For years now we have heard, from many of our most prodigious spiritual leaders, that fear and love cannot occupy the same space, for fear is not love and love casts out fear. Therefore, many of have spent those years trying desperately to rid themselves of fear, thinking that that act will somehow cleanse them to be the true spiritual beings that they are.
I know it will feel like sacrilege, but what if it isn’t true? What if it is not true that we should get rid of our fear in the name of love? What if love is big enough to contain fear?
The origin of that belief is found in the Bible. It is 1 John 4:18, and it says: “Perfect love casts out fear.” It goes on to say: “…because fear involves punishment and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” If you believe the Bible to be inerrant, then this must be true. If you believe that the Bible is a translation of many translations and therefore, difficult to read as final truth, then we can look at other possibilities. Those other possibilities include the possibility that what is being referred to here is the lack of trust in the truth of our Oneness with the divine. If we truly have that Oneness then fear of punishment is unnecessary.
But that does not mean that fear and love cannot occupy the same space. In fact, it is possible to so love the Self that one fears something that will harm it. And that fear is a healthy fear. It is the fear that one has when one is standing in the middle of the street and there is a 18-wheeler flying right at us. That fear will motivate us to get out of the street. That kind of fear is instinctive and essential to our well-being. There are many kinds of metaphorical 18-wheelers out there of which we need to be afraid in order to protect ourselves from harm. If we tell ourselves not to have that fear, if we try to make those fears go away, then where is the motivating force that will get us out of the street?
Somehow, we have begun to believe that our emotions, such as fear, anger, sorrow—anything except bliss—are wrong, that we should not have them. But I want to know why we were given these emotions if they are not somehow useful to us?
In fact, fear can slow us down long enough to look both ways, to really discern what is going on around us. It can prevent us from getting into toxic relationships. It can alert us to those times when we are deserting ourselves in the name of having someone or something else. It can put us in touch with deeper roots that want to protect us from harm. It can, in fact, put us in touch with our deepest self-love. And it is self-love that puts us in touch with our deeper, more authentic love for others.
So, beware of the notion that fear is the enemy. In fact, it is one of our very best friends. Listening to the self we were given, trusting it, is essential to the trust of the divine we all so long to own.
~Andrea Mathews is a psychotherapist, author, speaker and radio host, currently teaching workshops to clinicians on how to assess and treat spiritual problems. She is the author of four books, the latest, "Letting Go of Good: Dispel the Myth of Goodness to Find Your Genuine Self," is coming out in 2017. Learn more about her work at http://www.andreamathews.com.