Sunday, January 10, 2016

10 Fears That Ruin Relationships

February 24, 2015

How did you celebrate Chinese New Year—the Year of the Ram?

With one Chinese character, there have been different English translations, such as the Year of the Goat, and the Year of the Sheep. But I have not seen this one: the Year of the Lamb. This new year, rather than feasting with family and friends, I spent time reflecting on goat, sheep and lamb.

Life is short. Since January 18, 2015, I have attended three memorial services. These men passed away in their 50s, 70s, and 90s, respectively as devoted husbands and fathers who were found by Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior. So, each of the memorial services turned out to be a real celebration of life!

Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' ..." (Luke 15:3-6, NIV)

I will let you read the parable of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25:31-46. May the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) be worshiped all over the world.

Who we are and how we live on this Earth will make a difference in eternity. How would you like to be remembered by your loved ones? What are some fears that ruin relationships in your life?

Loving someone is risky business, so it's natural that fear is present in relationships. But when fear operates in our life in a way that hurts us or hurts others—through aggression or withdrawal—it becomes a problem. Recognizing these fears and how they affect our life can help us make the necessary changes to get the love we want.

1. Fear of losing freedom. Tied down, trapped, cornered, stuck—this "claustrophobia" points to mistaken beliefs about what relationships are supposed to be. The ability to say No in a loving and respectful way, and to set clear and fair boundaries, is an essential ingredient of a healthy relationship.

2. Fear of conflict. Let's face it—love can be messy. But it doesn't have to be destructive. Constructive communication skills can be learned. When handled with caring and respectful communication, conflicts can become vital building blocks of deeper trust and intimacy.

3. Fear of change. Change means work, discomfort and uncertainty. But oh, the rewards of growth and depth and renewal! Try being curious about the changes in you, your partner and your relationship. Apply this to your children, parents, siblings, and other people you care about!

4. Fear of giving up or losing control. We don't have to surrender personal power in a healthy relationship. In fact, in a healthy relationship both partners feel equal while each maintains their uniqueness. If it is a choice between being in control and experiencing true love, which will you choose?

5. Fear of pain. It is not love that creates pain, but our attachments and expectations about what love and relationships, and the behavior of those we love, are supposed to look like. Ultimately, we must decide whether we trust fear or trust love—which of those are we going to "feed?"

6. Fear of being "found out." When we hide our true self from those we love, we're usually afraid that our true self is unlovable. The fear of being found out is the fear of being fully known. When we accept that no one is "perfect," we can open to the marvelous adventure of being deeply known by another and truly getting to know our beloved.

7. Fear of losing self. Often this comes from watching others (parent, friend, relative) suppress their individuality in relationship. The generous giving of oneself—our time, attention, caring and skills—is vital to the success of a relationship, but equally important is to be able to receive from your loved one what they wish to give you. Giving up your needs for your partner is not a loving act, for it means there is less of you present in the relationship.

8. Fear of not being enough. When we fear our own inadequacy, we often expect perfection in our partners. So we use this expectation as a defense against those feelings of inadequacy. We have the choice of taking the risk to love and be loved, or be alone, feeling separate, with our story of inadequacy. Try changing that story to the true one: that you are a unique, magnificent and lovable being.

9. Fear of rejection. To avoid being rejected, we may push other people away, testing their love, or abandoning them before we ourselves are abandoned—and thereby making our beliefs a reality. Or to avoid being rejected, we may become pleasers, taking our authentic needs and desires out of the equation. Either way, we are not fully committed to being authentically present in the relationship.

10. Fear of dependency. Some people worry about losing the ability to take care of themselves, and others worry about being responsible for their loved one. Neither option creates a fulfilling relationship. To avoid those situations and create a healthy interdependency, stay aware of the boundaries between you and your loved one, and remember that, while you are supportive of each other, you are each responsible for your own feelings and well-being.

Loving someone is risky. The Bible tells us, "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." (1 John 4:18)

We have conflicts in relationships because each of us thinks, "I am right! He/she is wrong!" But what is the truth?

"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6, NIV)
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

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