Based on the Journey to Freedom manual, this study guide is about learning to overcome fear and facing life with courage. Like the other study guides in the Journey to Freedom series, this study will help people change the things in their life that keep them from fulfilling their purpose and living their life to its fullest potential.
Other guides in the series include:
978-1-4185-0770-1 The Journey to a Life of Significance: Freedom from Low Self Esteem
978-1-4185-0771-8 The Journey to a New Beginning After Loss: Freedom from the Pain of Grief and Disappointment
978-1-4185-0769-5 The Journey to Healthy Living: Freedom from Body Image and Food Issues
About the Author
Scott Reall's passion for helping people break free from life controlling issues began while serving as Senior Wellness Director for the Green Hills YMCA in Nashville, TN. Though his primary role was consultation with members regarding their fitness goals, he recognized other personal challenges including depression, loneliness, substance abuse, eating disorders, and codependency. In 1994, Scott began facilitating a recovery group at the Green Hills YMCA similar to the Twelve Step recovery group of ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS®. Six years and hundreds of participants later, Scott collaborated with the Middle Tennessee YMCA system to expand the Twelve Step groups into other YMCAs and out of this partnership emerged Restore Ministries. Scott and his wife are the parents of three grown children.
Read an Excerpt
JOURNEY TO LIVING WITH COURAGE
Freedom from Fear
By SCOTT REALL
Copyright © 2008 Scott Reall
All right reserved.
THE FEAR-BASED LIFE
Fear takes many forms-dread, worry, panic, anxiety, self-consciousness, superstition, and negativity-and manifests itself in many ways-avoidance, procrastination, judgment, control, agitation, and perfectionism, to name just a few. Fear is our constant companion. It haunts us day and night and prevents us from living to our potential. Whether we are afraid of the dark or of being alone, failure or commitment, public speaking or flying, fear dominates our lives, affecting nearly every decision we make. -THOM RUTLEDGE, from Embracing Fear and Finding the Courage to Live Your Life
Fear can destroy the spirit and sap the energy out of our daily existence. It causes us to withdraw from the adventure of life. It stifles our creativity, because we fear the unknown. We stop dreaming, believing, reaching, loving, and ultimately, living.
Fear drives us to seek control of our entire existence, which ultimately makes life spin further out of control. In his book The Voice of the Heart: A Call to Full Living, Dr. Chip Dodd writes that fear brings us strength and allows us to experience risk and dependency. Ultimately, it makes us realize we need help. But if we perceive fear as a weakness we will likely respond to it with our own efforts to control our lives and every challenge that comes our way.
Dodd discusses the positive aspects of fear: It can help us recognize our need for help-and where we find help, we can also find great opportunity. It makes our hearts vulnerable to trust others for assistance. Fear can help us depend upon others for skill, making us willing to work with others for mutual gain. If we express fear truthfully, we can gain wisdom.
"Unfortunately too many of us answer to fear by silencing its voice. We run from risk, eliminate trust, hide our dependency, and become fretful and controlling about collaboration. Fear offers the opportunity to trust God and others for our need for help. Or it entices us to stay stuck and destruct in self will."
WHAT ARE WE SO AFRAID OF?
In Journey to Freedom, we discussed four key fears that we struggle with as human beings: 1) fear of death, 2) fear of responsibility, 3) fear of isolation, and 4) the fear of meaninglessness.
Philosopher William James once said, "We lead lives inferior to ourselves, lives that don't reflect our real ability. One reason we do this is because it is more comfortable not to try hard, but life is, or should be, a struggle. Comfort should make us uncomfortable, contentment should make us discontent." What James is alluding to is our easy acceptance of mediocrity. We accept poor effort, and accept lives that are safe. We become content with something far less than what we are capable of. The core reason for this is usually fear. We are afraid to try to be more, to seek more, to reach for more.
I cannot tell you how terrified I once was of public speaking! Looking back, it wasn't the speaking in front of people that scared me-it was the fear of rejection and the anxiety that accompanied it. My heart would pound, my breath would get short, and I couldn't remember what I wanted to say. In the beginning, I was just like Moses who said to God, "Please, Lord, I have never been a skilled speaker. Even now, after talking to you, I cannot speak well. I speak slowly and can't find the best words" (Ex. 4:10 NCV). When I started down a career path where I knew I'd have to give public speeches, I was terrified. But I felt God had called me into a ministry of public speaking, and I had a choice to make. Would I play it safe or accept the adventure God had prepared for me? I decided to take the risk. And that's the way God works; He wants us to confront our fears.
