This is the first of four follow-up articles on the many facets of fear including a four-part Interview/Special Report with Rabbi Moshe Scheiner of Palm Beach Synagogue.
After I wrote about the paralysis of fear, its’ numbing effects, and resultant feelings of powerlessness, it was pointed out to me that there was another, more intentional, response to fear beyond freeze, fight, and flight. That response is loving persistence or courageous non-violence. It is evidenced in the Sermon on the Mount, as Jesus called for his followers when confronted by fear and violence to turn the other cheek. This was not an instruction of pacifism. Turning the other cheek was about demanding equality from a person of authority. This is the most measured and effective action that can be taken when fear, anger, and aggression show up.
Courageous non-violent cheek turners were named by Columbia University’s School of Journalism as 2019 Pulitzer Prize winners on Monday, April 15th. One award went to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for exposing failings by officials before and after the deadly shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Another went to Staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for immersive, compassionate coverage of the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue that captured the anguish and resilience of a community thrust into grief. These journalists stood strong for their communities and for us all in the face of fear and anger. They exposed the truth and rejected the lure of moving on to other stories. They refused to numb out. The parent of a Parkland victim wrote South Florida Sun-Sentinel after Pulitzers were announced encouraging the paper to continue its’ work saying there was still much to be done. He can rest assured that they will carry on.
It takes a lot of guts to persist, to remain steadfast, and to overcome. A courageous cheek turner must have the resolve of Gandhi, who when confronted by his jailers with threats intended to invoke fear replied; “They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me. Then they will have my dead body, but not my obedience.” But this is exactly the kind of response which will defeat fear in its’ tracks. We shall overcome. It is the essence of love. And love refuses to capitulate. It will not retaliate-in-kind. It will not run away. it will not numb out. Love is an action-choice made by the brave soul who finally rejects all notions of self in deference to the greater good.