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Fear of the Dork

Fr. Kevin Nadolski | Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Growing up as children, we frequently fear the dark, as we don’t want to be alone with little light to shine on whatever it is we think could be lurking around us. We eventually learn to rest in darkness, confident we will be safe after some healthy reassurance from a parent or trusted adult. Thankfully, our fear of the dark dies as we mature.
But not all of our fears die.  
In fact, we take some fears – or at least remnants of them – from our youth well into adulthood. Our fear of the dark is rooted in a sense of danger, insecurity or threat to our safety. Of course, it is reasonable to desire such safety, but sometimes what we perceive as threats are not always rational. And what we do to protect ourselves from these threats is not always healthy – or holy.
For example, a person could have a fear of rejection; admittedly a painful experience. To protect against it, he may lie or misrepresent truths about himself out of a fear that if someone ever learned the real truth about him, he would be rejected. The dishonesty then becomes a false light to protect him from the darkness of being personally dismissed.  
Or, a woman might fear the darkness of defeat and work hard never to feel as if she is losing or at the short end of what she experiences as a competition. Compensating for this, she may tend to over-represent her talents, achievements or abilities.
We all have insecurities that are deep within us, regardless of their nature or origin. These perceived inadequacies frequently hinder us from being completely free in our relationships and daily choices.  
Bullying has been presented as a national epidemic in our schools, and we can experience overly aggressive behaviors in the professional workplace and some social settings. School counselors agree much of this type of anti-social behavior comes from perceptibly strong students picking on the weak because the so-called bolder youths fear or loathe in themselves exactly what is visible in their victims: their own insecurities. Thus, the “fear of the dork” within prompts them to attack someone they judge to be one.
Recently, some have opined the once-forgiven tendencies of former congressman and leading New York City mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner, grew out of a basic fear that he was not special enough. Thankfully, his wife, therapist and he are working on these matters and hoping healing is forthcoming.  
It has been said that many psychological problems have spiritual solutions. Perhaps this beckons us to a deeper and closer look at our spiritual lives.  
Do we turn to God with our most pressing fears?  
Whatever we fear most, in the depths of our being, can be presented to God, meditated on, placed into a gospel scene where Jesus could act on it and touched by his grace. This type of prayer serves as a healing agent of mercy that is always available to us. Like little children run to their parents for safety during nightmares, we adult children can run to our Divine Parent, in prayer, for security in understanding the causes and roots of some of the insecurities that move us to be less than authentic.  
In addition to prayer, the aid of a spiritual director can be invaluable. Religious women and men and those ordained have long benefitted from someone who walks with them as a dialogue partner in the spiritual life. St. Francis de Sales, in his classic, “The Introduction to the Devout Life,” asserts all baptized people – regardless of their state in life – who are serious about growing their relationship with God need one.  
Meetings with a spiritual director usually occur once a month, last for about an hour and are simple conversations about experiences of prayer, temptation, grace, love, joy, sin or anything that pulls a soul closer to or away from God. Choosing a director may be a challenge, but it is a necessary effort. Qualities of good candidates include a sense of maturity, facility in praying and understanding the spiritual life, familiarity with the Scriptures and a good sense of humor. It is also good for the one directed to feel comfortable and trusted when talking about sensitive and personal matters.
Throughout these conversations many issues may be unearthed and examined at their roots to show a connection or disconnect between the disciple’s life and the life of Jesus. The art of the conversation recalls how Jesus did his best work, visiting with people, touching their hearts with clear words, listening to them to help healing and walking with them to assure them of God’s love to tame their fears.
Without Jesus, many of his companions would have remained in the dark and in fear.  Without a spiritual director, so might we.

Fr. Kevin Nadolski, OSFS, a priest with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, works for his community as director of
development and communications. He has served the church as a Catholic high school teacher, campus minister and
principal, as well as vocation and
formation director for the Oblates. He lives with his community in Wilmington, Del., and can be reached at
The views expressed in this
column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer