Our Deepest Fear

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

This is an excerpt from a book by Marianne Williamson. This widely-respected quote goes on to explain that we are all children of God and we need to refrain from holding back our talents and passions. We need to overcome our fear of standing in the spotlight and show the world what we are truly capable of. I couldn’t agree more that we need to overcome our fear of feeling like we will be “showing off” if we use our God-given gifts. I understand that many of us do fear that our light will make us powerful beyond measure, and I do feel that that fear is a deep fear that many of us experience. But I’m not so sure if I agree with Williamson. I think there’s something that everyone, at one point or another, fears regardless of our “tangible fears” (blood, spiders, snakes). I have to disagree with Williamson and argue that our deepest fear is indeed the feeling that we are inadequate.

What does it mean to feel inadequate? Well let’s first try to define what it means to feel the opposite- adequate. When we feel adequate, we feel accepted. We feel like we have successfully filled an expectation. When I get an A on my paper that I worked really hard on, I feel like I did an adequate job. I had a role (getting as good of a grade on the paper as I could) and I fulfilled it (by getting an A). In fulfilling that role, I felt like I had done an adequate job.

Fear of being inadequate means fearing that we will not be good enough to impress someone or that we will not be accepted, or fit someone’s standards. Having a role (getting as good of a grade on the paper as I could) and not fulfilling it (if I were to have gotten a 68% on it) would show me that I had not done an adequate job according to the teacher’s standards.

Sometimes we fear the initiation of something because we fear rejection. This is mostly due to the underlying fear that we have of being deemed inadequate. For instance, a guy working up the courage to ask a girl to a dance may struggle with asking her because he fears she will say no. He fears that rejection because he fears that her saying “no” means he is not good enough for the girl’s standards.

I feel like this fear of inadequacy (both the paper and the dance examples) could quite possibly be our biggest fear as human beings. It’s a feeling that everyone experiences at one point or another and it’s one that nobody desires. Taking it a step further, I’d like to suggest that it’s not just fear of feeling inadequate to a member of the opposite sex or to a teacher’s grading standards. Many of us feel inadequate when it comes to accepting Christ’s love for us.

Most everyone who has been to church or has read about most Christian church’s teachings should be familiar with the idea that God loves all of us unconditionally. He loves us even when we choose not to love Him back, even when we sin. But at times, I feel many of us have felt like we were inadequate to receiving God’s love. We don’t understand how someone could still love us after some of the things we may have said or done. We don’t understand how someone could love us after some of the things we didn’t say or didn’t do. And it goes for both types of inadequacy. Some people have difficulties initiating a relationship with God because they feel inadequate to Him, while others have difficulties maintaining a relationship for the same reason.

It’s a difficult truth for us to understand because we’re so used to trying to fit the standards set by fellow human beings. We feel inadequate when we feel we will fail to fulfill (that’s a tongue twister) the standards that a teacher has given us for a paper. We feel inadequate when we feel we will fail to fulfill the standards that a girl has in her mind of who she would want to go to a dance with. So it would make sense that we would feel like we will fail to fulfill the standards that God has for us.

But what are the standards that God has for us? It’s not the judgmental criteria that a girl would have for a boy taking her to the dance. It’s not the harsh grading scale that a teacher has for a paper. God’s expectations for us are basically that we spend this life getting to know Him, love Him, and serve Him. And when we fail to fulfill those standards of sainthood, God does not say “No” like a high school girl would or fail us like a high school teacher would. God continues to love us just the same.

We all need to be aware of the fact that we are not perfect and that God loves us just as much anyways. The fear that we are inadequate is something that should not be present when we are talking about God’s love. You are never inadequate in His eyes, by His standards, through His love.

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2 thoughts on “Our Deepest Fear

  1. Your new blog looks great, Kevin!

    I respectfully disagree with you. I think the deepest and most universal human fear is a fear of our own power and I believe we fear success much more deeply than we fear failure. I don’t want to write a big long thing here, I’ll just say that I have come into this after years of ruthless personal searching, and counseling a lot of clients and doing a lot of spiritual direction.

    This isn’t to say people don’t fear failure, they definitely do. But the fear of success is even deeper and, if you follow that fear in a person’s life, it’ll take you far deeper into who they are than the fear of failure. Nicely written and reasoned post, though.

    • I appreciate the input. It’s always nice to look back on old posts and see how some views have changed and some have stayed the same due to different perspectives and experiences.

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