Step Four – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves as writers and of our writing.
How many of our actions and mistakes are created by fear? Many think that the opposite of fear is courage, but our Lord tells us that the opposite of fear is love. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”(1 John 4:18) As children of the light we are called to live in love. Love of our God, love of our neighbor and love of ourselves.
It is easy for us as Christians and Catholics to love God. It is possible, with God’s grace, to learn to forgive and love our neighbors. However the hardest love that we struggle with is often the struggle to forgive and love ourselves. We know our sins. We remember our past. We feel unworthy of all the gifts that God has bestowed on us, especially the gift of writing. That fear paralyses us. It holds us back from reaching our full potential. Let’s face it—it keeps us from using our gift to reach those who need to hear about God’s love. The Bible says a lot about fear. In fact the verse, “Be not afraid” is the most used phrase in the Word of God.
We learn fear as children. Some fears are good. We should be afraid of a hot stove. We should be afraid to run into a busy street without taking the time to look both ways. Unfortunately, we develop fears that limit us or even cause us to sin. When we look at our defects of character and the sins we have committed, the driving force behind the sin is often fear. We are afraid of people who are different than ourselves. That fear has been the basis of prejudice, war and untold pain in the history of humanity. We strike out at others as a protection, acting with boldness to cover the fear we truly feel. We may do things to hide who we truly are or lie because we are afraid of being judged. We commit sin because we are afraid that God won’t love and protect us, and then we lie or hide like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden because of the shame we feel.
We need to confront our fears, pulling them out of the darkness and into the light, and the only way to do that is to be honest with ourselves. Think of the fears that have caused you to sin and ask yourself what the true fear was. When you make a list of your past sins and mistakes, ask yourself what the fear really was. Are you afraid of rejection? Or are you afraid of being alone? Are you afraid of heights, closed spaces or public speaking? Can you remember the first time you felt that fear? What happened?
Are you afraid of illness, death or infirmity? What in your past may have caused that fear? Do you fear being mocked or being laughed at? Are you afraid of crowds, or the death of loved ones? Do you fear failure or success? Take the time to pray. Ask Jesus to show you your fears. After you have made a list of your most prominent fears, write the times that that fear caused you to sin against God or another person. You will soon find a pattern that links many of your sins to one or two prominent fears. How do we overcome those fears? We have to admit them and then turn those fears over to God. Fear is a matter of control. When we turn that control over to God, we can be healed. We will start to recognize that fear as something familiar when it raises its nasty head. We can turn that anxiety over to God immediately. He will heal us if we ask Him to.
Fear is often the root of our sins of omission. How often has fear prevented us from reaching out to others? How often have we hidden behind our computer – turning down the chance to share our writing and our beliefs because we were afraid of being rejected, mocked or judged? We have been given a gift that was meant to be opened, not hidden. Fear colors our work and our writing career. Often as writers, we limit ourselves, unable to take chances because we are afraid of what others may think of us. We give into our fear of public speaking when to do so would promote our work. We limit our dreams and don’t take chances because we are afraid of failure. I was surprised when God revealed that I limited myself because of a fear of success. I was taught to step back, and not ‘stand out’ because others wouldn’t like me if I succeeded. A little bit of success was okay, just not too much.
Eleanor Roosevelt said “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
If you turn your fears over to God, He will give you opportunities to overcome your fears. He is gentle—taking small steps. For example, once I faced my fear of public speaking and turned that fear over to him, He presented me with opportunities to speak to small groups and led me gently.
So this week, as we continue working step four, let’s recognize, admit and turn our fears over to the One we need never fear. His Love will guide us in our prayer. He will lead us through the dark valley and to the healing waters. Both our spirits and our writing will be refreshed.
Karen Kelly Boyce is a mother of two and grandmother of two who lives on a farm in N.J. with her retired husband. She and her husband love to camp and take ‘road trips’ around the country. She has published four novels and three children’s books. Her website is www.karenkellyboyce.com