Her name will be “Jane” for the sake of this article, you could add on “Plain” for the rhyme but it would be far from the truth. She was smart, funny, beautiful, and extremely creative.
She came into my office visibly upset about something that had happened at work. She needed someone to talk to so she thumbed through the yellow pages and found our churches ad in the yellow pages. And though she was not a person of faith she thought, “what the heck, I will see if anybody there can help me.” Many years previous, she sat on a therapist’s couch trying to figure out what she felt and why she felt it, trying desperately to overcome her great fear of everything, but most of all, her crippling fear of rejection.
The day before, the sleeping giant awoke.
Her boss called her into his office to give her a few critiques on a recent job that she was overseeing as project manager. What in essence was simply a supervisor doing his job, sounded to her like, “you are a talent-less hack and I am very sorry I ever hired you.” She had taken every gentle critique her superior had suggested as a personal affront and left his office feeling dejected and alone.
Her years of therapy had helped her realize that she was in fact completely overreacting and she was disheartened that once again she was dealing with a debilitating anxiety that had kept her awake all night. This time, having had her fill of traditional therapy, she decided to see if God – someone whose existence she doubted, could help. She supposed that, unlike the therapist’s office, where she was asked to talk ad nauseam about her childhood, I would ask her to repent of her multiple sins. I had no intention of asking Jane for any sort of confession, nor was I going to invite her to believe better, live better, give to the church or volunteer for a bake sale.
Jane was dealing with a deep and very lonely fear of not being good enough. Good enough for what I am not sure, but it was something with which I could most definitely identify, for I struggled with this myself. In a nutshell Jane lived her life in fear, as many of us do. We all react to it in different ways. Insecurity masks itself with many faces, but the down and dirty of it is a childlike fear of not being lovable enough. There were many things I had learned prior to my meeting with Jane about this crippling emotional ailment, but only one was actually giving me the daily help I needed.
Simply this: when we feel loved, we stop being afraid.
In a very practical way, this shows itself to be true. Think about how you feel around people who love you. Those individuals that find you a joy to be around seem to “get you” and love you even though they are certainly aware of your shortcomings. When you are with these folks, you feel safe, easy, warm, …………..loved.
You are free to be yourself, knowing that you will not be judged or made fun of, you know you are fully accepted. Now think about the people in your life that you are always trying to impress. When you are around them, you find yourself embellishing who you know, how much you own, and how smart you are. After each encounter with them, you are re-living the interaction and twisting over the conversation and hoping you did not say something stupid to make them think you were a weirdo. You are unsure of how they feel about you, and you really want them to like you, so you are uneasy, insecure and not your true self, because you are afraid of rejection.
I knew then as I know now, love assuages the pangs of fear.
Unfortunately in many cases, Jane’s included; her tremendous insecurity kept her from ever being able to really have those deep, loving relationships that we all so desperately need. Shirley MacLaine writes, “Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.”
And fear plagues us all! So how in the world are we to find the fear-annihilating love that we need? Human beings are fickle, easily offended and at the drop of a hat can, because of their own fear, wound deeply. So at the risk of sounding like a big haired TV evangelist, I gently offered the idea to Jane that she (like me) needed to find her worth in a force outside of humanity… She needed to feel God’s approval.
An approval based solely upon the fact that she is a beautiful part of creation having nothing to do with behavior, doctrine or which world religion she held to. Jane needed to know in the deepest part of her that she was completely and utterly accepted by the Prime Mover of all creation, allowing her to relax in a divine love that makes no demands or judgment, and only extends grace. This idea, of course, is not original with me. Many ancient writings throughout history give voice to this beautiful reality; here is one of the more succinct:
There is no fear in love. Instead, perfect love drives fear away. Fear has to do with being punished. The one who fears does not understand God’s love. St John’s first letter
In the presence of complete and utter acceptance, fear dissipates. Unfortunately, no human has the capacity to give another complete and utter acceptance. However, many Americans have experienced nothing but rules and judgment from the organized religions of the world, causing them to believe God to be a grouchy moralistic mean old man.
So we must re-imagine what it means to be loved by “God”.
We must begin to see ourselves confident and loved. Not loved because of what we bring to the table – our talent, our circumspect lifestyles, smashing good looks or our ability to follow certain rules. Instead we are loved solely because we are created beings that live and breathe on this planet. God, (however you may see Him/Her/It) has great affection for us, and loves humanity just as we are. I invited Jane to spend time daily meditating on this truth, you are deeply loved by the Creator, who sees intrinsic value in you, the real you, the person who is full of compassion for the hurting and is passionate about so many good things. I reminded her of a truth that deep down she already knew and asked her to make it a daily mantra.
I am worth loving, because I am living.
The end of the story with Jane is simple and beautiful. She began to practice what I taught her about recognizing her lovableness and each morning before work she would sit quietly at home and ask God to come close and remind her why she was loved.
In essence Jane was able to re-imagine what God,, and then others, thought about her. In a matter of months the bulk of her fear dissipated in the cloud of love she chose to be covered in. This changed a number of things in her life, not the least of which was her ability to fall in love and marry a really great guy.
Begin re-imagining your lovableness today, find a silent corner for 20 minutes a day. Don’t speak, just be in the presence of the ONE that is ever present, and listen.
And watch your fear slowly disappear…