Let me try and describe a downward cycle that I have been caught in, and yet not recognized for what it is until now. The cycle starts when something happens that makes me feel insecure about myself. What would do this to me might be different than what would do it to you, but for me it is usually when a person shows disapproval of me or when I feel like I have failed to please. (I seem to be more vulnerable to these feelings at some times than others.)
So, in light of bad feelings that rise in me, I decide I will draw in the reins on my life, try harder, CONTROL myself and thereby be more acceptable. My intention is to smarten up be a better person - and not draw 'fire'. I always thought this was my effort to be more holy or Godly.
Sadly this work is shame based at bottom, and doesn't help. We cannot escape ourselves. And I think God really doesn't support the whole endeavor.
I have only just now realized that the movement to 'shut up!!' or 'smarten up!!' is a move away from love. It is, at its core, disguised fear. When we 'draw fire' we hear and believe a whisper that we are not loved - or worse even, not lovable. So the effort to do better, be more careful, not offend - all these are driven by a need to become lovable.
Love brings freedom. Control is rooted in fear. Think of a new relationship. When we meet someone we are polite and well behaved because we don't know what they expect or how they will see us. When we are known and received in love we can be as silly, undignified or ragged as we want.
Freedom is always ragged. We might, indeed, offend someone. We might laugh too hard or at the wrong thing. We might make a poor response, or a bad choice. But when we know we are loved we can risk and laugh at what goes wrong - flaws don't change our sense of self.
Control is based on fear. Our sense of self has been damaged by what we perceive other[s] think of us - what we think they think becomes what we imagine we are. So we become more controlled. Control makes it impossible to receive love because it is self protecting. We become less vulnerable but - listen to this - vulnerability is essential when it comes to being able to receive love.
We begin to control when we fear our vulnerability. If we self protect, guard ourselves, and try to eliminate risk, we might be safe but we will miss the joy of having our very real human self be loved and celebrated. And such a lifestyle choice means we become dependent on others for our sense of self. Who I am and know myself to be becomes heavily weighted on the way I fear others see me.
Bottom line - next time you feel insecure and are tempted to get inside your shell, take a minute to recognize the fear that is driving you. Remind yourself to breathe and go forth in what freedom you can muster. God is love. God is on the side of freedom.