Friday, September 11, 2009

Fear

I’ve been thinking about fear.

Fear is the great evil of the world, I think.

Looking at just my own little corner of the world, it affects me personally in insidious ways, rolling over my life like oil and finding cracks to seep into to break things apart. When I am afraid, I get cranky. (And I’m not sure that crankiness isn’t the true evil, as C. S. Lewis describes.) I become so focused on myself that I don’t see others clearly and I do stupid things.

Recently I have been very afraid, because I have switched medications and it has seemed as if my old illness was returning. This fear turns my insides to gravy, and I find myself walking unaware of my surroundings, and snapping at people. Disgusting.

A few weeks ago, a woman who has a very great fear in her life attacked me verbally (and it was a literal attack) for something so illogical that I suppose it was a blessing, because it enabled me to see that she must really be in pain. I can and do forgive that (though it was very, very painful and distressing), but it makes me wonder how many other people who have hurt me, particularly by just being cranky and thoughtless, are just struggling with their own little (or big) fears. Does all selfishness have fear at its root? Probably so.

I’ve been aghast at the results of fear in my own local school district, where children were not given the choice of whether or not to listen to the President of the United States, because of the fear some parents had. These adults did not trust themselves to research the message that would be given, study its ideas, and prepare themselves to discuss (and, if necessary, dismiss) it with their children. Rather they preferred to make sure that NO children had the chance to hear it. This worries me—that we would, as a society, choose not to risk encountering ideas we might not like rather than being open to the possibility of new things. We are afraid.

Nothing makes this clearer than the “end-of-the-world, what-is-society-coming-to” e-mails that people forward to me. These things are designed to make people act out of fear, and, what’s worse, often contain inaccuracies, exaggerations, dubious authorship and sometimes even outright lies. I’m concerned about how quick people are to click on “Forward” before they even check out the truth of the statements (or even just look it up at Snopes). Why? What makes us eager to spread fear around?

What is the antidote to fear? Well, obviously, it’s faith. But faith in what? Obviously, not “faith that things are already fine.” Because that would be a shutting down of our intelligence, a choosing to be acted upon instead of acting. Maybe it’s a faith that as we take care of things to the best of our abilities, all will never be lost. God is still in charge of my little life, and of the world in general. I have great faith in the lovingness of God, that He will not give His children anything other than exactly what they choose. So even if I think that my neighbor is deluded in what she thinks will be best for this country, God sees her heart. And if her heart is such that she is seeking this or that political change because she wants what’s best for the most people possible, she will be blessed. My forwarding her an e-mail won’t change her heart, and it probably won’t change her mind, either, since she did not ask for my opinion.

I have faith in human nature, but more than that I have faith in God. I’ve got to figure out a way to keep fear from running my life, because it never brings anything good.

6 comments:

FoxyJ said...

I agree with you that fear is one of the greatest evils in the world. It causes reactions, not actions. A few years ago I went through a very hard time in my life and became depressed. I was feeling a lot of anger and kept blowing up about things. It took me nearly a year to realize that I wasn't really angry, I was afraid. Anger was a secondary emotion, because it was easier to express anger than fear. I still notice myself doing that at times--it's easier to be upset or indignant than to admit that we are afraid and feel out of control. That's why I try not to let fear into my life and try to counteract it with faith.

Kristi Stevens said...

In my Public Speaking courses we talk about fear. When a person experiences fear the logic side of the brain shuts off and the person becomes reactive. Fear is a very dangerous emotion because it eliminates the ability of a person to think clearly. We get lizard brain and think on a very prehistoric level.

I am with you on this knee jerk reaction so many people seem to have over different ideas. It baffles me that many people are so afraid that they aren't even willing to study an opposing idea for merit.

Personally I encourage my children to listen to other ideas, even from other political parties and religions (gasp-I know some of my neighbors fear for my children's future). Our belief systems mean nothing if they can't withstand scrutiny.

Besides the only way to cast out fear is to stop, think and look it straight in the eyes.

BTW- I had to sign a permission slip so my children could watch President Obama's speech. I wonder if some of these parents felt silly after they heard the message. Staying in school and getting an education can be a terrifying message. ;)

Jennifer B. said...

Well said, Darlene.

Christopher Bigelow said...

I remember reading something interesting about how fear was perhaps the main thing motivating those who sided with Satan in the premortal life, fear of suffering and failure in the mortal world.

Laura said...

Love this! So timely and so wise. Good food for thought. . .

Travelin'Oma said...

You have expressed a lot of the thoughts I've had this week, and I agree with you. The comments here are insightful and well stated, too. Good post.