A Crippling Problem
By Jason Harris
Jonathan was running a few minutes late. He gave a tense nod as he entered the classroom and quickly moved to a seat in the back. He had only been at this high school for a few weeks and his one goal in life was to not be noticed. At home, his mum was ok, but whenever his dad noticed him, it tended to result in some cutting remark about his abilities or intelligence. He didn’t mind really—at least that’s what he told himself. After all, he was used to it and much of what his dad said was true. Still he hated being late. Whenever he was late, he would move quickly to the back, stepping carefully to be sure he didn’t trip or do something that would make everyone think he was stupid. Even so, the thought of twenty people staring at him as he walked into the room choked him with suffocating emotions. These emotions seemed to control him at times. In fact, they were crippling.
Nicole’s eyes flamed as she looked at her best friend, Sarah. Nicole turned and stomped off in a fury, but Sarah was used to this. All she had to do was make one comment or disagree in the least and Nicole would have one of her “moments.” This time it was over another friend. Nicole and Sarah had been eating lunch together when this friend had asked Sarah if she wanted a drink. Sarah had gone with the friend to get a drink and had gotten caught up talking for a few minutes. When she returned to the table, Nicole demanded to know where she had been. A simple response had brought this on. Nicole knew she was over-reacting and she knew it was wrong, but she couldn’t understand why she was so sensitive, so touchy about her friends. What she did know was that when it came to her relationships, whatever was causing this, it was crippling.
The driving factor
Insecurity—we all face it to some extent, but for some it is a life-dominating struggle. You may not be in exactly the same situation as Jonathan or Nicole, but perhaps you see yourself in their responses or thought patterns. The purpose of this study is to give hope for those who find themselves emotionally and spiritually crippled by insecurity. In order to understand the solution to insecurity, we must first understand the problem.
The key to understanding insecurity is to realise that insecurity is actually a form of fear. This realisation unmasks the problem and gives enormous hope because the Bible has much to say about fear. We’ll look at that more closely later, but for now we need to understand the definition of fear. Fear is a feeling of vulnerability based on a real or supposed threat to something I value highly. When a child is afraid of the monsters under his bed, he is feeling vulnerable because of—in this case—a supposed threat to his well being. This sense of vulnerability is the essence of the emotion we call fear.
Jonathan and Nicole
Let’s take a moment to see how it is fear that is driving both Jonathan and Nicole. Jonathan obviously doesn’t get much encouragement at home. He’s been cut down so many times that he’s begun to believe the things he’s been told. He doesn’t want to be noticed because he is afraid that if he is noticed—if he is measured—he will be found to be of no value. Because he believes he is worthless and stupid, he wants to avoid any public scrutiny of himself. Even when no one is thinking about him, his mind is constantly imagining the bad things people are thinking about him. At school he may be told he has a self-esteem problem, and while he does have a wrong view of himself, his real problem is that he is allowing himself to be driven by fear.
Nicole’s situation is different from Jonathan’s on the surface, but the core problem is the same. Nicole has found a measure of security in her friendships and has decided that she will protect these friendships at any cost. She must. She derives her value as a person from the acceptance and love she finds in these friendships. That’s why she’s so sensitive about any “intruders.” She’s constantly on the lookout for anyone or anything that might threaten her security. She demands exclusive loyalty to “the group.” Some of her friends have even used the word “possessive” to describe her. Her angry outbursts and sullen retreats are the result of her insecurity. When she perceives something—even something trivial—to be a threat to her security, she will do whatever it takes to protect herself from losing what is most valuable to her. Nicole doesn’t realise it, but she too is driven by fear.
In part two, we’ll dig deeper into the thinking behind insecurity so that we can have a clear picture of the problem of insecurity before looking at the solution.