Two principles that go hand in hand with fear are freedom and responsibility. If I am free and moving toward becoming all I can be, then it produces new responsibilities in my life. You've often heard that some people are afraid of success. Maybe that's a foreign concept to you, but it's something I experienced firsthand when I was the wellness director at the Green Hills YMCA in Nashville, Tennessee. I was going through a time of adjustment. I had more responsibility, which seemed to equal more stress. I struggled with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression over the expectations of my job. I was afraid to tackle new challenges, so I settled in and began to only take on tasks in which I was sure I could succeed. I wasn't about to take any risks or rock the boat. I stopped dreaming. And in essence, once we stop dreaming and striving, we stop living.
By nature, I am a very passionate person. I wanted more from my life, even while in a deep state of depression. I wanted to feel, but fear drove me inward into my own personal prison where I didn't risk anything so I couldn't fail. As God stirred my heart and I worked through my recovery, He began to call me forward to living again, to risking and embracing my fears. At that point, I had to make a decision-the most monumental decision of my life, actually. Should I leave my job? I could've easily coasted for the next ten to fifteen years and then retired. But I listened to God's calling to move forward; that's when I started Restore Ministries.
At that time, I had no idea how I was going to follow God's call. I only knew it was my heart's cry to do something significant for His kingdom. So I quit my job after ten years and started Restore Ministries. I had no marketing plan, no strategy. No one had gone before me and forged a path through the unknown. I was stepping out in faith with great courage, facing my fears and following a path that seemed full of risk. But by taking this enormous step, I overcame my fear of success. I even learned how to be a public speaker (my greatest terror), and I learned to lead other people, another great fear I harbored.
Another common worry we all face is the fear of being alone. If we enter into relationships from a place of fear (that is when we are "needy"), then we are operating out of our weaknesses and not our strengths. We see this at Restore Ministries all too frequently. People struggle with the fear of loneliness, rejection, and abandonment. They seek a relationship to fill the void. But when we enter into a relationship in this state of weakness and need, we settle on any relationship-no matter how inappropriate or what the consequences may be. Anyone who feels they need to be in a relationship, based on their fear of being alone, probably isn't ready to be in one.
Just as prevalent as the fear of being alone is the fear of intimacy, of being known at the core of our beings. This catchy phrase provides a fitting definition of intimacy: "Into me, you see." Fear is the ultimate enemy of intimacy. Our fear of being known stems from our struggles with deep feelings of inadequacy and shame. This inner conflict causes us to wear a mask, preventing others from knowing us at a deeper level. We are afraid if others really knew us, they would reject us. We don't risk vulnerability, so we keep relationships at a superficial level, never allowing others to see our true selves.
A common reaction to fear is the development of a false self, which leads us to operate out of pretenses. We do this by wearing different masks and portraying different personalities to fit the various roles we play in life. We wear different masks around our families, our coworkers, our church members, and even our friends. We carefully choose the mask that gains approval in any given situation. Putting on masks is an attempt to control our fear of rejection.
In one of our Journey to Freedom groups a successful dentist-who was making a million dollars a year-told of how fear had cornered him once. He said it led him to all sorts of dysfunctional attachments. As he sat with tears falling down his face, he told us how fear made him feel inadequate. He never felt like he measured up to the standards he'd set for himself. He shared how his alcoholic father had abandoned him, which steeled his resolve to never be like his father. Instead, he became the "hero child." But the hero child is not driven by courage and faith, but by fear. The hero child fights the fear of becoming like the parent that failed them, working tirelessly to break free from this shadow. This man felt if he could outperform his father, then he could control the chaos and pain of his world. Yet in his mid-forties, and despite being successful in his career, his world crumbled and he sought release from this burden in alcohol. He couldn't maintain the energy it took to pursue perfection. Fear had driven him into addiction, and now those who loved him didn't feel loved by him. Through a discovery process, he came to understand that what he sought most was intimacy. He was longing for intimacy with his wife, with his children, and with his staff. But fear had crippled his relationships.
This brings us to the fear of love, which might seem a bit strange. Who fears love, you ask? Don't we all desire to love and to be loved? But many of us actually have a fear of loving or being loved. We fear God and others will not love us, or will eventually reject us, so we try to escape the pain of that desire for love. Maybe you have been hurt so much in your quest for love that the very thought of loving or trying to love again seems too much of a risk. So you feel that the safest thing to do is to pull back and never take a chance on love again-and, therefore, never experience the pain that might come with it.
I had a puppy when I was in my twenties, the first pet I'd had as an adult. I loved it, and it loved me-with the pure, seemingly unconditional love that only "man's best friend" can give. Then the worse thing possible happened: my dog got off his leash and was killed. It devastated me. Immense pain and sadness overcame me. When I buried the puppy, I buried the pain, vowing never to love a dog again. But then I read something by C. S. Lewis that changed my way of thinking. His words reminded me that there is risk in the pursuit of love. And if we retreat in fear and do not pursue love and desire, then we close our hearts and have nothing left to live for.
