The Twelve Promises of Alcoholics Anonymous
"Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us."
Alcoholics Anonymous, page 84
Notice that this promise does not say, "I will lose all fear of everything." It specifies that I will lose the wrong fears, which are the fears of people and of economic insecurity. These are fears about self-preservation and show a lack of faith in God’s provision. Hebrews 13: 5, 6 states, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
However, Proverbs 16:6 tells us "By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil." So we must keep a right fear of God, the fear that honors and respects the autonomy of God and His all-powerful Being.
In his teaching from Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll explains that "fear" in scripture is better understood to us today as the word "reverence."
That didn’t seem quite strong enough to me, so I looked it up. Reverence is synonymous with awe, which the American Collegiate Dictionary defines as "mixed emotions of reverence, respect, dread, and wonder inspired by total authority, genius, great beauty and might." I followed by looking up dread. The archaic usage of dread is "to hold in awe or reverence." That cleared it up for me. I can accept with awe and dread the total authority of God, and that is right fear. Or I can try to run my own show and experience the fear that comes with self-effort. That is wrong fear that Satan uses to get a hold of me and destroy me.
The Big Book describes fear on pages 67-68: "This short word some-how touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling? Sometimes we think fear ought to be classed with stealing. It seems to cause more trouble."
Fear certainly caused me more trouble. I lost a lot of time and energy because of fear. All the times I wouldn’t go to certain businesses because I would see someone there that I knew I didn’t want to see; it was usually someone I owed money to. I would see their vehicle outside in the parking lot, and I would just keep on driving. Avoiding people became almost a full-time job for me. I wasted a lot of precious time just running. I stayed in my head organizing my days to miss anyone who might con-front me with my obligations that I couldn’t meet. I was in my head with Satan, and anytime I’m in my head with him, I lose.
I was raised in the Christian church. We went every Sunday, and I learned about God’s love from as young as I can remember. That was good, and it is right to teach children that God is love and He will never leave us. But I never learned to fear in a proper way the consequences that come from breaking His laws. I always thought, "Why should I fear God? God loves me and is good. So what is the point of being afraid of Him? He isn’t going to hurt me. Whatever I do, He will forgive when I ask Him. And since I’ve asked Jesus into my heart, I am going to heaven."
So I was afraid of the people who really couldn’t hurt me, and I had no fear of what Satan was doing in my life, because I knew God wouldn’t hurt me. I didn’t think about the damage I was doing to myself and my family. Satan was killing us, and yet I wasn’t afraid. That seems insane to me now.
As I worked through my steps, I took a good look at just how scared I was. I realized that who I didn’t fear was God. I had my fears backwards. I thought people could harm me, because I looked through self-centered eyes, eyes operated by Satan, eyes that continually asked, "What about me? at are they saying about me? What are they thinking about me? Am I okay?" I never asked, "What about them? at have I done to them? How can I make it right?" I thought, "How can I get out of this without losing my skin?"
I realize now that I cannot do any differently. I am unable to be good or concerned about others; I don’t have that power. Jesus clearly states, "There is but one good, that good is God." So my Satan-operated, self-centered self was frightened of situations that threatened my illusion that I was able to take care of myself. I had a false sense of security in my own "power" and resented being confronted with the reality that my life was out of control and I couldn’t change it.
Until I could get my fear into proper perspective and learn the right fear of God, I could do nothing about my situation. Proverbs 14:27 promises, "The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death." I was in the snare of death, and only the right fear of God could deliver me. Nothing else would make me desperate enough to go to any lengths to get out of my miserable situation. As I realized my powerlessness, and the fact that either God could help me or I was doomed, I began to know fear of God. I knew I didn’t deserve Him to help me. I hadn’t been concerned about involving Him in my life when things weren’t desperate. What a fair-weather friend I had been!
But God had used this wrong fear to drive me to see my powerlessness, my helplessness. This wrong fear drove me to Romans 7, "Oh wretched man that I am, who will deliver me…." I came to see a Power greater than myself had to deliver me. And that was the basis for my Step One, and eventually the fulfilling of this promise.
My fears of people, I learned from my fourth-step inventory, were brought on by my own actions. As I admitted my wrongs to others and made my amends to them, I was no longer afraid to face them. As I accepted by faith that I was a new man in Christ Jesus and that old man no longer existed, I found a new and right fear of God. This new fear was not crippling and paralyzing like the wrong fear, but constructive and positive. I still have to bottom-line and faith through the fear of economic insecurity, but it is getting easier. But I can truly say the fear of people and what they can do to me is gone.
John tells us that perfect love casts out all fear. In Deuteronomy 5:29 we are told "Oh, that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever." By this I know that my proper fear of God will extend to my children, and I believe with Job, that "the years the locusts have eaten away, God will replace a hundredfold."
Anonymity is a fundamental tradition in AA. However, the writer welcomes any questions or comments, which may be sent to the magazine office.