In my third year of seminary, I could scarcely bring myself to request meetings with my professors. I felt immense pressure to prove my conversation warranted their attention. I couldn’t bear the devastation of disappointing them and wasting their time.
I was newly married, and I will never forget the first time I shared this anxiety with my wife, Sharon, who had also been through the program. The concern had never crossed her mind. “You know this is their job, right? We are paying them to meet with us. It’s not like they are doing you a favor by holding office hours.”
The contrast between her nonchalance and my anxiety was profoundly disorientating. How could we see this so differently? What was wrong with me?
The more I thought about it, the more I began to suspect that my fear of disappointing significant figures in my life might have something to do with my father, who was an alcoholic throughout my childhood. I eventually stumbled upon a concept I had never heard ...1