The Black Hole of Fear

Within the past 12 months, I've been going around in my travels having casual conversations with groups of Christian women and asking them to list the women leaders they can think of who don't seem scared to them. No one ever answers immediately, except to say, "They're aren't any!" Typically it takes about 20 seconds before someone comes up with a serious suggestion.

So I clarified the question: "Can anyone think of a woman who leads both women and men in a sphere that isn't traditionally led by women and who doesn't seem afraid?"

Silence.

Once, however, someone suggested the late Mother Teresa. Unlike other prominent women in society, Mother Teresa seemed to lack the usual markers of underlying fear. Think about it. She didn't hold back from speaking her mind in public. (She spoke boldly against abortion at Harvard.) She wasn't worried about her looks. She didn't have an eating disorder. She didn't resort to coarse humor. She wasn't edgy. She didn't over-apologize. She didn't take pains to assure other Catholic leaders that "she really didn't want their jobs."

As compared to Mother Teresa, how afraid do the rest of us seem?

In my estimation, there is a black hole of fear that tends to suck women leaders down into its gravitational pull. From what I can tell, Christian women leaders are especially vulnerable to this black hole.

I don't want Christian women to be fearful. Yet I am all too acquainted with the debilitating power of fear. But I have been battling against it. I have prayed for twenty years for the strength to repent from sinful fear. I don't want to be afraid of other people or what they think. I don't want to be distracted when someone in the church says that women are "not called" into pastoral leadership or public positions of influence. I don't want to waste time being nervous. Nor do I want to strive in fear by over-preparing or overworking lest I become excluded somehow.

Let me try to contextualize what I'm saying. Most of the Christian women reading this posting are confident leaders. But deep inside, in a rather subtle way, many of us are burdened by fear. We're a little bit afraid because the standards placed upon us are so high. At once, or so it seems, we are required to prove to others that we are competent for the job, able to hold up emotionally, and safe - not too threatening - to the people around us. We are also required to prove our credibility as leaders. This is quite a tough assignment.

August 10, 2007 at 12:11 PM

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