Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Paralyzed by Fear

I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.
Moroni 8:16

In a rather tearful conversation with my father recently, he said something that struck through my heart and lodged there. After quoting the above scripture, he said, "fear also casts out love."

That is when it struck me. I have been living in fear for far too long. Fear has become my shroud, my protection against the world. Even my faith is motivated by fear, fear that all my efforts will not be enough to utilize the Atonement and return me Home. I am afraid people in my life will be turned against me by a good lie and a happy mask. I am afraid that I am unmodifiable, that I am like clay with too many inclusions, that the Lord will someday give up in disgust and move on to work with purer material. I am afraid that no matter what I do, my daughters will grow to hate me and I'll be alone. I'm afraid that I'm not learning fast enough, that I'll never be good enough.

All these fears mean that I'm aimed to fail in my quest for charity before I even begin. No wonder I'm floundering, feeling lost. No wonder I'm failing to let that pure love of Christ root in my heart. The fear-crows are plucking out the seeds as soon as they sprout.

The problem is that I have no idea how to get rid of fear. Theoretically, perfect love will cast it out for me. But that leaves me in somewhat of a quandary.


  1. It is common for women to feel and express more socially acceptable fear than less socially acceptable anger. So fear often means that there is anger underneath.

    Men do the opposite.

  2. Sometimes a goal is only reached through indirection. I think attaining "perfect love" and thus being totally free of fear is one of them.

    There is a time for introspection, and a time to just tell that nagging, negative, incessant inner voice to "Be quiet!" and turn your focus outwards.

    Unless you think God lies, you know intellectually that there is NO WAY that the Lord will ever give up on you, and it doesn't matter how slowly you learn. You know that no one is ever "good enough" in this life, but that the Atonement truly does enable us to continually repent, be forgiven, and thus be "acceptable" to the Lord--even as we continue to work on overcoming our weaknesses and imperfections.

    Think of your negative thoughts as temptations designed to suck you into a black hole of despair--which they are--and flee from them by turning your attention outwards in service to your girls, your co-workers, your ward members, neighbors, or others with whom you can interact positively.

    All of us who have come to admire, appreciate and love you through your blogging are praying for you, so take heart, and know that there really will be better days ahead!

  3. Fear and doubt are related. Doubt and faith cannot co-exist. The question of "how do I get rid of fear" can be rephrased "how can I strengthen my faith."

    Do those simple things that you have always done- pray, read the scriptures, ponder God's love. Remember past spiritual experiences. Your fear will be replaced with faith.

    The challenge, as it is for all of us, is that this is a process that takes time. It may be difficult to see any progress. Hang in there!

  4. "I have been living in fear for far too long. Fear has become my shroud, my protection against the world."

    Your insight about fear and love/faith is a good one. I would just say that you shouldn't beat yourself up about it taking "too long" for you to realize it, or to get to this point.

    Recovery from a life crisis takes as long as it takes. There aren't any shortcuts and the only way through is through. You are doing the best you can and that's always good enough.

    I've enjoyed your blog for a long time, and I wish you all the best.

  5. Just yesterday I was asked to talk at a youth gathering based on the new Youth theme scripture for this year. It totally applies to your post:

    "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." Joshua 1:9

    The previous verses in that chapter are helpful to understanding how. Keeping the commandments and meditating on the scriptures are two things I saw in that chapter.

    Being courageous doesn't always mean an absence of fear, it can mean doing the right thing even when you do have fear. As you go forward with some fear, you'll be strengthened and the fear will subside. Recognize when God sustains you and you'll come to rely on him more, he will be your strength.

    I feel dumb giving you any advice at all though. After serious life-altering trials it can be understandable to have fear. Things happened to you that you never imagined would happen, your security was torn away. It takes time to recover from that and realize you will be OK.

    Your children will look back and be amazed at your strength and faith, they will appreciate your great example. I feel like hugging you, keeping you safe with me while you recover your safety and strength. Love to you and best wishes for a better year in 2010.

  6. I totally understand the feeling of living in fear. I’ve lived with it for at least a year. There are some things that you can do to help, some of which are spiritual, some of which are medical, some of which are psychological.

    First, whenever you recognize you are feeling fearful, pray and tell Heavenly Father about it. Tell Him what you are fearing, tell Him why you think you feel that way, and ask Him to help you not to fear.

    Second, if there are certain situations that make you fear, spend some time thinking about what exactly you fear will happen. What is the worst case scenario? This is exercise is not meant to make you freak out, but to help you to deal with any vague, nebulous fears you might have so that you know exactly what you are uneasy about. Knowing what exactly it is can help you deal with it better via prayer, etc.

    Third, if you find that your fears are preventing you from completing ordinary everyday duties and if you have suffered from fear for a long period of time, you may have some sort of anxiety disorder. Research anxiety on the internet to see if the symptoms that you are having match with known symptoms. Talk to your doctor about what you are feeling. You may find medication for anxiety to be helpful. (I did.)

    Fourth, one of the signs of the times is that “men’s hearts shall fail them”. I have noticed that more people are feeling anxiety and fear recently. You are not alone. Life is scary. We need extra faith. Faith involves action and keeping the commandments. We also need hope. We hope for eternal life and trust in the promises that have been made to us.

  7. Dear friend,
    The thought occurred to me as I was reading the comments, that all those who commented on this post did so because they want your success and care about you, even though they have never known you personally in this life, they desire your success.
    Perhaps they understand to some degree that you are our sister, someone we cared about deeply. Though now we see through the looking glass darkly, your success is still paramount and equal to my own desire to succeed, and a myriad of others. if we then, imperfect and myopic as we are, can still desire the healing and success of our sister, how much more does Heavenly Father and Christ who clearly know you, who clearly see the valiant spirit within you, How much more do they desire your success?
    Our success consumes all their thoughts; everything they do is based on the desire for our success. They want you to succeed more than you want you to succeed, more than you want your daughters to succeed, more than your Dad and Mom want you to succeed; It is the very desire of their hearts.

    Fear can be a good motivator if it inspires one to do and be better, but self defeating fear comes from the great deceiver who desires your destruction.
    Fears of inadequacy, self reflection, strivings from within to be more… be better; and yes, pain and tears, are a part of growth, if they inspire you to push forward and make positive changes in your life.

    I have come to realize that this life is probably not long enough for me to become the person I truly desire to be, but my hope is that the Savior can help me become that person, (Christ’s atonement is truly a gift) and he will plead for me before the Father.

    My desire is to have a great reunion with all those I once knew, and there will be laughter, tears, hugs, healing and love. Therefore my sister we must press forward, feasting on the words of Christ and following his example, relying on his atonement.


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