Don't Let Fear Win
The other day I was scrolling absently through one of my social media platforms and saw a post from a friend who declared something in the post that was unbelievably offensive and "othering" to entire groups of people.
I found myself shocked and saddened, and then my shock and sadness turned to confusion. I was confused because the person I thought I knew would have never said something as offensive as what I had seen.
The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize just how incongruent her offensive statement was with everything she claimed to believe.
You see, I have always experienced my friend to be a kind, grace-filled and loving person, who acts generously and openly toward everyone that she meets. In fact, everyone that meets her is drawn to her.
So why? Why would she be so overtly provocative, mean-spirited, and small? The answer, in my mind, comes down to one thing: Fear.
And at that moment, I found myself connected to my friend again, despite the deep differences between us. I also realized just how alike we were even though we seemed to be inhabiting different spaces.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the ways in which we all have allowed fear to blow up our lives over the last eighteen months.
Fear of losing comfort, security, and privilege causes some of us to do and say things we probably never thought we'd say. For others, the fear of being wrong about what they believe to be true causes them to double down on their beliefs, no matter the costs to others.
I need to say that there is a difference between caution and fear. To exercise caution during a global pandemic is a wise and necessary thing. But far too many of us are disproportionally projecting our fears onto others.
Fear has its origins in scarcity, worry, and anxiety. Fear creates distortions of the people we thought we were. Fear causes us to scapegoat others.
In the classic book Les Miserables, Victor Hugo wrote this:
Have no fear of robbers or murderers. They are external dangers, petty dangers. We should fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices the real murderers. The great dangers are within us. Why worry about what threatens our heads or our purses? Let us think instead of what threatens our souls.
No wonder the Scriptures are full of commands to "Fear not!"
The people of God in the Hebrew Scriptures always found themselves in dire circumstances every time they gave in to the kind of external fears that Hugo describes, an action that led them to give in to prejudice, vice, and pride.
Jesus exhorted his followers to let go of fear on numerous occasions. His desire was for them to believe that God was trustworthy and that all would be well with them if they simply turned over their fears to God.
The question that we all need to be asking ourselves right now is simply this: Have I let fear rob me of an abundant life?
Today, take the time to ponder that question for yourself. I know I will. Pray that God will open your eyes to how you might be letting fear govern your outlook of others, making you unwilling to see their humanity and your interconnectedness.
We need to learn to see one another through the lens of our own frailty, which will lead us to places where grace abounds, and love wins over fear.
May it be so. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.