Men and Their Emotions: Fear

This series about a man’s emotions started with posts on “Why” we need to manage our emotions, “How” God’s gift of emotions became distorted, and “What” we are to do to become more godly men. The last post on Anger describes the effects on our brain and our relationships.  In this post, I write about our emotion of Fear. 

The Fear of Being “Enough” 

In his article, This is the Single Man’s Greatest Fear, Ben Weaver suggests that men live as if we are “not enough”. We’re not good enough, smart enough, good-looking enough, athletic enough, strong enough, loveable enough, successful enough. Fear of failure—of failing to be a man, leads to men to ask: “Am I enough”?

Weaver states the world’s ever-moving bar of excellence has taught us that we’ve got to somehow stifle the most powerful organ in our body – our heart when it comes to our emotions. We keep them locked up, we don’t show we are afraid. The problem is that men now have a heart full of fear and aren’t sure if they have what it takes to do something in this world. 

Many of us do tend to face our fear head-on which is what we are traditionally and culturally conditioned to do as protectors and risk-takers.

But deep down, our fears rattle us to the core. Fear keeps us up at night. Fears paralyze us when we confront tough choices. Fears of rejection, irrelevance, and disappointment impact our relationships. 

Weaver suggests we must begin by healing our broken heart. He says we must learn to address the fears, hurts, and failures that control our lives. This starts by believing your best life is moving and living forward by first turning around and going back to face our fears.

President Franklin Roosevelt had this famous assertion about fear: “The only thing we have to fear is… fear itself.”

I  think FDR was right, but with this slight nuance: Man’s fear of “being enough” causes more problems in their lives than the simple fear of fear itself.

So we need a better solution: some more transformation.

Fear Defined

Like anger, the emotion of fear has both a negative and positive side.

Generally, the negative side of fear arises from the threat of harm, either physical, emotional, or psychological, real or imagined.

Most dictionaries would define fear with a noun that means an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat. As a verb, fear is to be afraid of or expect with alarm (i.e. fear the worst). 

A negative fear actually serves an important role in keeping us safe as it mobilizes us to cope with potential danger. Some people even suggest that fear is the root cause of all negative emotions and should be avoided as it impacts our health and our relationships.

However, a positive fear means having a reverential awe of someone or something, like the fear of God, and should be encouraged.

Environmental and Physiological Reaction to Fear

Like anger, the emotion of fear also triggers a “fight-or-flight” response that is crucial to our human survival.

According to MedicalNewsToday, the physiological reactions to fear begins in the amygdala of our brain, which activates the pituitary gland that secretes adrenocorticotropic (ACTH) hormones into the blood. The release of cortisol offsets the spike in ACTH and causes our breathing and heart rates to increase, blood vessels around vital organs to dilate which floods them with oxygen and nutrients, and muscles to pump with blood so they are ready to react. The levels of glucose in our blood spike, providing a ready store of energy in case action is needed.  

But Dr. Paul Ekman’s research shows our facial recognition shows our fears.

So whether our response is justified, or that we realize we might have overreacted, our brain centers eventually dampen down the reactions to our fear.

But there is another way to overcome our fears.

What the Bible says about Fear

The Bible also mentions two specific types of fear. The first type is beneficial and is to be encouraged. The second is detrimental and is to be avoided. But there is a change in the importance of fear as earlier defined. 

The first kind is fear of the Lord.

This first is a reverence and awe of God’s power and glory, which is not necessarily something to be afraid of, including a proper respect for God’s wrath and anger.

In other words, the fear of the Lord is an acknowledgment of all that God is which comes through knowing Him and His attributes. 

The second is to fear evil, which makes God’s righteous anger applicable when we give in to sin. 

As we know from Genesis 3, evil entered the world when Adam and Eve hid after they disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Adam even admitted to fear: “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

Being fearful and ashamed became new experiences to humankind due to sin. Subsequently, Adam and Eve’s son, Cain also lived in fear of being killed as revenge for the murder of his brother, Abel. 

That said, I suggest that these lead to man’s fear of failing because we know we have failed God and will continue to do so until we have a reverent fear for His plan for us and for His world.

The good news is that the Bible also encourages us to overcome our fears with a healthy reverence of the Lord: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7).

Isaiah 41:10 also teaches us, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” 

At funerals, we hear this reminder to not fear evil: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

The Word of God frequently commands us to “not be afraid,” (at least 365 times, depending on your translation) and to trust in His promises: “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)

Even the wisest man of all, Solomon, wrote this at the end of his life: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

How God Buddies Respond to Fear

God Buddies work together to overcome their fears. They learn to other face fears head-on and provide words of encouragement. Your GB prays with you and for you prior to a scary doctor’s appointment or job interview. They cheer for you after an unexpected accomplishment. GBs help you feel confident to take the leap of faith with a big financial decision. They remind you of God’s promises to be with you always.

As I wrote in the Three Relationships Every Man Needs, the apostle Paul became close friends with Barnabas, whose name meant “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). Barnabas was at Paul’s side to verify his conversion story so the other believers accepted Paul (Acts 9:26-30). With Barnabas’ encouragement, Paul became more confident in his new-found faith and spoke boldly about Jesus and helped the church grow quickly in numbers.

Most importantly, Jesus’ death on the cross should help eliminate your fears because you are “more than enough” in God’s eyes!  

The next post is about the emotion of Sadness.


2 Responses

  1. Hey Rich,
    Great post! Fear… is the “root emotion” that generates the majority of my less than best decisions. I can hide my negative fear by covering it with a mask of anger, aggression, aragance and boastfulness!
    I ‘m learning to let GOD bless my me with enough wisdom to realize the times I begin to mask my fear, and a moment of clarity to recognize what I am afraid of. Then I can release my fear with an emotional healthy response.
    Mr Dan

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