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Here’s what you can do about it.

Have you ever gotten scared and reacted so strongly that you surprised even yourself? One time while walking from a park with a friend, another friend jumped out at us from the bushes. I was so afraid that I threw a punch and hit him in the back. I was shocked that I could get so angry so quickly! We laugh about it now, and he knows better than to catch me by surprise.

But the truth is that sometimes fear motivates us to do things that we can regret. It turns you into someone you don’t want to be. When I was a student at Cal fear literally turned me into a crazy person. I pretended I was tougher than I was when I was walking home late at night from studying and if I heard someone walking near me I started talking to myself really loudly, twitching, skipping, anything that would make the “scary people” scared of me!

As a mom, I see fear affecting my parenting because I get more aggressive in my son’s schedule, his diet and in my attitude towards him if he shows any sign of being out of control and attitudinal (what 3 year old doesn’t look out of control and attitudinal sometimes!) My hysterical fears often get blown out of proportion and I lose my gentle, mothering touch.

Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety.

Proverbs 29:25 NLT

The Bible teaches that fear traps us. When we feel trapped we tend to panic. Fear also traps us into being the same kind of person, not believing we can change. But with God we can always have a safe place; we can tackle our fears. We can find ways to be calm, courageous, and love life. That’s why we decided to call this year’s campus retreat “Bold” because having a relationship with God can help us find the courage to become who we want to be.

So who does fear turn you into, and what can you do about it? Let’s start by identifying 3 kinds of people that fear turns you into, and then how to be free to be yourself.

The Chameleon = Afraid to Be Yourself

It is the same with you. On the outside you seem to be doing what is right. But on the inside you are full of what is wrong. You pretend to be what you are not.

Matthew 23:28 NIrV

Chameleons fit in wherever they go. When you are afraid of what people think you start pretending to be what you are not. You stop saying what you really think or feel or what is really going on in your life.

Maybe you have learned to appease people around you; you learn the right words to say, catch phrases that make people like you, but they don’t really know you. I had a friend who said to me, “You are so hard to shop for because I don’t really know your style!” The truth was that I changed my style to fit whatever situation I was in, to blend in and be unnoticeable. My biggest fear was that if someone noticed that I was different, they wouldn’t accept me.

Have you become a chameleon? Do you feel so afraid of rejection that you don’t even know what you really think anymore? Chameleons can’t make a difference in the world because they are so afraid to step out and be different. But different isn’t always a bad thing, and when we learn to embrace who we really are we can actually learn to value our unique strengths and what we bring to the table.

The Avoider = Afraid to Face the Truth

Then he said, “You show great skill in avoiding the commands of God so that you can follow your own teachings!

Mark 7:9 ERV

An avoider only wants to focus on things they are good at. They are so afraid of finding weakness and faults that they focus on their talents or things that come easy. When you’re an avoider, you end up arrogant because you don’t let your weaknesses show you how much you need God and friends. You get angry at people who bring up weaknesses and focus on what’s wrong with them. You think things like, “That person is just always negative, they have something against me”… and you as a result you tend to avoid those people who could actually really help you.

Do you welcome constructive criticism and those who will challenge you to be better? Or do you avoid them out of fear of facing the truth?

The Blamer = Afraid to Take Responsibility

Angry people without God pile grievance upon grievance, always blaming others for their troubles.

Job 36:13 MSG
So you can see there are no excuses for any of us. If your eyes shift their focus from yourselves to others—to judge how they are doing—you have already condemned yourselves! You don’t realize that you are pointing your fingers at others for the exact things you do as well.

Romans 2:1 Voice

When you blame other people for why you are unhappy or you talk about other people’s problems to make yourself feel better, you know you may be avoiding responsibility in your life. Sometimes when we feel like change is hard, it is easier to look at what others need to change instead of ourselves. When you are a blamer, you don’t think anything applies to you. You will not say that because you know that is not right, but you tend to think other people’s struggles are worse than yours. You spend more time thinking about what others need to change than what you need to change. And when you do see what you need to change, you tend to have a victim mentality about it. You get angry when someone tries to show you that you have contributed to your troubles in any way.

Are you a blamer? As scary as responsibility may seem, you actually get more power to change when you stop blaming others.

How Do We Overcome Fear? Choose to Be Known

Instead of letting fear turn you into someone you don’t want to be, decide to be confident in who you are. With God there is a perfect balance in not being so arrogant that your confidence offends others, but also not being a pushover. Be yourself.

“Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

Matthew 23:11-12 The Message

It’s not always easy to be content to simply be yourself. But the Bible says that when you decide to search for that contentment, you end up fearless – and your life will count for a lot.

The only way to be yourself is to admit your feelings, your thoughts, your rights and wrongs. Start with trusted family and friends, a spouse, your children, a roommate; someone you want to know you. If you feel you have no one in your life you can really open up to, start with God. Find a group of friends who also want to work on having this kind of honesty and contentment.

“Still, if you set your heart on God and reach out to him, If you scrub your hands of sin and refuse to entertain evil in your home, You’ll be able to face the world unashamed and keep a firm grip on life, guiltless and fearless. You’ll forget your troubles; they’ll be like old, faded photographs. Your world will be washed in sunshine, every shadow dispersed by dayspring. Full of hope, you’ll relax, confident again; you’ll look around, sit back, and take it easy. Expansive, without a care in the world, you’ll be hunted out by many for your blessing.”

Job 11:13-19 The Message

Instead of being a chameleon, an avoider, or a blamer, decide to overcome fear and be full of hope, relaxed and confident this year.

If you are a college student, be sure to join us for our upcoming campus retreat “Bold” to learn more about overcoming fears and becoming someone who truly makes an difference in the world.

Written by

Mandy Kiluk

Mandy Kiluk currently works in the ministry at BACC and a University of California, Berkeley alum.