When Others React in Fear-Based Behaviors

Graphic with quote on grace

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that most of our negative encounters, conflicts, and relational barriers stem from fear. And in this, from a failure to accept, understand, and live in grace. When we mess up, think we have, or worry someone else determines we have, we tend to hide, to blame, to deflect, and point fingers. Many of us have come to recognize these unhealthy reactions in ourselves. But are we also able to see these tendencies in others?

We have a tendency to see the outward symptoms, but God zeroes in on the heart. We see the failings. God sees those too, but always with His eye set on each of our potential. You may have heard the sculptor analogy, may even have used it to comfort yourself.

Man chiseling stone

It says, in essence, that just as the artists sees his finished masterpiece in a slab of stone, once all the excess has been chipped away and rough edges sanded smooth, so too God sees His masterpiece hidden within our sin and brokenness. And like a careful craftsman, He slowly, gently, patiently molds us into men and women who more accurately reflect His Son.

But here’s the thing—we’re not the only ones He’s molding, and we’re not the only ones in need of grace. We’re not the only ones who need to be reminded that there indeed is grace.

My daughter often says, “Every painting has an ugly phase,” a phase, frankly, the artist never wants to display. Some may even bolt the doors to the studio, barring entrance until their work reaches a certain standard.

I suspect this is true for many of the people you and I encounter. They long to be fully known and fully loved. We all do. But they’re afraid of rejection. So, whenever someone begins to jiggle their doorknob or their unfinished pieces begin to show, they react. They lash out, withdraw, or both. Humans have exhibited this pattern of fear-based behavior since the beginning of time, since the very first humans committed their very first sin.

You might be familiar with this story preserved in Genesis 3. God gave Adam and Eve a clear and reasonable command. They could enjoy everything in the literal paradise God had created except for the fruit from a single tree. They disobeyed, despite the abundance, and immediately felt the weight of their sin. Shame entered their heart and caused them to hide, to deflect, and to blame. (Gen. 3:7-14) They felt exposed and immediately sought to cover their shame, to in effect plaster over their sin. But nothing they did could appease their guilt or remove their shame.

So, how did God respond?

He moved in. “Where are you?” He asked (v. 9), and not because He didn’t know. Rather, He was calling them out of hiding, into the light of His presence once more*. Then, verse 21 tells us, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” This was the first animal sacrifice in history, a vivid picture of Christ’s death to come. In other words, through this covering, God did for them what they couldn’t do for themselves; He covered them in grace.

The same grace He provided to you and I. A grace He wants us to not only experience but also put on full display.

Our God is still calling people out of hiding, and He longs to use us to do so. May He help us to see, respond to, and love others in the same way He loves us so that through us everyone we encounter may catch a glimpse of His life-changing grace.

*Idea taken from Tara Rye, a Wholly Loved Team Member, and her thoughts on this biblical account.

Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plan

As you prayerfully work through various relationships, you may find Wholly Loved’s 20 Days to Relational Health Bible plan helpful. Locate it HERE.

And for all of us parents, grandparents, guardians, aunts, and uncles, I encourage you to listen to my latest Faith Over Fear Podcast, titled Raising Courageous Kids. Because we all have a responsibility to love the next generation well.

The Courage to Take a Risk for Friendship – Ep. 50 Faith Over Fear

Many times, obedience is hard. Taking steps of faith will feel exponentially harder if we try to go it alone. We all need supportive, encouraging allies who understand our struggle, will point us to Christ, and, when necessary, speak hard truths. In order to develop relationships to the depth our souls need, we’ll have to risk being vulnerable. But the strength and courage we’ll receive in return will far outweigh the risks. Find Jennifer Slattery at: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Shellie Arnold at: https://www.shelliearnold.com/ https://www.facebook.com/shellie.arnold.7 Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. Share a time when you felt alone in your obedience or perhaps alone in general. How did your sense of aloneness impact your behavior? 2. Who in your life do you most gain support from? 3. Healthy relationships speak truth in love. How easy or difficult is it for you to receive constructive feedback? 4. When has someone you love challenged you to grow in an area, and how did you respond? 5. Strong relationships take effort and intentionality. Mary was willing to walk 80 miles for support. How readily do you embrace inconvenience in order to prioritize relationships? 6. Consider your current struggle or call. In what ways has God shown Himself faithful to support and prepare you? 7. When has a step of faith forced you to rely on someone else? What was the result, relationally? 8. Can you think of a time when God asked you to be an ally for someone? Did you obey? 9. Who might God be inviting you into deep friendship with? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Nuthawut Somsuk
  1. The Courage to Take a Risk for Friendship – Ep. 50
  2. The Courage to Fight for Others – Ep. 49
  3. Responding with Courage When Others Act Foolishly – Ep. 48
  4. The Courage to Shed False Identities – Ep. 47
  5. The Courage to Let Our Kids Fail – Ep. 46

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram! Find Wholly Loved Ministries HERE.

*Scripture taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

2 thoughts on “When Others React in Fear-Based Behaviors

  1. “Then, verse 21 tells us, ‘The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.’ This was the first animal sacrifice in history, a vivid picture of Christ’s death to come. In other words, through this covering, God did for them what they couldn’t do for themselves; He covered them in grace.”

    I always picture God weeping over whatever animal-His beloved creation-He killed to provide a covering for Adam and Eve. The Bible declares that God saw everything He’d made and called it “good”. The animal he slaughtered was innocent, just as Jesus was innocent. As He tenderly covered their shame with the skin of the animal, He tenderly covers us with the mercy and grace obtained by Christ on the Cross. May we live in it as Adam and Eve wore the skins of the innocent animal.

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