Fear: The Faithful Frenemy (& How to Unfriend It)

If you’re anything like me, fear is part of your morning routine. Wake up, get dressed, brush your teeth, worry about something. I’m an Enneagram 6, and while I try my best to avoid thinking in worst-case scenarios, they still come up quite a bit. There are many different types of fears, so even if you don’t experience the day to day worries, I can bet you have your own fears that are taking up space in your heart. They may be deeper, they may be covered up, they may be so far in the back corners of your heart that it would take some serious soul searching to realize they are there at all. What is it for you?

Fear, in a general sense, is something that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As I was growing up, my family constantly went above and beyond to ensure my sister and I were “safe” at all times. For some kids, I’m sure this would make them feel like the most well-protected kids in the world (because we were). But for me, for some reason, it made me feel even more unsafe. Like if every single precaution wasn’t taken, if the alarm wasn’t put on for one night, if (fill in the blank) didn’t happen just once, I was in immediate danger. As I grew up, my family began to express their love for me in concern. Don’t drive by yourself at night. Lock your door if you step outside even for a second. Don’t give money to people on the side of the road. These are precautious words, spoken only out of love for me, but somewhere along the line, I began to equate love with fear. I began to think that loving someone means smothering them with protection so you don’t lose them. And while being safe and taking precautions is smart, that’s not the godly love I’ve come to know. Love isn’t fear. It isn’t worry. Actually, the Bible says that there isn’t any fear in love (1 John 4). Love is freedom.

Your fears might look like mine, or they might not. Maybe your fear is something deeper-rooted, like a fear of rejection or a fear of inadequacy. Maybe you have a fear of change or a fear of being judged. Maybe you have a fear of commitment or not being enough. I would be lying if I said I didn’t experience these types of fears, too. Something I have learned recently is that the more we let our fears take residence in our hearts, the more comfortable with them become. They become a faithful frenemy. Faithful because we know its always there to fall back on. It disguises itself as a friend, as a protection in a way, because as long as you’re friends with your fear, you’ll never have to face it. We grow comfortable with our fears because the only thing worse would be facing them.

If you want to look at fear as your friend, I’ll tell you what kind of friend it actually is. Maybe it does protect you from getting hurt sometimes, but it is also the friend that puts you down whatever chance it gets. Its the friend that takes you to the mirror to point out everything wrong with you. Its the friend that lies and cheats you. Its the selfish friend who takes the best parts of life for itself, leaving behind little scraps for you to pick up in envy of what you could have had. It is the friend that holds your hand when you’re dangling off the cliff, only to let you fall. Its the friend that sits you on the bench out of “protection” while everyone else is playing on the field. Its the friend that stabs you in the back, causing the worst pain of all because you thought for so long it was keeping you safe. So maybe fear isn’t really a friend. Fear is an enemy.

I don’t know what fear your facing, but I can tell you this. The longer we sit complacent with our fears, the more life we will miss out on, the more blessings that God has for us will pass us by. God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear. Instead, knowing we will have to face our fears, he gives us the tools to successfully defeat them- power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Most importantly, he gives us the promise that the victory is already won in him. But it is up to us to recognize the fears in our lives and face them head-on.

More than anything, fear is a lie. It is a lie that keeps us from receiving all that God has for us in this life. And it can affect others. My holding hands with a fear I have instead of facing it could potentially block a blessing from someone else. God wants us to first and foremost love himself and others, and something that most, if not all, fears have in common is that they distort love. We can’t fully love others and God wants us to if we are full of fear. It isn’t fair to ourselves and to others to let fear hold us back anymore. We have to face fear head-on and with lots of prayer.

So, how do we unfriend the fear in our lives, calling it out for the liar that it is? I don’t have all the answers, but I have a few tips to get you started:

  1. Pray about how Jesus beat this fear in his life. Jesus was the perfect example of perfect love. Pray to him and ask him how his love conquered the fear you have. For example, if you realize that you struggle with the fear of being judged, pray and study the Bible to see how Jesus dealt with the judgment of others. 
  2. Face it daily. I once heard in a podcast that a man had a fear of rejection. He was tired of the grip it had on his life, so one day he decided to face the fear until it no longer had power over him. Every day, he asked someone a ridiculous favor that the answer would obviously be a “no” to. He would ask random people in stores to give him a ride to another state, ask for thousands of dollars. It may sound crazy, and he said how hard it was at first until one day he realized he didn’t care about rejection at all anymore.
  3. Find your identity as a child of God and see how God has loved you. The Bible is full of stories and letters expressing who we are in Christ. I encourage you to pray on your identity in that and to ask God how he has been the exact opposite of the fear you face. For example, if you struggle with a fear of commitment, ask God to show you how He has been committed to you, and what that looks like in his eyes. Pray for a heart to grow more and more like him.

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