Rational -vs- Irrational Fear

The other night I had all the kids tucked into bed and was getting ready for bed myself, trying to make it an early night as I’d had lots of really late ones recently. And then I heard a little voice call, “Mom?”

I went in to the girls’ room, and A said, “Mom, see that pile of clothes over there?” … (points to a few folded items on their built-in dresser shelf that I hadn’t hung up yet) … “It’s scary! It looks like a scary pumpkin face carved out and I don’t like it.”

Now. Here’s the thing: I would categorize myself as a ‘tough love’ kind of mom. I don’t tend to indulge my kids’ rants, fits, or complaints if they are about something petty. Sometimes, especially if it’s a repetitive issue, I would even venture to say I’m dismissive. That doesn’t mean I don’t comfort them when they’re hurt, or get down to their level to help calm them, but I’m sorry, the fact that your show is over and I’m putting on another one is not a valid reason for tears. (You read that right. I’ve had a child cry when it’s over, and then cry when I go to put another one on. Really?? I’m confused. I thought I just solved the problem.)

My point is, I had a choice here. This had come up before – though it had been awhile – so I was really close to just saying, “Aubrey, we’ve talked about this before. You know there’s nothing to be afraid of. Now go to sleep.” (kiss, leave the room)

But for some reason I paused an extra beat and words started tumbling out – not in a rushed way, but in a calm and instructive way. I’m going to try to recreate what I said, because I cannot take credit for it (it was completely the Holy Spirit calling to mind the things I’ve studied in the past according to John 14:26), but I do want to remember it in hopes I can use it again for my other kids. (I’ve inserted the exact bible verses for reference, though I didn’t necessarily quote the location originally. Just so you don’t think I’m some amazing, verse-spouting and remembering person. ūüôā ) I hope this may be of some help to you.

So here we go:

Some fears are rational. Rational means there’s a good reason for it. Like right now, if a burglar came into our house with a gun, that would be a RATIONAL fear. You would be right to be afraid. But irrational fears are ones that you have for no good reason. A pile of clothes cannot hurt you. Right? Even if it looks like a scary Jack-o-Lantern, a Jack-o-Lantern can’t hurt you, right? So that is an IRrational fear. A burglar with a gun COULD hurt you – do you understand how that’s a¬†rational fear?

But the cool thing is, even if we have a rational fear, like the burglar, God tells us we still don’t have to be afraid, because He will help us in those situations. He sends His¬†angels that guard us and watch over us and fight for us (Psalm 91:11). Remember 2 Timothy 1:7? God did not give us a spirit of FEAR, but of power, love, and a sound mind. The thing is, sometimes there’s more going on than what¬†you can see. There are lots of reasons why a burglar might be doing what he’s doing. People that do bad or scary things aren’t always bad themselves. Sometimes people didn’t¬†grow up knowing God, and so they don’t¬†know what’s right or wrong. Sometimes people are hurt really badly by people they loved and trusted, and they have lots of anger, hurt, and sadness inside that leads them to make bad choices. Sometimes it’s just that the devil is a really good liar, and he’s good at convincing people they should do bad things. So even when those people are doing things that make you afraid, you can know that Jesus gave us authority over all the power the enemy possesses (Luke 10:19). We can use¬†our Sword of the Spirit which is the Word from Ephesians 6¬†because our bible verses are our weapons – we pray them, and¬†God’s angels can go to work in the spiritual realm¬†and¬†fight the enemy’s demons for us. That’s why it says the Word is our Sword – our weapon.

So God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of
POWER – over the enemy: the devil and his demons;
LOVE – to love people even when they do hurtful things to us;
and a SOUND MIND – to help us determine whether our fear is rational or irrational, and to discern what might be going on in the spiritual realm so we know what to pray. This also helps us know what to do if we have a rational fear because of a real situation.

Does that help?

Even as an adult, I have irrational fears sometimes. But when I focus on God’s love instead of whatever silly thing is scaring me, I feel so at peace. The devil can’t touch me, because I’m bought and paid for by the blood of Christ.

