Have you ever been afraid of people? Maybe afraid is too strong of a word; let’s just say “anxious” or “nervous” around people because of what they might say or do making us feel uncomfortable, awkward, tongue-tied, or out of our element. Or just as bad, what if we have nothing to talk about and the silence lingers for too long? Most people experience some sense of trepidation regarding interpersonal communication at some point or struggle with certain types of people. Others can be completely paralyzed by the fear of people for various reasons, among them embarrassment or rejection.
Though I rarely experience “fear of man” today, there was a time it controlled me! I lived in fear of saying or doing the wrong thing; in fear of rejection; in fear of being embarrassed; and in fear of failing somebody, even if that person was only me. It seemed I was even afraid of doing the right thing. It worked something like this: Failing reminded me I was a loser but success only meant I had to endure rejection from the people who resented my success as they said and did things to bring me back to their reality, I was a loser! Most of my fear was validated by the rejection, bullying, disapproval, and jealousy of others! But…validation has nothing to do with truth so having my feelings validated didn’t make me feel any better, nor did it free me from fear.
Even though a good student, I was completely mortified in class if a teacher called on me to answer a question. Even though a successful athlete, insecurity plagued and paralyzed me when coaches singled me out. Even though church was my favorite place to be, I would break out in hives when the pastor said get up and greet other people. Even though I had a few friends, I imagined living my life without them. And even when I had a man in my life who loved me unconditionally I figured I would mess it up somehow. This “fear of man” was debilitating and impossible to hide from people.
The time came when I placed my fear before the face of God where He slaughtered it and established me on solid ground in Him! He didn’t do this by telling me how special I was and how mean others were; how unfair it was for me to be treated wrongly; or how sad that I was bullied. He didn’t let me put boundaries up to protect myself from being hurt by people, didn’t let me wallow in shyness, or let me excuse fear by hiding behind my claim of being an introvert!
Instead, He did it with truth! He replaced fear with His perfect love, the only thing capable of throwing out fear. 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
Anyone affected by fear knows the torment involved and anyone affected by the love of Jesus knows the perfection involved. His perfect love literally throws fear and torment out of our lives, assuring us of victory through Christ! Romans 8:37 “…we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
When Christ’s love replaced the lie “I was a loser” with the truth “I am more than a conqueror” the fear and anxiety I felt with people was gone! I lost my “loser” mentality and won a “winner” mindset through Jesus who perfects His love in us!
Now I’d like to say I’ve never looked back, never again struggled with “fear of man”, or it never shows up since that time! But that would be a lie! Fear hangs around constantly. It is our choice to entertain it or resist. Fear is one of the most paralyzing emotions which exist, so Satan continues to use it as one of his top weapons of choice to steal, kill, and destroy the children of God. It effectively pulls us out of God’s perfect love and into the devil’s den of doubt, disbelief, and distrust! The expression “Ignorance is bliss” is untrue in this scenario because fear either lingers under the surface or right in our face. To be ignorant of the devil’s tactics is not bliss; it is misery!
Holy Spirit recently exposed the reappearance of fear in just two specific relationships in life. He showed how I had given fear leeway hindering my ability to unconditionally love and be loved by them. I was startled by this revelation because when you “know” God helped you overcome something, then discover it threatens to once again overcome you…well… that’s not fun. On the other hand, it was a freeing moment of truth plus a relief to be reminded “He’s got my back”. See…when God reveals, He also represents! He stands up for you! I knew He was about to help me overcome once again! This time it was like God was narrating a documentary of my interaction with these people.
I SAW… that even when we appeared to be getting along, there was a constant sense of “When is something going to happen to mess it all up”. It’s a “given” we all love one another but the elephant in the room when we were together was annoying. If you ever have relationships like these, you know it’s irritating not to mention, awkward!
I SAW… that living on the edge adventurously is like living a dream while living on the edge with fear is like living a nightmare. I was on living on the edge with fear, and nightmarish it had become! I dreaded the thought of being with these people anticipating conflict and clashes. Instead of dealing with my dread, I chose to ignore and muddle through, hoping it would get better over time. Meanwhile, daunting fear returned to torment me, though I remained unaware of its presence. Thank You Jesus for telling us the truth even when it hurts!
I SAW… that I was making every attempt “not” to create discord, which undoubtedly created that very thing I was trying to avoid. See, when we spend our time trying “not” to do something instead of focusing on what “to do”, our time is wasted. In sports, it is common knowledge “playing not to lose” instead of “playing to win” means you will most likely lose, because you’re playing out of “fear of losing” instead of a winning mindset.
This revelation (aka – narrated documentary), though frustrating was also fascinating as it came suddenly and unexpectedly while studying the life of Jeremiah and his call from the Lord! Jeremiah 1:8 “Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord.” When God says “Do not be afraid” of something it’s because there is something to fear or else He wouldn’t say it! And quite frankly, sometimes people are scary and we don’t like how they look at us. We won’t overcome this fear by ignoring their looks, avoiding them, or pretending we’re not affected by them. We will overcome by trusting God to deliver us, knowing He is with us, no matter how scary they are!
I was afraid of the looks and attitude of these two people so tried to “change” how they look at me by appeasing and trying to keep them happy. I was not being who I am but still hoping they would see who I am! Weird, huh? Obviously, that doesn’t work! We can’t make people believe anything about us by showing them things we’re not! And we can’t convince or change people’s minds about us if they want to think the worst. Our efforts to do so will get us nothing more than headaches and heartaches!
With all this revelation, I assumed there would be a quick fix! I would simply repent of wandering from His perfect love and letting fear influence me and all would be well. But God said “No, that’s not it.” There’s a big difference between being controlled by fear and being influenced by it, between letting it dominate and letting it induce or persuade us. Neither is good and both are powerful means of leading astray, but the remedies are different.
The remedy for being controlled by tormenting fear is perfect love in Christ! The remedy for being free from the influence of fear is perfect trust in a God who is always with and delivers us! Fear left to influence is a reflection of failing trust in a faithful God! Simply put, I was challenged in these two relationships because I did not trust God, remember what He did, and was not embracing who I am in Christ today! Thus, I was letting the looks, words, and actions of these two people take me back to my losing mentality, embracing a “loser” identity instead of walking humbly as a “winner” in Christ!
Now lest anyone think getting revelation from God makes life “all better” and everyone involved “gets it”, that is usually not the case. However, “we” are all better when God’s Word is revealed to us. I was exhausted by my attempts to make and keep peace in these two relationships, always trying to convince them my intentions were good and motives pure. As God revealed the remedy, I was replenished and re-energized to be who I am, to be perfected in love, but also to be unafraid of their faces, BECAUSE God is with me and will deliver me!
As I sat, smiled, and soaked in the wisdom and kindness of God, I could not escape the truth once again, “His kindness and goodness leads to repentance” (Romans 2:4). Repentance is a turning away from sin and it requires effort. Though wore out by letting fear turn my attention from God toward people, in repentance I now turned toward the One who is trustworthy, and in my weakness He made me strong! The effort required to repent instead of fear is worth it, always resulting in victory!
Today, if you find yourself struggling in fear of man in any degree, in repentance, turn towards the Victor, Jesus Christ! He overcame so we can overcome! No more fear or awkwardness! Just trust Jesus! He will replace fear with His perfect love! Then He will be with you and deliver you every time fear comes back!