"You must realize, that fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice."
The above quote is delivered by Will Smith in the movie After Earth. I haven't seen the movie but this quote from the previews caught my attention. Of course, this sentiment is a touch overly optimistic. Maybe fear is a choice if you are Jesus or Buddha but most of us are not so purely in control of our emotions to really categorize fear as a choice. However, there is plenty of truth here as well. Emotions are important but we do have some control over them. Our thoughts, our habits, and our actions all influence the way we feel. If we change our thoughts and cultivate healthy, compassionate habits we can change our emotions. In a sense, fear is a choice.
I wonder if one of the most affective things people of faith can do is combat fear. Fear
causes us to hoard our material wealth. We think we need the money, "just in case." Fear causes our country to stockpile weapons. Fear crushes generosity.
I received a recorded phone call earlier this week which started out saying something about budget cuts threatening our national security. I didn't wait to hear the rest of the call and hung up. Whatever the rest of the call said it started by attempting to manipulate me through fear. All political parties are guilty of such manipulation. Marketing through fear sells products and ideas throughout our society. And it works. Fear causes us to act in ways we would not otherwise consider. Violence, hatred, and greed often have their root in fear.
Jesus repeatedly says things like "Fear not," and "peace be with you." Many theologians tell us the root meaning of faith is more akin to trust than belief. Followers of Jesus are called to resist fear. This is not to say we are to mindlessly believe, "Jesus loves me so nothing bad will happen to me." If this were true there would be no such thing as Christian martyrs. Nor must we buy into platitudes about all suffering being God’s will or for some greater purpose. Rather we are called to a faith which trusts our loving compassion is never wasted. We are called to allow our compassion to triumph over fear for our own safety. We are called to place more weight in the practice humble love than the fear someone will take advantage of us. We are called to foster thoughts within ourselves which pull our emotions toward compassion and away from self-centeredness. We are called beyond fear to following Jesus.
If we do this, if we practice this, if we think this way we reduce our own fear and help create a less frightening world. There are dangers in this world but one of the greatest of them may be choosing to be controlled by fear.
What fears hold you back from generosity and compassion? What thoughts or practices might inhibit those fears?