Love is a risk whether you are giving it or receiving it. Give love and there's the risk of having it rejected. Receive love and risk having it taken away. Even loving a pet involves risk. And where there's risk, there is the possibility of pain. But as the saying goes, "It is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all."
A line of one of my favorite songs, "Try to Remember" by Tom Jones, says, "Without a hurt, the heart is hollow." Loving, living-a heart that is beating with passion is alive! Where there is passion, there is courage. But where there is passion, there is also suffering. In the history of humanity, what greater example of love is there than Jesus Christ going to the cross and dying a painful, humiliating death because he loved us so much? There has never been a human being who lived as courageously and so fully as Christ did. His life is the model we should live to imitate. He had fears, yes, but He boldly went ahead, knowing the cross was before Him, knowing it was going to be the toughest thing any human would face. (But He would overcome!) He lived from passion and courage, and He suffered for it. He fulfilled His destiny despite His fears! Are you living this way?
CYNICISM: LIVING IN CHRONIC FEAR
Beyond being skeptical, cynicism serves as a defense mechanism when we are overwhelmed with fear. We fear things won't work out, so why get hopeful? While a skeptic might say, "I'm not sure this is going to work out," a cynic would say, "These things never work out!"
The definition of cynicism is "distrusting or disparaging the motives of others; showing the discontent of others' actions; holding a low opinion of mankind." The cynic has a general disbelief in life itself. This pessimistic attitude is more or less a habitual disposition. If you constantly look on the dark side of things and believe the worst will happen, you are in danger of nurturing cynicism.
Cynicism is a lethal and toxic weapon to fight off fear, because it leads its victim to a state of hopelessness. When you lose your belief in the goodness of anything-the good will of people or God's inherent goodness-you have little reason to hope. Even worse, if you become cynical toward yourself, you're in danger of entering into a serious depressed state.
The greatest need for transformation in my own life was overcoming cynicism. I'd lost hope in everything I valued or trusted in. At my deepest core I told myself, "Scott, there is nothing good in you. Nothing is going to come from your life. God could not possibly love someone as horrible as you." I became cynical about myself and my motives and, ultimately, about God's love for me. That's a dangerous road to go down, for if we become cynical toward God, we are denying His truth about grace. If God doesn't love us, and His grace can't save us, then why did Jesus go to the Cross?
Our response to fear is everything! It means the difference between becoming hopeless or hopeful. Believing we can control our fear-on our own, without the help of God or a support system-is what drives our addictions and our lives. We won't feel serenity until we do the hard work of silencing our fears.
WHAT IT MEANS TO TRY
Although he lost many elections before he made it to the White House, Abraham Lincoln eventually became one of our nation's greatest presidents. One might argue this was because of, rather than despite, his failures. Even though he was acutely aware of the apprehension about how he handled the Civil War, he fearlessly followed his own brand of leadership. He worked tirelessly and never gave up. He never stopped confronting his fears.
I love this quote by Teddy Roosevelt:
It's the man in the ring, the critic stands on the side and chips away at you, but it's the guy who is covered with sweat and blood that is trying, that is fighting the fight. It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Courageous people try; they strive, they take risks, and they are vulnerable. Life was meant to be an adventure-not a cynical journey through a world of pessimistic drought. Don't be fearful. Be an Abraham Lincoln.
When Jim Burke became the head of a new products division at Johnson & Johnson, one of his first projects was the development of a children's chest rub. The product failed miserably, and Burke was sure he'd lose his job. When he was called in to see the chairman of the board, however, he was met by a surprising reception. "Are you the one who just cost us all that money?" asked Robert Wood Johnson. "Well, I just want to congratulate you. If you are making mistakes, that means you are taking risks, and we won't grow unless you take risks." Some years later, when Burke himself became chairman of Johnson & Johnson, he loved to tell this story to young employees of the company. The upside of risk is that it leads us to growth.
Often fear saps our passions. It steals the zeal to live fully, to embrace the challenges life presents. When we fear, we retreat-both backward and inward. We give up and stop growing. In order to live our lives to the fullest, we need to be motivated by the pursuit of our ultimate selves. Motivation keeps us moving forward despite our fears. Strive to persevere and live courageously and fully, embracing each day as a gift.
How do you define fear?
Do you experience fear in your life? If so, what are some of those fears? List them below. If not, are you willing to consider the possibility that you may have, in fact, "silenced fear's voice"? If so, how?
In the fears you have listed above, what is it about these things that particularly scares you? Be specific.
Can you remember the first time you felt fear? What caused you fear as a child?
Excerpted from JOURNEY TO LIVING WITH COURAGE by SCOTT REALL Copyright © 2008 by Scott Reall. Excerpted by permission.
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