The Fear of Connection
I should say the fear of deeper connection. Most of us connect on some level just not a deeper one. We connect on the surface talking about things like news, weather and sports.
Most of us don’t fear surface level connection because it’s easy. Questions like, “How are you?” How’s work?” “What’s going on?” are safe questions to ask and answer. Deeper connection requires openness and vulnerability and that my friends is unsafe.
You Are To Close
(8) When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees.
(9) Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
(10) He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” Genesis 3:8-9 NLT
I love the picture verse eight paints in my mind. A picture of a wonderful night, husband and wife walking around the garden, the cool evening breezes were blowing and then BAM! “What was that?” Adam says to Eve, “I heard it too,” says Eve. “There is someone else in the garden. I hear footsteps! They’re getting closer. We need to hide!”
When asked about where they were the response was, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”
It’s interesting to me that in verse seven Adam and Eve felt shame at their nakedness but they weren’t afraid. Now they are afraid and the only thing that changed is the physical presence of someone else, God Himself.
3 Ways We Hide In Our Garden
The garden story got me thinking of ways we hide today. No more fig leaves or hiding among the trees, we have perfected the art. Telling my story to someone revealing all my flaws, fears and failures is a high risk proposition. The less risky, yet more damaging approach, is to hide.
1. We Avoid and Isolate
If you want to connect with me on a deeper level the easiest way for me to say, “That’s not going to happen,” is to avoid you. If I don’t hear you “Walking around the garden” of my life then I am safe. If proximity gets me nervous then I will avoid you if possible.
2. We Share Just Enough To Get By
If our efforts to avoid and isolate don’t work and we find ourselves in a situation that requires open and honest vulnerability we have a set of stories we can tell that will give the appearance of vulnerability but the reality is the stories we are sharing are safe for us. We share just enough to get by. I call this Faux Real.
Faux Real is not real, it’s fake, an imitation. Faux Real is sharing just enough about who you are that it will get people to think you are being open and honest but the reality is you only shared enough to appear vulnerable and there was no real risk in what you shared.
A “manageable” story that painted you in an honest and open way without giving up to much. I know how this works first hand, I practiced it for many years and became quite good at it.
3. We Create An Acceptable Identity
Creating an alternate personality of our real self is a safe way to hide in plain site. A personality that is easily accepted in various social situations. A personality that will pass social scrutiny and one that is less vulnerable and more presentable to others.
We compartmentalize life and act one way at church, one way at home, one way with friends, you get the idea. We create this identity so we can hide behind it, in plain site. Its our safe identity to the alternative of being vulnerable and the more we practice the better we get.
If My Fear of Connection Makes Me Want To Hide…Be Vulnerable
Vulnerability, What Is It?
If you were to look up “vulnerable” in a thesaurus you would find words like, exposed, unguarded, susceptible and defenseless. Those words do not make me feel safe, in fact, they make me feel the exact opposite!
However, vulnerability leads to deeper relationships and healthy living. Sure, it’s risky but with great risk comes great reward. A vulnerable risk leads to deeper connection with others, humility and freedom and who doesn’t want those things in their life? Well, I can tell you who. People who live in a constant state of image management, arrogance and fear. Again, I understand this way of living, I did it for years.
3 Steps To Vulnerable Living
1. Find A Safe Place
Shame is healed in the midst of safety. You don’t have to tell everything to everyone but you need to tell something to someone. Blurting out your flaws and failures to everyone you know or don’t know isn’t a healthy first step. Find a safe place with safe people. I’m sorry but if you are on staff at a church it is possible but highly doubtful that your friends, coworkers or your boss are safe. Ending up on the prayer list is not a place where shame is healed.
Please understand, prayer has great power and I do believe prayer changes things. It’s “being” put on the prayer list that’s risky. Find a good counselor and pay them to be safe.
2. Share Your Story
Everybody has a story, its just not the one they are telling you. We need to speak our shame in a safe environment. Let people see your heart not just hear your head. It takes extreme courage to tell your story because you are facing incredible fear, it isn’t easy. Being vulnerable is a great measurement of a persons courage. Your story is unique, it’s not uncommon. We are all messed up, it’s just the ones that don’t want you to know they are messed up who are struggling the most.
Sharing your story with others is like holding up a mirror for them. By sharing your shame it reveals your flaws and failures but it also allows others to see their own. Sharing your story usually sends a resonant “Me Too” message to the person or persons listening to your story.
3. Face Your Fear
Facing our fear of connection isn’t an easy thing. It takes courage and humility. The next time you feel that fear rising up in your soul remember one of these five verses and step out with a courageous heart.
When I Feel Worried I Will Remember, “I will always look to you, as you stand beside me and protect me from fear. Psalm 16:8 CEV
When I Feel Afraid I Will Remember, God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self- discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NLTse
When I Feel Vulnerable I Will Remember, I asked the Lord for help, and he saved me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 CEV
When I Feel Unsafe I Will Remember, You, LORD, are the light that keeps me safe. I am not afraid of anyone. You protect me, and I have no fears. Psalm 27:1 CEV
When I Feel Threatened I Will Remember, ”The angel of the Lord is a guard; He surrounds and defends all who fear him." Psalm 34:7 NLT