“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.”
― Simone Weil
It keeps us. Claims us. Owns us.
There’s a line in a famous song that I love: “I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything.”
This is how many people behave when it comes to their fears. Some fears are reasonable, but all fears seem reasonable to people trapped by fear.
And honestly, is fear ever “reasonable?”
People can’t think when they’re being choked. We all know the feeling. Fear takes control and overwhelms all thought. Even possible solutions seem impossible.
Again and again, things happen, fear strikes, and good, intelligent people go ape-shoot crazy. Extremists get attention by manipulating fear, pushing our giant red button and getting us to do exactly what they want. Same old suspects, same old tragic story, same responses of irrational fear, and the same resistance to change.
Remember the character Fear in Inside Out? He was the funny little purple guy, a great chance to laugh at how silly our fears are. It’s a kids’ movie, so like I did with my kids when they were afraid of something, Pixar made Fear funny and he didn’t seem like much of a threat.
But in reality, fear can easily become our strongest emotion.
Think about it–Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust–none of those can convince people to do crazy things the way Fear can. Anger comes close, but anger is so often under fear’s control.
All emotions can be powerful. But fear’s power to hold people hostage is unparalleled. It can totally wipe out joy and cause people to give up trying to reach their dreams. It can make us despair of ever getting free. And it can even make us give up on love.
Some have said the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s fear. Because love leads to freedom. And fear leads to a prison.
The ridiculous thing about fear is that it tortures its victims and it can’t even stop a single bad thing from happening. But it can rob them of enjoying what’s good.
Fear unifies us all in a global battle against darkness and disconnection.
We always have a choice to see our fear and how its bullying tactics work. Or we can ignore it and let it control our minds.
Fear is an instinctive emotion. But allowing fear control is our choice.
Most people know this, at least in theory. We can’t control feeling afraid (other than learning more so we aren’t afraid anymore). But we can control whether we express our fear. And we can certainly keep it from overwhelming clear thinking.
Seeing peoples’ response to the news this week, can we doubt that this fact is massively misunderstood, yet enormously needed? How many ordinary people truly don’t realize they can stop and consider whether fear is controlling them, and then get fear under control?
The fear I saw on my feed last week was so distressing I could hardly work. How many people have never learned they have power over this fear of foreigners? And how many have never used that sovereign power to escape that cage?
No matter what the foreign thing or person is, this fear will only keep coming up until we realize the key to freedom is in our hands. We must use it. We must realize we’re being controlled.
The only thing strong enough to break persistent fear is the power of personal choice.
Maybe there aren’t enough stories about this power yet. Maybe the right metaphor hasn’t yet been found to penetrate the public mind. Maybe we need more writers and artists to tell the truth about it and show people the essence of being human is using this unassailable gift from God we call free will to become truly free.
Maybe we haven’t realized that both freedom and fear are weapons–and we can only wield one at a time.
Freedom to choose can protect us against the inner bully of fear. But we have to be willing to use it and acknowledge how fear leads to anger and hatefulness toward others, see how it tries to convince us we’re acting prudently and responsibly, even righteously to close ourselves off to what’s different.
It’s easier to stay ignorant.
All fear has to do is make us believe the real bully is the object of our fear. Then we either attack or retreat back to our cage and shut the door.
Why can’t we see that fear doesn’t hold the power? We do! And we can tell it where to go if we’ll just remember the truth:
“Fear not! You have been given all power over creation. Fear is in your control. And you shall know this truth and it shall set you free…”
But when the bully seems so powerful, so imposing, and it’s been given a free ride on our ticket for years, it’s easy to forget bullies are always weaklings.
Fear is born of ignorance and ignorance comes from old, boring, powerless evil — without it, there would be no fear.
Ignorance is disorder. And disorder is not solved by running away. There truly is nothing to fear but fear itself.
I watch my nine-year-old, Charlotte, set the pillows on the couch and attempt to fall face forward without catching herself.
“It’s so hard not to put my hands up.”
Eventually she does it. And she cheers and I think, habitual safety can be broken. But first it has to be unlearned.
The shadowed veil that hides the truth can be torn away. Its power dissipates when the spell is broken and we stand and reclaim our birthright by rejecting the whispered lies:
“Sssafety.” “Prudenccce.” “Caution.”
Lies. There is no “safety” without the freedom to choose it. There is no “prudence” or “caution” without the ability to reason, to discern what’s best. With fear our hand is forced, and we’re pushed to immediate reactions before thinking. The warnings are a trick to keep us controlled, i.e. “safe.”
Charlotte falls flat on the pillows, arms back. Her face lights with the thrill of overcoming fear and finding herself still safe—
and safer still…
This is our limitless power of freedom. We are already safe, held in perfect love. We can let go and overcome this oppression and overthrow fear’s rule.
We can teach this new way. We can cut off the automatic fear–this habit so many have allowed so often it’s become involuntarily and made them smaller and slow-witted.
We can fight this fearful thinking. And we can become whole and human again.
But only if we’re done being manipulated.
And only if we’re ready to show a world strangled by fear that surviving absolutely requires thriving —
in our complete trust of the Fearless One.
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
– C. S. Lewis, “The Four Loves”
Always for love, always for freedom, always for the Higher Purpose,