Updated: Aug 20, 2019
In Hiding: A Fear Problem
The world has a fear problem and it hides behind hate and judgment for protection. We form outlooks based on our life experiences and build our walls along the way in a desperate attempt to protect our hearts in what can sometimes feel like a cruel and uncaring world. Ultimately, we’re all scared of rejection and kicked enough times, the most tender of us can become hardened through our pain.
Especially in our formative years, we make unconscious assumptions and adopt coping mechanisms to deal with the scary stuff we don’t understand. As a little girl growing up in the mid 1970’s in Mobile, Alabama, I remember fear being a real part of my daily school life in the first and second grade. Differences among the student body divided us even at that young age. In fact, division was so strong that it felt a bit like walking into a cage full of predatory animals that were known natural enemies being forced to live together.
Although racial tensions were heated at that time, the division wasn’t all racial. I also recall many fights of people of the same race over all kinds of issues. I lived in fear of offending anyone and tried my best to just be “invisible.”
Never Truly Alone
My fear started on the school bus. When I stepped on that bus each day, I felt totally and completely alone. Many days, fistfights would breakout on the ride to and from school.
By the time I reached school, I was already terrified and still had to muster up the courage to get through each day – never knowing when to expect more hatred and violence to pop up and steal my sense of security. I quickly learned that it didn’t pay to be different in any way or to risk saying or doing anything that might ignite the flames of hostility.
I didn’t care about the differences leading to the violence, I just longed for peace. However, the battle lines had been drawn. I was a peace-loving child and there was no peace to be found.
Even with my desire for unity, I was affected and at times compared myself to others, drawing lines of division in my own mind. I might feel superior to the person on my right but inferior to the person on my left.
What is it that causes us to compare ourselves to those around us?
Impossible Standards: Measuring Up
Our sense of worth is often dependent on measuring up to or surpassing the standards of others. When we don’t live up to the Pinterest hype, we assume that we are “failing at life” so tear down others – people who are different – to build up our fragile egos. We use those around us like steps of a ladder, to climb out of our pits of low self worth. If you turn on the news or scroll through social media, I’m sure agree that not much has really changed since my childhood. Human nature and behaviors are unaffected by modern conveniences. We consider ourselves as evolved beyond it all, but are we?
The school bus and playground fights look different now. Maybe more often fists aren’t swinging literally, but the words hang in the air on our computers and phone screens inflicting their blows all the same. Cyber bullying is at an all-time high and it’s not just among kids.
Our differences are many, and we can hide behind them as justifications of our value. When our differences are questioned, our very worth seems to come into question. The lines can be drawn along many different battle fields: politics, religion, race, intellectual opinions, sports, and on and on…
It’s complicated because growing up in poverty and being looked down upon because of my financial situation wounded me deeply. Therefore, I have always had compassion for those who suffer for any reason. I would never want to cause others to feel judged the way I did; yet over time, the Holy Spirit began to deal with me about specific areas of pride I needed to address within myself. It’s as if I had an invisible measuring line within me with marks I felt I must measure up to.
These marks defined worth and success for me. The Lord began to reveal that I was defining my worth through intellect.
Growing up, my one saving grace in the midst of the shame of the poverty I lived in had been that I was a very good student. Some subjects came easily and I excelled. Others I worked at to the point of exhaustion because, somehow, I learned along the way that I could be noticed and receive words of affirmation for academic achievement. If I worked hard enough, I could pay the price for love and acceptance.
At home it often seemed to go unnoticed…I felt unnoticed, but at school I was a somebody. It felt good when others, in their moments of panic, automatically turned to me before the pop quiz desperately hurling questions about what might be on the test. In fact, it was empowering.
I could cling to this for my self-worth but what was I unconsciously thinking about those other kids who were coming to me for the right answers? What kind of bitterness was I feeling toward those who seemed to have everything without having to work for it the way I did?
Years later as an adult, I was sure that I had put that season of my life behind me. I was wrong. The areas where God wanted me to grow were not glaringly obvious to me. My wrong attitudes disguised themselves as thankfulness for my advantages.
I began to consider that if my worth is defined by intellect, what happens if I get in a car accident and suffer a brain injury? If my value is defined through physical appearance, what happens when that fades? If I’m measuring myself against others, what does that say about their worth if I judge myself to be better in any way?
One day, as I overheard my own children squabbling about their differences, my eyes were opened to how my own attitudes were grieving the Holy Spirit. There, I experienced holy heartbreak with the understanding that this is how we make Him feel when we elevate our own “differences” as better than or an advantages above others. The Lord created all of us - UNIQUELY - and we are all precious to Him.We all have something this world needs. Consider the following scriptures from 1 Corinthians 12:14-25:
“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”
Judgment is a slippery slope to slide down. Is the child born with any disorder, even my baby girl who died due to a chromosomal abnormality, any less valuable in His eyes then the Albert Einsteins of this world? We are ALL His creation just like my children are on a certain level my creation.
It pierces my heart when my children fight or look down upon each other. I want them to love each other because of their differences. They are family and they are mine and they can be there for each other, building each other up instead of tearing each other down. I love each one and when judgmental hateful words are spoken to the other, I as their parent witness the damage. Because of their free will I’m powerless to stop it, and it hurts my heart. It also pierces my heart when they think they need to compare themselves to each other or feel they are less or more than each other because of their differences. Our heavenly Father wants us to stop lashing out at each other because of our differences and love each other in spite of them.
Like my children can make me feel, so we are making Father God feel. His heart breaks when we think we are superior to others and justified in our anger and hatred. Because He is a good Father, He loves all of us as His children. He wants us to see each other’s pains and needs and be able to look beyond ourselves to love and help each other, because that’s what family’s supposed to do.