My recurring nightmare as a child was my bed was full of spiders. I would wake up yelling and my dad — volunteer fire chief for 25 years — was always the first responder. He’s my hero.
He would turn on the light, pull back the covers to show me it was safe, and tuck me back into the top bunk over and over and over … until I finally got married. Then it was someone else’s problem! Some dowry eh? My phobic fear of spiders has lessened but never disappeared.
Fear is the fundamental barrier to peace, and its a deal-breaker when it comes to leading a simplified life, Bill Hybels says in the sixth chapter: Conquering your Fears. Welcome back to my bog-crawl through Simplify. Hybels says that simplified living is about more than doing less…. It requires uncluttering your soul…. by examining core issues that lure you into frenetic living, and by eradicating the barriers that leave you exhausted and overwhelmed.
Fear has built massive barriers in my life and, with God’s help, I have spent most of my adult years dismantling them. I’m not alone.
Hybles clarifies the difference between constructive and destructive fear. We will focus on destructive fear since that is our battleground. Destructive fear is baseless, useless and crippling…. it nips away at our emotional well-being, cluttering and complicating our lives by erecting false barriers in our work, our relationships and even our recreational pursuits.
Destructive fear mutes our joy and robs us of satisfaction. It makes us anticipate the future with dread rather than exhilaration. Hybels then cites people who refused to buckle to paralyzing fear but bravely stepped out into history and changed the world: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai.
Conquering fear is tough work. The first thing you must do is NAME your fear. Hybels lists some common fears: financial pressure, relational breakdown, unexpected bad news, moral failure, impending mortality. What are you afraid of?
Here’s how to craft a strategy to overcome your fear:
STEP 1: Understand fear’s origin. Can you identify the source? My arachnophobia began as a result of some innocent child’s play. My cousin would catch daddy longlegs spiders, pull off a couple of the legs and then drop them down my shirt. No matter if I ran, she was faster and she always caught me. That feeling of helplessness, knowing I could not escape, carried over into my dreams.
STEP 2: Expose fear’s lies: What are the lies that fuel this fear? All spiders are dangerous, creepy, and terrifying. Spiders will hurt me. Why do these lies seem believable? Some spiders are poisonous! But the truth is, most are not. There are virtually NO dangerous spiders that share my habitat in southern Alberta. Having long legs isn’t creepy, it’s sexy! (ok, I’m trying really hard here. Cut me some slack!)
STEP 3: Face Fear Head-On: What is one baby step you will take to face this fear? Forget it Hybels! No way! I will NOT be touching any spiders in the near future, or ever! Long deep breath …….. Movin’ on. Before you judge me a coward, ask how I overcame 12 years of crippling fear of public speaking.
STEP 4: Speak Words of Truth:
- Self talk: What strengths do I possess that will help me say no to this fear? What is the logical truth that most people believe about this fear? I am bigger than all spiders and I can squish them. All the spiders in my neighbourhood are harmless. When I travel to poisonous spider zones, I will take strong sedatives — ha ha, just kidding…sorta…. No, the truth is I have found spiders IN MY BED on occasion in other peoples’ homes and I have managed to kill or chase them off and then sleep undisturbed. I remind myself of this when the fear rises.
- Scripture: memorize one or two verses to recite when fear grabs you. I wish I were that spiritual! When gripped by fear, I am paralyzed. Scripture does not spring to mind. Maybe this is why I offer a weekend retreat called Hope for the Rest of Us: when sainthood eludes you, God can still use you!
- Prayer: What specific requests do you want God to answer re: your fear? You want specific? Would I be out of line to ask that He eradicate all spiders from the face of the earth? Knowing that’s pretty unlikely, I do request that He allows me to overcome my fear without ever having to willfully touch a spider in this lifetime. Also, it would be great to be able to brush one off me without doing the Freak-Out Dance and risk breaking a hip.
How about you? Does fear rob you of peace? What do you do to beat it into submission?