 

*DISCLAIMER: if it comes as a shock to you, yes, I do mention the devil and his demons to my kids, in whatever way I feel is appropriate for their age, understanding, and maturity level, as I feel led to. He is far more of a real threat to us than any other pretend boogey man, so I use my discretion when mentioning it. But I do want my kids to be aware that there is a force out there that wants them to fail and wants them to make bad choices (1 Peter 5:8). The bible tells us to be vigilant and sober-minded, and I don’t see anything wrong with teaching this from as young an age as they can understand. Because even though we have an enemy, we also have a Savior who has conquered the enemy for us and deprived him of power to harm us (John 16:33). We have an answer to the problem! How can you fight something if you don’t know what you’re fighting against? Even more, how can you know the solution if you don’t know the problem? I want my kids to be equipped to understand the truth and that most times, there is more going on than meets the natural eye. And in case you’re wondering, A (who really is the only one old and mature enough for me to have explained anything to) has never vocalized a fear of the devil, or complained of bad dreams about the devil or his demons. ūüėČ

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Coming Soon: Rational VS Irrational Fear

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You probably can’t read my chicken scratch because I was writing so quickly so I wouldn’t forget anything… but I just had an awesome God moment. In the Bible God tells us to write wisdom (the Word) on our hearts, because then when we need it, it suddenly flows out. I somehow gave a very good (short) little sermon to Aubrey about rational VS irrational fears, and how we don’t even need to be afraid if our fears are rational. I have no explanation as to where this came from except from the Holy Spirit. God is awesome in so many ways. I promise a post soon in greater detail, but right now this momma needs to rest ūüėČ

All you other mommas, if you need encouragement tonight, remember Galatians 6:9: Do not grow weary in well- doing, for in due time you shall reap a harvest if you faint not.
Keep studying the Word! When you need it, the Holy Spirit will call it up for you and you will find yourself giving a little mini-sermon. Then you’ll bless His name for allowing you to be a vessel, and for honoring you with motherhood. ‚ô°

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“Love” Parenting

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This perfectly describes what I was writing about: Parenting from love, not fear.  I have to remind myself of this difference daily!

Disciplining in Love …and not from fear

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Do you know what fear leads to? Anger.

When it comes to discipline, anger is selfish. It comes from embarrassment, impatience, and a desire to correct wrongs that have been done to US. It’s immature. And it’s a thin line: you can spank your child if it’s the expected punishment for bad behavior; but spanking your child because you are caught up in a moment of raging anger is not helpful for anyone. You will feel guilty later, making it difficult for you to be consistent, and your child, instead of learning, is just fearful of you and feeling unloved. When you lash out in anger born of fear, you make it about YOUR behavior;¬†instead of being focused on their behavior and how to correct it, they are experiencing the results of your inability to control your emotions.

Awhile back,¬†I realized I had made¬†most of my discipline decisions out of fear. If I don’t hurry up and pick a discipline method and stay unerringly consistent, I thought, my daughter will be rambunctious, never listen, and grow into a disrespectful and disobedient child/troubled teen/worthless adult. And then, if we were around anyone else, I’d be so aware of their presence and imagine that they were judging every word I said and every move I made while disciplining my child. Let’s be honest: it is exceedingly difficult not to think about other people’s opinions when you’re disciplining in front of them.

I don’t know if it’s a stage of life I’ve grown into, more life experience, or if having 3 kids close together just made me too busy to care, but at some point I stopped worrying. I didn’t have time or energy to be concerned¬†about what other people thought of my ‘parenting style’. I did, however, go through a dark period in which I was very unpleasant to be around – at least to my immediate family anyway. I was angry a lot, and yelled a lot, and didn’t show very much love at all. Thankfully those are the kind of seasons (difficult ones) that we learn the most from, if we’re smart.

So now, when a situation represents itself (and when I can keep my head clear enough), I examine my motives: Am I reacting out of fear of something? Or am I acting to teach my children desirable behaviors and attitudes? If it’s the latter, I am in the guilt-free clear zone. But if it’s the former, I do my best to correct my response, and even apologize if my behavior was really bad. (Side note: Yes, I apologize to my kids if/when I’m wrong. Our kids need to know that we aren’t perfect. Otherwise, they will not only be jaded about us,¬†but also¬†feel the need to live up to that same perfection.)

