A Snapshot of Insecurity
By Jason Harris
In part one, we saw in the lives of Jonathan and Nicole that insecurity is a crippling problem and is driven by fear. In part two, we’ll continue to probe the motives and desires of the insecure heart so that we can come to a meaningful and effective solution.
Fear in the heart does not always look the same on the outside. As in the cases of Jonathan and Nicole, no two people will manifest their insecurity exactly the same way, but there are some common responses that can clue us in to the real problem. Let’s look at some common characteristics of insecurity:
Insecurity is unpredictable. An insecure person lives life with a set of motives and desires that are not apparent to the casual observer. As with Jonathan, his “shyness” could be interpreted as passivity, but it is not. Jonathan knows exactly what he wants, and he is passionately pursuing it. Unfortunately, Jonathan’s classmates only see him as shy and timid. He might be mocked or ridiculed as a loner. He might be seen as a snob. Whatever the case, if the other young people do not understand what’s driving him, he will be unpredictable to them. Nicole is also baffling to herself and especially to her friend Sarah. Sarah never knows what to expect… except the unexpected. Of course this has put a serious strain on the relationship.
Insecurity is hard to get close to. Jonathan is very difficult to get close to because he has created a steel re-enforced protective barrier over his real thoughts and feelings. He’s been hurt too many times to open up to yet another rejection so he retreats into an emotional fort. At times teachers and even different men at church have tried to befriend him, but no matter how close you get to him, you never know what he’s really thinking. Nicole on the other hand is difficult to get close to for another reason… she’s difficult. She’s lost more than a few friends because of her possessiveness, and even more due to her moodiness.
Insecurity is possessive. Though Jonathan doesn’t let many people deep into his life, he may be highly protective of those people and things that provide him stability and security in his life. Of course Nicole is very possessive. She’s big on her “group” because at least she has a measure of control there. She can use intimidation or sulking tactics with those inside the group and she can exclude those outside the group. This allows her to maintain a level of stability and control so that she will not experience what she fears most—the loss of her highly valued security-giving relationships. When she gets a boyfriend, she will be just as possessive with him. In fact, she will be so possessive that she may drive him away.
Life strategies of an insecure person
We’re still uncovering the thinking that surrounds insecurity, but we’re getting closer to the place where we can see hope and help. God’s strategies for dealing with insecurity are fail-proof, but unfortunately insecurity pursues other life strategies. Whatever the cause of this driving fear in a life, human nature is fairly predictable in the strategies it employs to deal with it.
Self-protection. Since fear is a sense of vulnerability based on a real or supposed threat to something we value highly, it is easy to see how self-protection can be the motivating force in a life of insecurity. Sometimes, particularly in a situation where a child has been abused in some way, this self-protection is an appropriate and legitimate response. However, it’s easy for sinful beings to develop self-absorbed habits and thinking patterns that remain years after the abusive situation no longer exists. Self-protection can quickly blind the insecure person to opportunities to reach out and minister to others and even when they want to reach out, insecurity can cripple them and leave them feeling powerless to do so.
Self-degradation. Sometimes someone who has been put down for years will develop a very unbiblical view of self. Often the person who has been sexually or emotionally abused comes to the place where they believe that they are different from other people, that somehow they deserve to be treated the way they were treated. Often this type of person won’t even seek relief from the abusive situation because they somehow feel that they don’t deserve anything better.
Self-depreciation. Here’s a person who constantly puts himself down in the hope that others will disagree and affirm him. Self-depreciation may also be an attempt to lower the standard hoping that if others don’t expect much, maybe they can live up to the standard. Whatever the case, this person is often surprised to realise that self-depreciation is actually a form of selfishness because it puts the attention on self instead of God and others.
Self-promotion. Sometimes insecurity will lead to the opposite extreme of attention-getting antics and “showing off.” It is amazing to see a child who wants to be accepted by his friends so badly that he will do almost anything—even something dangerous—in order to gain it. The problem is that this child, along with a lot of adults, derives his value as a person from how others view him. This person is compensating, desperately looking for affirmation and approval.
Self-righteousness. While it’s simple to understand that our value is not based on what others think of us, it’s not quite as simple to understand how our value is based on what God thinks of us. You see, God’s love for us is the basis for all true security, but so often we think that we have to earn that love. Since God’s love for us is the subject of part three, I’ll just point out that the acceptance and love we have in God is based, not on our performance or works, but on the justifying work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. In Christ we have the love and acceptance of God apart from anything we do. Outside Christ, there is nothing we could ever do that could earn God’s love and acceptance. The reason insecurity spends great effort trying to earn God’s love is because it thinks it can earn God’s love.
In part three, we’ll see why it is so important to have a Spirit-taught understanding of God’s love for you.