What do you fear most?

  • Failure
  • Ridicule
  • Rejection
  • The dark
  • Snakes or spiders, or both
  • Dealing with the past
  • Death
  • Something else

Although there are persons we may call fearless, most people fear something. Often fear is healthy because it keeps us out of trouble. For instance, fear of injury or worse keeps us from running into the highway in front of a trailer truck. We wouldn’t purposely walk into a nest of rattlesnakes or black widow spiders because their bites are poisonous. We respect the authority of the law because to disobey means we will suffer the consequences. A healthy fear is protective.

An excessive fear of anything is called a phobia. This kind of fear is mentally and physically paralyzing. Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes and is the second most common phobia in the world. Arachnophobia, fear of spiders, is another common one. Some people fear being in high places: acrophobia. Fear of closed spaces is claustrophobia. My understanding is that these excessive fears may be overcome with therapy.

Fear of failure, ridicule, and rejection are common to many of us, and they often stand in the way of us making friends, speaking up for what we believe, or trying something new. We refuse the opportunity to speak at a public gathering because we’re afraid we won’t be able to express ourselves properly, or we’ll be ridiculed or rejected for the stand we take. For a musician, a public performance means the possibility of playing or singing a wrong note and embarrassing him/herself. Authors may refuse to submit their work to a publisher for fear that their writing isn’t good enough or will be rejected by the publisher. A bad experience may trigger fear, but pride is often the source of these fears. It’s difficult to laugh at ourselves or to say, “I goofed, but I’ll do better next time.”

In my first published novel, Meadow Song, Jack Chambers has closed his heart to the possibility of marrying Kate because past experiences with the death of loved ones has left him fearful of such a commitment.

“At the wedding I thought I wanted to talk, but it’s too hard, Kate, too hard to love someone and lose her. You should understand. Look at my brother. Look at you and Tim. And Blythe.” Jack’s voice broke, and he shook his head. “I can’t.” (p. 68)

In Heart’s Desire, to be released in March, 2021, by Mantle Rock Publishing, Aubrey White faces a different kind of fear. Aubrey, having grown up with three brothers, always faces challenges with a competitive spirit and a desire to win. In this scene, she is held back by the fear that she might not succeed in her attempt to renew a lost friendship.

“Aubrey remained firm in her resolve not to go to Wellsburg, but she didn’t want to hurt Jeremy. She kept hearing the disappointment in his voice. “Love must be tough” was the title of a book, but it was a reality as well. Tough to say no, tough to be patient and wait, tough not to have enough time together. The idea kept intruding that she was afraid to confront Haleigh head-on. For the last five years she believed that one day she might reestablish her relationship with Jeremy’s sister. That day had become now, a necessity for Jeremy’s sake, if she hoped for a future with him. But Haleigh’s twenty-first birthday party wasn’t the right time or place.”

We face fears at many times throughout our lives. Some fears keep us safe, but other kinds hold us back from achievements or relationships. While thinking about fear, I remembered a verse from God’s Word written by the apostle John in 1 John 4:18.

“There is not fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

 Depending on the particular situation we are in, this admonition may or may not help us overcome the fear of snakes or spiders. I think, however, when we must make ourselves vulnerable by speaking or performing publicly, or when we let someone else read what we have written, or when we voice an unpopular opinion or conviction, or we face death, the knowledge of God’s unconditional love for us and the love we hold in our hearts for God and for others can help us to be fearless in the face of opposition or the unknown.

I personally have not achieved perfect fearlessness, but it is one of my goals to become less fearful.