Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Conquering Fear and the Performance Trap

About a month or so ago, I had a revelation that was life-changing. This revelation came about as the product of about a 3 year bad mood. When I learned my father had terminal cancer, I started hating everyone and everything. I began to cut people off, and distance myself from friends, family, and anyone who I was remotely close to. I became a loner, and I just wanted everyone to leave me alone.

This was hard to do, considering the fact that I worked in the public, was a member of several community committees, and ministered at church. Outwardly, I maintained a fa├žade, but inwardly, I was totally separated; detached from my surroundings. Anytime I was around people, I could hardly wait to get away from them, and I cherished moments when I was totally alone - not having to talk to anyone, or deal with personalities, issues, or anything of substance.

For the most part, I was nice, continued to smile and function in a “normal” manner. People had no clue what was brewing inside of me. Even those I am somewhat close to had, at best, only a vague idea of my condition, and probably attributed my sudden seriousness to my having to deal with a sick parent. Even now, if I mention this mood to someone who was around me during that time, they would look at me like I was nuts, because no one knew.

My change actually began sometime around February, when I left my last firm. I met a man on the racquetball court, John Garcia, who asked me, “So what do you do?” Rather than the standard reply of, I’m a stockbroker,” I took my time to think about what it is that I really do. It was a challenge to me, but freeing to tell someone that I help people grow their assets, save on taxes, and maximize their retirement incomes. For once in my life, I understood I was more than just a stock order taker….more than just a mutual fund sale person… more than just a financial planner. His reply to me was, “That’s fantastic! We need more people like that!”

I found out he is a motivational speaker, an author, a cancer survivor, and a Christian. I made an immediate connection with John, and that day, I knew my life had changed. I woke up the next morning and decided I was not going to be in a bad mood any more. Three years was long enough.

As I opened myself up to the scary prospect of enjoying my life again, I also began to pray in a different direction. I began to ask the Lord for peace. I began to ask him to change me, and get me out of the trap I had been in for so long. I actually realized the direction I had taken and the path I was on was leading me nowhere. I also saw that I had been in a pattern of self-destruction by isolating myself, and that was not healthy.

Not long after that, I met another person who helped me see even more. Here’s the part about the revelation – I made an appointment with a Life Coach, Bobby, who writes at Kingdom Life Coaching Resources. (Well worth reading this blog daily…) We met one morning at my kitchen table, over a couple of pots of coffee. As we spoke, he asked me some direct questions about faith and fear. I realized all of my life had been motivated by fear: fear of performing well enough to make myself look good – for my father, my teachers, my bosses, my wife, my kids, my church…yada yada yada… I came to the understanding that all of my 48 years I had struggled with the fear of someone finding out that maybe I really wasn’t who I appeared to be. Since things came so easily to me, I always felt like I was “lucky” or cut corners – and if people really knew who I was, or what I had done to get there – that they wouldn’t like me, or they would think less of me.

There is a scripture that says, “We are God’s workmanship, created for good works in Christ.” Back in 60’s and 70’s, in the era of “Jesus Freaks,” there was a saying that went, “God didn’t make junk.” We are created by a perfect God, who endowed us with purpose, power, and provision. We don’t need to perform. All we need to do is “BE.”

One of the good things that came out of my “funk” is that I discovered I have a purpose.  It is multi-faceted, but amazingly simple. God created me to GIVE –whether it be through my writing, my painting, my sculpture, my mechanical ability, or my knowledge of financial planning, He created me to give.

He also created me to LOVE. I realized (this all happened that one morning, inside of 2 hours over 2 pots of coffee) the reason I didn’t like people all my life is because I didn’t really like myself. I was disappointed in myself, and perpetuated a cycle of self-destructive behavior and habits that just created shame and guilt. I lived with the fear of “being outed.” So I kept people at a distance, justifying it with a self-righteous and critical attitude. Once I accepted the fact that Jesus loves me just where I am, I began to pray for compassion. And God healed my hard heart, allowed me to have a heart of compassion, and set me free.

Finally, He created me to fulfill my purpose. Not through PERFORMANCE, as I had tried in the past, but through FAITH in the knowledge that Christ put everything in me to fulfill that purpose, and He gives me the power to make it happen. Also, when I operate in FAITH, I no longer have to FEAR, because God loves me, no matter what.

For the first time in 48 years, I actually LIKE people – even more so, I LOVE people, and am willing to listen to them, because that’s who God made me to be.

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