So what changed? Here are a few specific things that have helped me:
1. Stop fearing what other people will think of your parenting based on your child(ren)’s behavior. Children are unpredictable in a lot of ways. They act differently at home than they do away from home. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s bad. But one episode does not define your child, so stop acting like it does. “They’re embarrassing me” is not a good reason to lash out in anger born of fear.
2. Stop fearing they’ll never ‘get it‘. I’ve noticed that I don’t have to be violently angry or even super strict for them to understand a concept. I come down to their level, speak in a clear calm voice, and explain why their behavior was wrong. If possible I quote¬†scripture. They apologize and make amends where necessary. And you know what? They get it. But if you’re afraid they’ll never get it, you’ll react out of hopelessness, despair, frustration. Why keep trying if you doubt they’ll get it? Like anything, it sometimes takes several corrections, but they DO get it. Even if I’m not spanking or giving time outs. Which leads me to…
3. Stop fearing if you don’t discipline a certain way (consistent, firm hand, time outs, spankings, etc) it won’t work.¬†Because you know what? Our God is about grace. He knows we are not perfect, and that’s why He sent His only Son to redeem us. That is how we can be in relationship with Him in the first place. So wherever we are imperfect, He fills in the gaps through the power of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor 12:9 – “My power is made perfect in weakness.”) Tell me that’s not comforting and freeing!!! (Even if you do, I won’t believe you; my mind’s made up.) So stop fearing that you’re doing it wrong, or your lack of consistency¬†will breed¬†a wild child. Give yourself room to mess up. If you are consistent MOST of the time, and parent out of love, God will¬†do the rest. Remember too that each situation is different. Take the time to know your children individually. Sometimes a spanking might be the best way to teach. Sometimes taking a beloved toy or lovey gets the point across better. You don’t necessarily have to be consistent with your METHOD – just with your love and correction. God is not a God of rules… He’s a God of Grace.
4. Stop fearing what kind of kids they’ll be when they grow up if you don’t ‘succeed’. Hand them over to God. They are not yours anyway. We have merely been given the privilege of raising them to adults. They never really belong to us. Our job is to “train them in the way they should go” (Prov 22:6), pray unceasingly for their hearts to know Jesus, pray for their future, and TRUST OUR GOD that He loves them more than we do. Isn’t that reassuring, refreshing, and… easier?¬†
When you trust God to reinforce¬†what you are doing your best to teach, you will be SO much less stressed… and happier. Therefore your children will be happier… and more obedient too.

Also remember these two points:
1. Imperfect is normal.
2. Our kids learn right and wrong from us. They really have no idea what is okay or not until we teach them. Instead of being frustrated they don’t already KNOW, calm down and realize it is your job to TEACH them.

Ever heard that phrase People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care?

Parenting out of love is kind of like WWJD – more like What DID Jesus do? How has he loved you in the past? How has he loved you into desiring to change? Sometimes, for me,¬†it’s been when I’m in the midst of loud, chaotic, raging messes and coming to Him completely honest and ugly. And imperfect.
IMPERFECT, that’s the key. When we stop being so afraid of messing up, God is able to teach us the next step. When we admit we’re wrong or angry or ignorant, He gently and lovingly whispers what to do next. He’ll point out a flaw. Or illuminate a wrong attitude. He’ll show you exactly what thoughts need to be changed and how to adjust them. Scripture says if we “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God” He will “heal our land”. He will fix what’s broken. Which is the whole point, because when our kids mess up, they’re being imperfect too. If God can meet us in our imperfections, we should be able to meet our kids in theirs. That’s what love is about – not being afraid of facing the ugly, scary, unknown, uncertain, imperfect, messy stuff. When they are in their raging messes, and we meet them there, they are loved into learning how better to love. Teach them love through your actions, and they will copy your actions and love better too. That’s why your method doesn’t have to be consistent; we’re teaching them to love, and love always wins.

I want to parent like God parents me:
– with a quiet voice

– never in a place of fear
– always with their best interests at heart – based on what you know is right for them. God knows what’s in our future. Even though we don’t know what’s in our kids’ future, we can pull from past experiences and trust God with the rest.
– with love casting out their fear and mine, inviting them to a place where they can come higher and choose God’s love over any fear.

In this video on parenting, Mark Hall puts it perfectly: “Love earns the right to speak truth… That’s how Jesus could say hard core stuff to you and you’d sit there and listen to it – because you knew He loved you.”
2 Tim 1 7

Click here for another message by Executive Pastor Steve Carter detailing how we act from love or fear.

Confessions of a Perfectionist

What do you get when you mix…
A self-imposed pressure to be the best;
Supportive, doting family with high expectations;
Just enough academic smarts to succeed without much effort;
A desire to serve God the best way;
& a splash of Catholic guilt?

I think it would look something like me. It was fairly easy for me to succeed and even exceed academic expectations, due to the awesome early tutoring and nudges by my dad. I had a devoted Catholic family in which God and faith were an integral part of daily life. I have realized I am generally, and in most casual circumstances, also a people pleaser. Which means I don’t like conflict. Like maybe I avoid it at all costs, like I would the plague.

