Confront fear with love; it can be painful

By Terry Pluto, Beacon Journal columnist

How do I face fear?That’s a question on the Beliefnet Web site recently. These answers were offered, with the results:

1. I confront it, 32 percent.

2. I analyze it, 43 percent.

3. I run from it, 17 percent.

4. I fear nothing, 7 percent.

OK, let’s start with this: I fear the 7 percent who fear nothing. They are egotistical, delusional, or stone-cold liars.

As for the rest of us…

I looked up the word fear in the Bible, and there are lots of references to “Fear not… ” Angels say it a lot, because when they show up, it’s enough to scare Stephen King into a severe case of writer’s block.

But the verse that struck me is from 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

John was writing about how God loves us, even when we don’t feel it. John dives into a much deeper theological pool. What struck me is the idea of fear and love — and how love can drive out fear.

But what frightens many of us is when we have to confront someone we love. Based on the Beliefnet poll, I’ve fallen into the first three categories when having to deal with people who are important to me. My first inclination is usually to run from it.

“Hey, if that’s how they want to live their life, not much I can do about it,” I say.

Sometimes, that’s true. But it’s also a great way to avoid having a difficult conversation. Blame the other guy.

Then I read the first part of John’s verse, “There is no fear in love… ”

Yes, there is.

There’s the fear the person might stop loving me if I say the wrong thing, or I say it the wrong way. But that fear also may be self-serving. So many of us just want to be considered “nice people.” Being “nice” is safe because we don’t have to take any risks in relationships.

But if we see someone drinking too much… in a destructive relationship… doing something to get fired… spending themselves into a financial pit — shouldn’t we say something?

Obviously, it has to be someone who has a real relationship with us, someone who should know that we truly care.

I have a feeling that some of the 32 percent who say their first inclination is to confront someone are the types who have advice for everyone and have little doubt that everything they say is absolutely, positively correct for you and your situation.

But for those who are close to us, they still will be angry when we confront them.

Here’s where Beliefnet Option 2 (“I analyze it”) meets the next part of John (“perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment”).

It helps to ask, “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I say something?”

Or as John would ask, “What’s the punishment?”

That a person trashing her life will take us off her Christmas card list? That he’ll probably fire back, listing all our faults? That they might cut us off for a while? How bad is that, really?

Obviously, if the person is violent, none of this applies. Love should not lead to stupidity.

As for most situations, analyzing can stop us from running. It can remove some of the fear. But it still doesn’t make it easy to confront someone.

Writer/pastor Greg Laurie once said, “Courage is fear backed by prayer.”

Make sure what you are confronting is important; don’t “major on the minors,” as Pastor Chuck Myricks of Arlington Church of God likes to say.

There’s no magic formula for confrontation. Rarely will the person immediately say, “You’re right; I’m so glad you mentioned that.” Most of us become defensive when criticized.

At least, that’s usually the first reaction. But if you say it in love, a friend will think about it. John finished that verse by writing, “The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

It won’t be easy. There will be pain for both of you. But often, it’s worth it if it’s really done in love.

Terry Pluto can be reached at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: