How Fear Causes Us to Sin

So far my blog posts have been neutral on issues of faith.  I do this intentionally so as not to alienate those who are looking for good counseling advice but also don’t share my Christian worldview.  But this time I’ve decided to address some theological issues as they relate to counseling. 

My latest interest specifically has been (because of struggles in my own life, but also because of conversations with some of my clients) the issue of sin and fear.  How do they relate and interact with each other? Does sin drive us to fear and not trust?  Or does fear keep us from trusting and result in sin?

I suppose you could argue for both views, but in my counseling and recent readings I have been leaning towards sin being a result of not trusting God or others.  And not trusting God or others comes from fear—that I’m not enough, that others will judge me, that I others don’t like me, that God doesn’t have my best interest at heart.

It’s these fears that drive me to feel like life, relationships or my future are out of control.  This leads me to take action that gives me back control—usually some form of wrongdoing.  It seems the more I feel out of control in an area of life, the more prone I am to sin (hurt others or God).  Before I get too theoretical, lets look at one example from my own life and maybe this whole thing will make more sense.

I recently got into a fight with my wife.  It was an honest and fair fight—good dialogue and listening skills (I’m a counselor after all!).  It went back and forth until something was said that made me feel out of control.  When this feeling came over me, I stopped respecting my wife and her opinion and had to take control of the situation. So I said something very hurtful and thereby sinned.

Why did I do this?  I ask this of clients often and their response is the same as mine: “I don’t know!”  But that’s not true.  I just haven’t taken the time to ponder and think about what caused me to react in the way I did.  My professors in graduate school always said: “All behavior is motivated.”  But finding the motivation takes time and insight. 

For me, I know that when our fight led me to feel out of control, it was because I feared how she viewed me, how she might not love me, how I may be lonely, etc.  This fear caused me not to trust her (or God) anymore and increase my need to take control of the situation. This led me to sin.

If I’m right that sin is caused by fear, how can you learn from this? 

  1. Take a time in your recent past where you have wronged someone else or God (Christians call this sin). 
  2. Ask yourself what motivated you to behave this way.  As you’re asking yourself this question, you can start with what others did, said or thought and how that hurt you.
  3. Land on an I-statement: “They did this, that and the other…but those things made me feel, do or think something.“
  4. Then look at your I-statement and ask yourself what your fear was when you sinned: “I felt, did or thought this…because I fear…”
  5. Go reconcile with the other person or God by owning your sin or wrongdoing.  If they give you an opportunity, you can share your fear and disclose why you acted the way you did.

Since I have decided to share more about my personal convictions of my Christian faith, I will be so bold as to leave you with a Bible verse that speaks to this matter: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)

 Trent