Peace – who doesn’t crave it? The idea of calm, stillness, and tranquility is incredibly appealing! Simply put, peace is the absence of conflict.
As I observe those around me during the holidays, or really any time of the year, the vibe is anything but peaceful. Last week, I shared the role your personality plays in conflicts. Your personality is surprisingly predictable, but did you know there is an even more powerful factor in your conflicts? A factor that is just as predictable? Fear.
My kids and I did our fair share of science experiments together. That was just one of the frills of being a homeschooling family. I’ll be honest, science it not my forte, yet we still managed to make some interesting discoveries through those experiments.
One experiment we did was to create a “tornado” together using two empty soda bottles. Perhaps you’ve created one to. If not, here’s a quick video to bring you up to speed. This particular experiment was especially meaningful after our family witnessed a tornado skip across the road right in front of us while on vacation in Florida. While the soda bottle tornado in no way replicated the power and danger involved in our experience, it did mimic the motion.
Tornadoes are created when the atmosphere is right; when warm, moist air collides with cold, dry air. The result: an unstable atmosphere that is able to powerfully suck into its vortex anything in its path.
Conflict is much like a tornado when fear is in the mix. When two people come together who are operating out of fear, conflict is the result. And when your Fear Monster is triggered, it naturally arouses the Fear Monster in others. When the two get spinning, it creates a powerful vortex that can lead to some serious damage.
Here’s how it works:
Your Worst Fear…
When you’re living out of fear, you will naturally interpret circumstances and encounters with others in ways that confirms the worst: that your Fear Monster is telling you the truth.
No one is exempt from fear. Your Fear Monster might go by a different name than my Fear Monster, but you have one! My Fear Monster is “You don’t matter”, but for you it might be that you are incompetent, selfish, rejected, not enough, weak, or one of the many other possibilities.
Did you know that when fear’s in charge, you have a way of attracting events that confirm your worst fear? Fear causes you to behave in unbecoming ways that arouses fear in those around you leading to conflict. It can be a vicious cycle.
Thank heavens you can become more aware of the role your Fear Monster is playing, and better equipped to respond in ways that diminish the power of those crazy conflict moments before they do irreparable damage.
Even with great awareness, your Fear Monster is sneaky and can show up in unexpected ways. In hind sight these moments seem silly, but in the heat of the moment they feel anything but silly! Here’s a quick peak into a silly episode where the crazy vortex ensued in my own life:
While on vacation, my husband discovered a terrific deal on a new laptop for me. Excited about the possibility, he enthusiastically shared all the many features of the laptop with me while I was getting ready for a delightful dinner out. Focused on getting beautiful, I was not thinking about laptops. You could say that a new laptop never entered my mind.
Not really understanding the need for a new lap top, the whole conversation was a distraction. I was much more interested in the special evening ahead.
This unexpected laptop conversation stirred up my fear of not mattering. After all, if I really mattered, he too would be focused on the lovely evening ahead, right? And my underwhelming excitement stirred up his fear of being incompetent. From his perspective, I should have been overjoyed with his amazing discovery that he had painstakingly searched for. The fact that I wasn’t as excited as he was about the idea of a new laptop sent a powerful message to him that he made a mistake; that he was incompetent. The vortex was in motion!
Being able to regroup and recognize the role our own fears played and that neither one of us were intentionally trying to harm the other is a powerful first step in putting an end to such conflicts. And when you know that you are loved extravagantly by God, you are then able to lean into who He created you to be in ways that bring hope and healing to the conflicts you encounter.
Think about your last “vortex” moment at home or at work. What role did fear play in that conflict? Sometimes it takes a bit of digging, but the odds are pretty good that fear is at the root.
Fear is incredibly predictable! There are certain things that are consistently true when fear is involved.
It’s all about blame, criticizing, and lashing out in a get you before you get me way.
2. Sure to keep you from getting what you want most
Whatever you need or desire – fear will make sure you continue to stay in a place of want.
3. A masterful distorter!
It will lead you to believe that your worst fear is true in the most innocent situations.
4. All about conforming, comparing, and complaining
Yep! Fear wants you to be what you aren’t, try to be like everyone else, and be perpetually dissatisfied. It is the enemy of authenticity.
5. A dream stealer
It tells you lies and fools you into thinking your dream isn’t possible.
6. Screams you “can’t”
It makes you feel like a failure.
7. A confidence stealer
It will keep you on shaky ground and tangled in conflict.
8. About protecting yourself
It’s tough to be authentic and protected at the same time!
Branch out – mingle with the brave!
It gets bigger and bigger while making your life smaller and smaller.
11. A vortex
It keeps you spinning in conflict with key people in your life and in patterns that keep you from operating out of your full potential; who God created you to BE.
12. Preventing you from being who God created you to BE!
He has so much more for you; so much more for your relationships both personally and professionally.
Fear Makes You Behave in Funky Ways
Fear causes you to attempt to get what you need in the worst possible way. When you lean into who God created you to be, however, it allows you to confidently ask for what you want or need because you know you are loved unconditionally by the One who matters most.
Often times, in hind sight, conflict seems utterly ridiculous like our little episode. In the moment, however, it can feel quite painful! Thankfully, we were able recognize how our Fear Monsters were clashing so that we could approach the situation differently.
I know folks who have kept conflicts alive and well for 15 years or longer, never realizing how the ongoing battle is a sign that fear has the upper hand. Makes me wonder what fears were underlying the Hatfield and McCoy’s ongoing disagreement!
Until you grasp the unconditional love God has for you, fear will linger. His love will fuel you to walk in who He created you to BE. Then when conflict arises, and it will, you can approach those challenging moments differently because you are able to recognize fear, know how to connect to His love, identify what you need, and lean into the person He created you to BE. That will transform your crazy conflicts into moments of deeper connection and peace!
What role has fear been playing in your conflicts?