reached at [email protected], by mail at 5110 N. Federal Hwy. Suite 102, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33308, or visit livethelifesoflo.org
Read more articles by Lisa May at goodnewsfl.org/author/lisa-may/