Fear is the enemy of virtue. Some fear is useful — keeping ahead of a grizzly bear or a tsunami helps us survive. But being haunted by bad events from long ago, like being scared by a 60-story Godzilla lumbering across the big screen, is not so helpful.
Virtue is a balancing act. To choose the best action, we draw from our strengths, experiences, knowledge, and lots of other factors, including our fears. The “fear factor” can be a clue to what is keeping us from spiritual growth.
At a talk last night, the speaker asked us to write down what we are afraid of. A fear inventory? Not fun. If I admit what I’m afraid of, it brings my weaknesses to light. Don’t want to do that. But spiritual growth means being free of old ghosts, and I do want that, so here goes.
I’m afraid of being ignored, as if it would extinguish my existence. I’m afraid of being yelled at, because the distance it puts between me and the one who’s mad is too painful – as if they’ll never love me again, ever, and I’ll disappear into outer darkness.
Looking at the two fears, I see they have a lot in common — I’m putting too much weight on what others think, even giving them power over my existence! That’s a kind of idolatry because my existence is between God and me, not between me and other people. And I wouldn’t have seen that if I had not written down those fears. I can use this new insight to search out the root of the fear, bring it to light, and wave goodbye to Godzilla.
I invite you to grab your flashlight and do the same. Write down the top two things you’re afraid of. Ask God to give you insight into those fears. Ask Him to shine his healing mercy into those dark places.
Then, write down three things you’re grateful for. Thank God for them. No matter how bad the fearful things seemed, gratitude puts them in their place. Godzilla becomes the two-dimensional man-made monster he really is.
Or as St. Paul put it: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature (including Godzilla) will be able to separate us from the love of Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8: 38-39).