Doesn’t sound too bad, right? No. The issue though, is that I was a perfectionist in the worst way possible. I didn’t allow myself any grace for mistakes (enter the famous Catholic guilt!).

The first time I realized God didn’t expect me to be PERFECT, it was a life-changing revelation that freed me up in the best ways. But I only recently realized that while for years I have understood that in a way that allows me to forgive myself, I have not believed it enough to expect forgiveness from others for my shortcomings. I suddenly realized that I constantly found myself apologizing – and I was tired of it. Tired of feeling like I was missing the mark. I just wanted to get it together enough that I wouldn’t need to apologize for anything. (Well, not ANYTHING- of course I will apologize if I’ve wronged someone- but this was a different kind of apology. Almost like I was apologizing for my failures, to which I could see no excuse except maybe poor time management or wrong priorities.)

I get pulled in so many directions every week. The problem is, since I’m a people pleaser, I want to put EVERYONE first and still be the best at EVERYTHING I do. You and I both know, it just ain’t possible, sister.

What causes me to put this pressure on myself?

Deep down I think it is the belief that if I act, speak, and do everything perfectly, I will elicit the perfect responses and reactions from the people around me – As if I could manipulate them! Psh! What a silly notion. I didn’t do this with a bad heart. Quite the opposite- I thought I was doing what God wanted. But the ugly truth is that I just didn’t trust God enough to do His part even if I WASN’T perfect. (And here I thought I had the whole trust thing mastered! Pride comes before the fall you know.)

So what did I learn? I was actually reacting out of fear instead of acting from an abundance of His perfect love. Fear of people’s responses controlled my actions, instead of love for those people. Some examples?
*Waiting to discuss scheduling or important family decisions with the hubs until the “perfect time”, out of fear of an argument or even just uncomfortable discussion.
*Losing my temper with my kids out of fear they won’t ever listen, embarrass us in public, or fear of people thinking I’m an incapable mother.
*Avoiding discussing hard truth with friends, family, or co-workers out of a fear of their response.

The “love” way to handle these?
* Ask my hubs when a good time is to discuss scheduling/decision making.
* Speak kindly and lovingly to my kids, believing that when they KNOW I love them no matter what, they will desire to be better growing from that love instead of from a controlling angry mom.
* Instead of avoiding discussion, gently mention I’ve noticed something is bothering them; ask what it is, how I can help; and apologize if I was in the wrong.

::: sigh of relief :::

Doesn’t operating in love sound much better and less stressful?

While writing this I just experienced a perfect example of fear vs. faith/love: C, our 18mos old, grabbed my glasses – the last real pair I have since she knocked the lens out of my other, already slightly mangled pair. My first instinct was to have a mini freak out, trying to grab the glasses out of her hand. Mid-grab I realized my motivation was fear that if she broke them, we wouldn’t have enough money to buy another pair. ROOT ISSUE: distrust in God’s provision.

Do you have situations in which you operate in fear?

Here are two verses that helped me:
1 John 4:18: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Romans 8:31: If God is for us, who can be against us?
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The latter took on a whole new meaning yesterday when I had a choice to operate out of fear or love. After reading to A, finishing a prayer call with a friend from work, and just about to start a home date night with the hubs, C woke up and wouldn’t go down even after I rocked her for several minutes. Normally at this point I operate under the assumption that the hubs is upset, thereby getting frustrated myself… this nails a wedge between us and starts our night off badly. And I operate out of fear, afraid that C will NEVER go down. But I realized I didn’t have to let the situation control my response. Since God is on my side, fighting for me; since He wants my marriage and parenting to succeed; since He created me to be a Proverbs 31 woman – all I had to do was ACT on it. I chose to (quietly) text hubs, joking about C having a super sense that woke her up every time I tried to put her in her crib – while still rocking her in the recliner. He texted calmly back, and I tried putting her down again. It’s true what they say: 3rd time’s a charm.

I once heard that the woman sets the mood/tone of the whole home and family. This was proof. In two situations yesterday I had the opportunity to test that theory, and found it to be true.

My prayer is that everyone reading recognize any areas in which they are operating in fear, and are able to overcome it with perfect love, through provision from the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ name.

The happy truth is, if you pray that God will make you keenly obvious of the situations in which you can choose fear or love, and that He will show you what love looks like, He will. You will feel more peace and less stress. And everyone around you will be much happier for it!