I’ve Been A Prisoner of Fear
And Never Knew Freedom Was So Close
Fear appears to be the defining characteristic of our society.
Fear of what might happen.
Fear of what might not happen.
We get so busy being afraid, worried, or anxious, that we’re completely unable to appreciate anything good about today. Fear hijacks our ability to see any beauty in our present moment, demanding we focus our attention on trying to protect ourselves. I’m not talking about social fears—like, personal insecurities or anxiety—those are better addressed by an expert in psychology.
But rather, I’m interested in exploring how we let other people make us afraid. I’ve let other people make me fearful my entire life, incessantly trying to act like I wasn’t.
What makes you afraid?
Blaming the news media for creating fear is an easy and justifiable target. Fear keeps us glued to the talking heads so we’re better prepared for the horrible things that are about to happen. The adrenaline rush of being afraid makes us feel like we’re doing something when situations feel helpless. But we’re not actually doing anything except twisting ourselves up into ulceric knots.
It’s like a drug addiction promising ultimate fulfillment, always just out of reach.
You see how dangerous this can be as you begin noticing how more and more people use fear to engender your loyalty.
It’s not just the newscasters and their ad-revenue-driven need for viewers. Politicians say, “You won’t believe what will happen to our society if (the other person) is elected!” Be afraid, be very afraid, they scream from their bully pulpits. Religion has also relied on fear for centuries. “You should be very afraid of what will happen if you don’t believe what we’re telling you,” they indoctrinate. The faith leaders we were hoping would show us how to have hope, have instead shown us how to cultivate fear.
Politicians and preachers become dangerously aligned as they choose the same tactics and topics to create fear in their constituents—creating a common enemy in order to build unity—effectively pitting us against each other. This is abusive behavior.
It’s the horrific fear of what might happen if they leave, that keeps most people in abusive situations. What ideas or groups are you afraid of leaving behind out of fear of what might happen to you?
This Is Why We’re So Disconnected From Each Other
Many of us have chosen to align with dangerously domineering voices, subjecting ourselves to their teachings which create increasingly myopic perspectives through which to see the world. Imbedded in their teachings is a giant dose of fear about what the opposite side is doing or saying that is wrong or dangerous, and that will certainly lead to the impediment of our ability to keep believing what we believe.
If you’re a parent, can you imagine telling your child that things in this world are only going to get worse, and that the answer is to simply stay within these walls and you’ll be safe? With locked doors and curtains closed you preach, “If you go outside people will persecute you. They won’t understand you. We’re going to wait this out, believing the reward we are going to get at the end is going to be worth it all.” This sounds crazy, but I know many people who are living this way.
When someone comes along and says, “Maybe there’s a different way of looking at things!” they get attacked by those convinced they must hold on to the paradigm they’ve grown comfortable with. Labeled as dangerous, these voices must be stopped, and people warned about their illegitimacy.
When you start seeing this as a predictable tactic it becomes easier to see the self-righteous Emperor has no clothes.
What Have I Been Afraid Of?
I was afraid of getting beat up on the playground as a kid. That was a realistic fear—it happened (more than once). I also learned at a young age to be afraid of hell—eternal damnation that you just hope you can escape.
But my biggest fear has always had to do with what other people thought about me—strangers, family, friends, everyone. Everything I would do, even to the detriment of my own health and sanity, was done to make sure that everyone else thinks favorably of me. With this as my perspective, I couldn’t help but believe that everyone was loving me solely on my performance. Understandably, I became a really good performer—both on-stage and off.
I created my own captor and decided it held the truth for how I should view myself.
These imagined negative voices told me to be afraid of what might happen if I step out of line. Find the safest and easiest way to keep the most people happy with me and I’ll be fine, I thought, never imagining that my own happiness was being asassinated.
I’m learning now that my need to control what people think about me has been rooted in a fear of being abandoned. I’ve been afraid of being abandoned by people whose love I thought I so desperately needed to survive. Turns out I was wrong, fortunately—I could survive! And I also discovered that I was more loved than I previously imagined.
My journey toward freedom began when I finally got fed up wearing a cloak of fear everywhere I went. I wanted to believe that a life of joy, peace, love, and hope would be better than the life I had been living where I tried to control every relationship and situation, and then would find myself buried under the fear of what might happen if things don’t go my way. This led to a blossoming of hope that maybe, just maybe, I could find another way to live that wasn’t dictated by fear.
This has mostly been a very personal spiritual experience between me and God. But I also found a great counselor who has helped to legitimize some of my fears, but also to expose the crippling thinking behind most of them—for instance, asking me questions like, “how bad would it be to be alone?” And then the pandemic hit, and I got so much alone time that I had to develop a love for my life that didn’t rely on anyone else.
I am now living in a place where I feel I have nothing to prove, and legitimately, nothing to lose. This is the freedom I’ve only dreamed about.
My fear was my responsibility—an uninformed choice to believe half-truths. But now my joy is my new responsibility.
One of the most repeated phrases in the Bible is “fear not” or “don’t be afraid,” so obviously God thinks it’s important for us to not live lives of fear. When I believe that I’m held securely in the hands of God, filled with divine unconditional love, I am free to be brave. What would you do if you let go of fear, let go of what might happen, let go of what people might think about you…what would you be freed up to do?
Trusting in God’s continual presence and power, you are enabled to live Joshua 1:9, and be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
This is my invitation to you to come out of the bunker. You’ve been hurt and abused. And it makes sense that you’re weary of moving out into the world outside the safe confines you’ve grown accustomed to. I’m not saying to throw away healthy boundaries and wisdom for how to live and interact with others. But I wonder if the paradigm you’ve been told to believe might be holding you back from seeing how loved and free you (and everyone else) truly are. And how the possibilities of how we can use our unique gifts to serve, help, and enjoy each other are endless, regardless of our political or religious affiliations.
You have more power than you know to escape the shackles of fear that you’ve allowed to be placed on you. The keys to your jail cell door are in your hands.
I wrote a book about my journey of learning to let go of fear and other demons, and how you can do the same. It’s called “Losing Control: Finding Freedom By Letting Go” and you can find it on Amazon, Audible, or on my website.