Going through Bible college helped some, but even there I felt inferior to everyone else, though I did come out of the thinking that everyone disliked me as soon as they saw me. I was well into my twenties before I realized there were people who really did like me.
It is something that still is an issue for me. And as a guy who is more vulnerable and sensitive than I let on, I have taken things wrong, assumed things wrong, and thought there was no way some people would like me or want to be my friend, only to find out occasionally how wrong I was.
One problem for me is Facebook. There were a few instances where I tried to add someone as a friend, and they never confirmed it, and sometimes someone from my own church, so I got to the place where I quit adding people. If someone sent me a friend request, I'd accept it, but never do I risk what I have viewed as rejection, by sending someone a friend request.
There is a guy around my age who is really good friends with, and is dating a good friend of mine, and I have thought about adding him before, but that fear of rejection, and the ghosts of the fear of no one liking me would creep up, so I never did. Earlier this week, I got a friend request from him, which I accepted of course. He messaged me and thanked me for adding him, and I told him I had wanted to add him, but am shy about adding people. He replied that he is the same way, but decided to "bite the bullet" and add me.
Ever since our becoming friends on Facebook and having that brief interchange, I have been thinking a lot about that. I doubt there are that many people as warped as I am with my fear of adding friends, but I am sure there are a lot who are a bit shy to add someone they may not know well. How many people am I missing out on adding to my circle of friends and acquaintances, because I fear rejection? Because I fear the person might not like me?
And take it outside of on line social networking. How many friendships and meaningful conversations have I missed out on because of fear?
There is a lady I am friends with on Facebook who has kids my age. Her husband's brother was my pastor for several years, so there is that connection, but I had never met her or her husband, other than through Facebook.
A couple of months ago, she messaged me on Facebook and said they'd like for me to come for a visit... they live about 1 1/2 hours away. We eventually made plans, and I drove up this past Tuesday and visited with them and had a great meal, and great fellowship. It would never have happened if they had been like me and feared rejection. And if I hadn't changed as much as I have, I would have been fearful to accept. But they invited me, I went, and we had a great time... well, I know I did, and they seem to have had also.
Again, how many friendships have I missed out on because of fear? I see new people at church, and feel I should talk to them, but my old feelings of inadequacy and inferiority rise up, and I back off. Occasionally, I'll tell someone it is nice to have them there, but a voice inside tells me how dumb I sounded, and there are better people in the church to welcome them than me.
Fortunately, everyone is not like me. I have had some very nice people add me as friends on Facebook who I would have been afraid to add... authors, friends of friends, even relatives I don't know well.
And it isn't just with people. I find myself wondering what fear has kept me from all of these years. I'm not much of a risk taker. There have been jobs I didn't apply for, because I feared I couldn't do them. Things I felt I should do, but feared what people would think. It is something I don't want to think about too much, for it depresses me to think about what I might have missed out on due to fear.
And yet, I can't just ignore it and sweep it under the rug, for I feel convicted and feel the need to change. No one should be so ruled by fears that it cripples their very life and emotions, especially a Christian. What good am I to God if my fears are bigger to me than He is? And am I trusting God if I am so bound by fear that it interferes with what He may want me to do?
It can be daunting to look at an area you need to change, especially one that has you bound as much as fear has me bound... and it can very difficult to change, but I can see the need to change, so I will do it in small steps.... taking the initiative to add someone as a friend on Facebook, speaking to someone I don't know at church, inviting someone out to lunch, drinking the milk when it is past the expiration date, jumping off a cliff into water....... OK, just kidding on that one. I can't swim.
The Bible has "fear not" 170 times, so it is obviously something God doesn't want us to do. I won't be doing anything daring any time soon, but hopefully with his help, I can overcome being so bound by my fears.