Fear Trumped by Love

Fear is everywhere. Stoked by sensationalist media and greedy politicians, it is pervasive at schools, work and even in places of worship.  Armed security guards and electronic scanning devices stand at too many doorways. Fear keeps showing up.  The universal message of all the major religions and traditions tell us to “Be Not Afraid” as we struggle to overcome and transcend this new reality.  Perhaps the only way to do so is by turning at this critical crossroad toward the spiritual path of love and acceptance.

“We can escape fear’s paralysis and enter a state of grace where encounters with otherness will not threaten us but will enrich our work and our lives.” ~ Parker Palmer

I recently wrote about the manifestation of fear as we reeled in grief from the killing of 49 people, and devastation of their families and communities in mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques.  Fear ignites the anger and hatred which causes such horrific violence.  Of course we witness this fear every day in smaller increments. It is found in anguished faces of victims, hardened eyes of gang members and calls for retaliatory vengeance from our leaders. Love is absent. And without love there is little hope. My belief is that we cannot begin to cast out fear and understand love until we accept, include, and embrace those who are different from ‘us’. We cannot love God until we love our neighbors.

Our fears are not our identity. They do not have to be the emotional director of how we react and respond to each other. We can choose to reject fear and to choose love instead. In times when fear floods in or darkens our self-narrative, it feels like there is little to do but fight or run away.  But the wisdom of Pope John XXIII stands in opposition to this primal instinct.  He told us to ‘consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams’. For when we find the strength to choose love we will find a new freedom and a new happiness which embolden our hopes and dreams.  We will have lost the need to defend our fragile egos and discovered our true selves.

Three Ways to Choose Love Over Fear

Conscious Living Coach, Lindsay Robin Christianson writes about the good basic tools to be used when choosing to love in the face of fear.  Her contribution will help in dealing with fear in everyday life.

Fear in America; Taming the Mind’s Horrible Imaginings

Part Two of Contributing Editor Bob Jones’ conversation with Rabbi Moshe Scheiner of the Palm Beach Synagogue in Florida.

In this second part of our conversation, Rabbi Scheiner explores fear as the basis for anger, envy, and hatred.

Bob Jones:  On Thursday, The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning “hateful expressions of intolerance.” This resolution was originally designed to condemn anti-Semitism but expanded to include all who are victimized by bigotry.  Though I applaud the effort, it seems to have watered down the initial intent to singularly call out and condemn anti-Semitism.

Rabbi Scheiner:  Yes.  I couldn’t agree with you more.  I think they lacked the courage to do the right thing, and for political purposes they chose to water it down and not to name the person they were really responding to, and identify what the issue is. 

Rabbi Moshe Scheiner

You know, one of the reasons behind the anti-Semitism, or for that matter all hatred, is envy.  Usually when people hate other people there’s very often an element of envy involved which creates a sense of insecurity in the person whose envy is of another person, and therefore chooses to hate the person.  And surely that’s true with anti-Semitism directed at us Jews, but in many other forms of interpersonal relationships, the hatred and the anger comes from a sense of envy. 

What we have to learn is that there is negative envy and positive envy.  The negative envy is when you envy someone’s material possessions like the Tenth Commandment: ‘Do not covet your neighbors’ material things’…his wife, his house, his donkey, whatever it may be…and to translate that into today’s modern terms whatever the material thing is. 

And there’s no question that a lot of anti-Semitism comes from the fact that Jewish people obviously have outlived all their enemies despite countless attempts to destroy us. 

There’s something about the Jewish people and their resilience and their perseverance and their connection to their heritage to God. 

And instead of hating the Jews for that success, for that ability to overcome so many powers of nations, of tyranny, of oppression, of persecution, holocaust, programs, inquisitions…I mean you name it.  It’s an opportunity to those who are hating to say, ‘What could the Jewish people teach us?  What could they share with us?  What wisdom do they have?  What knowledge?  What experience? 

What is it that makes them the way they are?’  And I would say that’s true in any envy in interpersonal relationships.  Translate envy into something positive rather than turning to hate. 

Use it to love the person to say thank you for being an inspiration for me because we all are influenced by others for better or for worse.  And so when we encounter people that are good, that rubs off on us.

We have a big holiday coming up in less than two weeks called Purim. It is a story that happened some two and a half thousand years ago.  It’s a story about Haman and you would think; okay that was two and a half thousand years ago we were in a primitive world, but today we’re sophisticated, we’re advanced, we’re knowledgeable, we’re educated.  But, we have Hitler who comes along in 1930’s and tries to do what Haman did two and a half thousand years ago. 

The story of Haman serves as an allegory describing the life and lot of the Jewish people in an alien and hostile world.

And today we see again nations like Iran.  So the story of the hate and enmity towards Jews, and the desire to destroy them continues.  The Jews didn’t do anything to attack Haman. They didn’t do anything to attack Hitler, and didn’t do anything to harm Iran. All these three instances are baseless hatred.  It’s not a hatred I could understand…that someone’s threatening you.  You may hate them because they’re trying to harm you. But Jews never try to harm the King of Persia, they never try to harm Germany.  They were both citizens and contributing to the society.  And surely Israel has never tried to do anything to harm Iran but you just see this irrational hatred and what else can you contribute it to accept envy. 

Bob Jones:  Envy, fear, and anger I suppose. 

Rabbi Scheiner:  Yes.

Robert Kenneth Jones

ChaplainUSA Contributing Editor

Bob Jones has dedicated his life to making people whole again. His work in helping others overcome addiction and childhood abuse spans over four decades.