Fear: (noun) a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
This is a dictionary definition of the word fear. I hope I can put into words, the feelings of my heart today. There’s so much I want to say and it all seems to circle around the concept of fear. I want to be direct and to the point lest this post go on for pages, but I also hope to convey more than cold or meaningful facts or tidbits. The reality is we live in a world where men fear men more than God. As a result, many people suffer needlessly and worst of all is the fear seems to be driving common sense and integrity on permanent vacations.
I find it interesting that the definition for fear addresses how the threat can be real OR imagined. Countless examples of imagined threats are causing a great deal of raucous in today’s world. I can’t help but wonder how much could be done with those same energies and resources spent on something other than fear. But this follows the proverbial truth that negative screams while positive whispers, we simply can’t see or hear anything over the call of fear.
Perhaps the most disheartening element of fear for me is the destructive and separating force it leaves in its wake. People do things they wouldn’t do, or things they know aren’t right in the face of fear. It is the nemesis of integrity and it’s a battle every one of us has personal experience with. I’ll never forget my 7th grade physical science teacher and his lesson on fear. I got a triple whammy. The first wave came from an unbelievably hard test, I didn’t know at the time that was part of the master plan. The second wave came the next day when we were handed our own papers to grade and seeing how badly I’d done, I decided to change a few answers that were “oh so close” so I’d at least get a passing grade. Which led to the final tidal wave the next day when the teacher shared how he’d secretly graded those tests before he handed them out and was surprised at how many different scores he got back when we graded our own. I swear he looked right at me when he shared his disappointment on that fact. The reality is, I was gripped with fear in the challenge that was bigger than me, then by the thought I might have failed, and finally by the reality that I’d been caught cheating. I determined in that moment to never let fear drive my academic future or decisions again. I’m proud to report that on that note I succeeded. In fact, I refused to study for my ACT test because I wanted to know what I really knew, not how well I could perform on a test I’d crammed for. Fear is a powerful, but flawed motivator.
While each of us can relate to our own experiences of getting caught doing something, and making bad choices from the fear it caused, the even sadder tales are those when a choice deeply impacts the well being of others around us. The human battlefield is littered with causalities resulting from decisions made through the fear. The victims hit hardest are often the most innocent and least deserving of hardship. These are the times when heaven must weep.
And we must’n forget the biggest black hole of all, the band wagon syndrome of teaming up on someone or something we’re afraid of. This fear, though often only perceived or imagined, drives good people to do bad and stupid things. Sadly, there is strength in numbers and in this situation, people find contrived, make believe, justification and security when they are part of a larger crowd. You need only look at recent news stories in our nation to see this black hole of fear at work, and it’s not the first time in our nation’s history either. In fact, you’d think by now we’d have learned to reign in the fear because we’ve surely had enough practice. Take Andrew Jackson. He took so many fiery darts and prophetic style slanders that he was going to single-handedly ruin our great nation that it’s amazing he survived not one but two terms as president. He came into the presidency during a most tumultuous time when the nation was on the brink of civil war and great changes were taking place. He was loved and hated, quoted as being an inspiration to Lincoln, revered by Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt and hailed by Harry Truman as one of the four greatest presidents along with Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. Yet, he may have taken more slander and hate than other predecessors combined. The more I read about his presidency the more convinced I am that fear was the driving force behind the extreme opposition he faced.
Daily, my heart is heavy with good friends and good people who take part of the great mud pit surrounding political issues. I understand disagreeing with another person, even on every conceivable point. But I don’t understand the slander, the intent to deface and the desire to destroy that too many good people are becoming part of. You can’t stand in the mud pit without getting mud on you. There is nothing christian about slander and meanness. Negative begets negative. It is time for people to rise above it and step out of the mud pit.
Recently my heart wept for headlines associated with my hometown.
“Rammell isn’t the first Rexburg resident who has drawn attention for making an anti-Obama comment. In November 2008, second- and third-grade students on a school bus there chanted “Assassinate Obama” after his election, prompting the mayor of this eastern Idaho town to publicly apologize.”
This is the closing paragraph of a recent article in the AP/Huffington. For reference, the comment was about issuing hunting tags for Obama and the article explains how Rammell refuses to apologize for it.
Someone who knew nothing about this small town would never guess from these news stories that the town is largely christian. There is nothing christian about attacking another person’s character, let alone making jokes or threats on their life regardless of position, title, race or religion. What makes my heart weep is knowing that these aren’t bad people, these are good people driven by fear. Just as I wasn’t a cheater and knew it was wrong to do so, I let fear push me over my personal line of integrity in 7th grade science class. Too many good people today are making bad and wrong choices because of fear.
My greatest hope is that someone reading this will decide to pick up a sword and shield for integrity and fight back against the fear; that more people will decide to wade out of the mud pit and stop passing around glasses of dirty water. The war is the same whether the battlefield is private, public, political, or personal. Fear only has the power we give it and the war against it is perhaps the greatest of our existence. So let me end this where I began, but with the solution instead of the problem:
Courage: (noun) the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.