- Ada, Oklahoma

November 7, 2013

What do I do with fear?

Jerry Duncan Ph.D, ABPP, Guest Writer

Ada — There are many different types of fear that we can experience in the course of a lifetime. The most significant and disabling of those fears are the ones that have to do with our relationships with others.

One of those major fears, the fear of rejection, we have already covered in a previous issue. Let’s talk about the other three.

When Robert McGee wrote The Search for Significance, many of us could identify with the dilemma of growing up in a culture that defined value and worth through achievement, accomplishment, and the approval of others. Billy Graham is quoted as saying, “Every Christian ought to read this book.” I believe he is right. Some of us need it more than others. Those of us that are “first-borns” seem to be most susceptible to the drivenness McGee describes.

In our drivenness to feel good about ourselves through achievement, accomplishment, and the approval of others, we can often be selfish, negligent users of others, only to discover that when we obtain our goal, we find ourselves feeling strangely empty after our celebration of attainment, and wonder why. In the early stages, we think we just need another goal or achievement to work toward and we will be OK. Or maybe if we can just get that one more person or group to like us we will be OK.  

The world’s model for self-esteem will always result in drivenness, at the expense of ourselves, others, and our relationships with them. It will never result in the peace and contentedness that we were designed to have.

The four fears that drive us are fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of punishment, and shame. If you want to discover which of the four you are most susceptible to, take the simple two-minute quizzes at the ends of chapters three, five, seven, and nine. 

If you are concerned about the impact of these fears on your children, take the quizzes with you children in mind. If you have teens, ask them to take the time to score themselves and talk with you about it.

God’s alternative to our culture’s definition of self-worth is to learn to see ourselves through His eyes. The way He defines our worth is very different than what we have experienced growing up on planet Earth.

He believes that we are worth the death of His son, even if we don’t believe in Him 

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (KJV).

As we address each of these fears, we will keep in mind the definition God uses to define our worth when we belong to Him. He defines His children not by what they do, but by who they are. Because of what His son did on the cross, believers are defined as deeply loved, totally forgiven, fully pleasing, accepted, and complete.

It doesn’t mean that we can’t accomplish, achieve, and work on improving our relationships with others. It just means that we do all of the above with a different motive. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men...” Colossians 3:23 (KJV) 

Our calling is to a life without fear. That will occur only if we operate from God’s definition of what defines our worth.

Dr. Duncan is a licensed and ordained minister as well as a licensed and board certified psychologist.  He has practiced in Oklahoma for the past 33 years.  He believes that Biblical truth and psychological principles can, and should be integrated in ways that honor God and his original design of mankind.