I have come to respect the considerable damage unrecognized fear can inflict on individuals, families, communities, even entire organizations. Unrecognized fear is the hidden iceberg that smashes to smithereens the things we most value. It can be our fear that hinders us from reaching our God-given potential. It can be our fear that smothers the life God wants to grow in our character and identity. Just think about how many times Jesus encountered fear in other people. The fear may have been expressed in anger or abandonment, as some people simply walked away, some lashed out, others wanted to kill the Prince of Peace.
One of the reasons unrecognized fear wreaks so much havoc is because fear is often the symptom of a bigger problem: missing maturity. Missing maturity means we are not fully grown and developed for our age and stage of life. Something in our character is underdeveloped that needs to be cultivated. Missing maturity happens because of good things that are missing or because bad things happen that should not happen. The Life Model calls this Type A and Type B traumas.
Scripture says the earth cannot bear the strain of this hidden iceberg in people who are given great responsibility and authority. Putting unprepared, immature individuals in positions of authority to manage power and prosperity is intolerable, even catastrophic. (1)
While our brain is wired for self-preservation, of which fear is the urgent response to fight, flee or freeze from a threat, fear is good for about 90 seconds before something needs to change. (2) Staying stuck in fear can be toxic to our health and disruptive to our relationships. Many disorders and much detriment happens to our body and mind when processing breaks down in the brain’s emotional control center. (3)
Our emotional brain has two types of fear responses. There is the subcortical-driven fear we need Skill 2 (Soothe Myself) and 15 (Quiet Interactively) in order to quiet, then there is the fear we need Skill 11 (Return to Joy) to regulate and return to a joyful connection. (4) The good news is, God designed us for joy, not fear. We are created for glad-to-be-together joy where eyes sparkle and smiles light up a room! Joy is the fuel to develop earned maturity, but first, we must address what is stunting our growth.
Unless we identify the roadblocks to forward progress, our marriages and relationships buckle under the strain of what’s missing that we need, or what is present that we do not need. As Christ-followers, we lose our credibility when we try to be strong in areas we are still weak and stunted. After all, others can often see our weaknesses better than we can!
We can embrace our fears and deficiencies as an opportunity for healing and transformation. We can lay down the self-justifications that protect us from feeling weak or ashamed. As the wise Dr. Jim Wilder shared recently at the Transform event in San Antonio, growth starts in areas of weakness. The irony of self-preservation is when our brain stays stuck in this mode for too long, we actually do ourselves great harm by distancing ourselves from the people and opportunities that can lead to growth. What things or people are you most trying to avoid?
Because fear can be a sign of immaturity, Skill 8, Identify Maturity, helps us find areas in our character that need some attention. Thanks to the roadmap Skill 8 offers, I have become a better father to my sons, a more available husband to my wife and a wiser leader, more aware of my limitations and shortcomings. Learn more about maturity from the work of Dr. Jim Wilder and join me for the upcoming “Reach Your God-given Potential” weekend this September to learn how Skill 8 can change your life.
- Agur, Proverbs 30:21-23
- I give credit to Dr. Jim Wilder for this perspective.
- Learn more about the Pain Processing Pathway from the work of Dr. Karl Lehman.
- Track Three of THRIVE goes into great detail on this as well as the THRIVE-at-Home courses and THRIVE video series.