Some weeks the news seems to sit more heavily on my heart. This past week was one of those weeks. The news had me feeling angry, scared, confused, and at a loss for words. In those moments of raw, unfiltered emotion, I often choose to just sit back and listen. This is not in an effort to be apathetic in my response, but rather a self-protective response knowing that opening my mouth before having time to process could have some serious consequences. So, instead of immediately responding, I sort through my own thoughts, listen to or read the thoughts of others, and just exist amongst the chaos.
Tonight, a particular text messaging conversation with someone regarding news from this past week sort of ‘set me off.’ It upset me – and it got me thinking once again – thinking this time from a much more ‘processed’ perspective. Now, rather than just listening, I am ready to write.
Throughout the chaos of this last week – chaos including everything from an earth-shaking letter released by our current Miss America to the concerning publication of a study that our breakfast foods contain high amounts of Round-Up – I have continually been confronted by one consistent theme:
We, as a society, live in fear.
That fear is used to control those around us, demeaning them and reminding that individual of our ultimate power. That fear is used to elicit change in human behavior – changes in what we believe, changes in the daily choices we make, and changes in how we raise our family. That fear is used to misguide individuals, families, businesses, organizations, and nations. Fear controls. Fear manipulates. Fear terrifies us. Fear coerces us to hide – an often futile attempt to hide from this all-consuming emotion. Fear persuades us to react to others in ways that insinuate hurt, anger, division, and consequently, more fear.
Fear is not easily seen. As a society, we have come to mask it well. Take for example the question, “How are you?” Today, the only ‘appropriate’ response is “I’m fine.” The question is simply routine, rather than truly conversational. We hide our fears. We put on a smile and present a ‘picture perfect’ lifestyle on social media, hiding our true fears behind the screens that separate us from others. We mask our fears with other emotions, with substances, with motivations, with passions…well, with whatever will keep anyone from seeing through to our fears. We hide our fears in innumerable ways.
But, here’s the point that really grates on me. Why is it that we try to hide these fears – these battles we are facing? Why is it that we hide behind a mask, consequently living consumed by our fears rather than facing them?
(Now, don’t think for a second that I’m up on some pedestal preaching about not hiding your fears, meanwhile perfectly sharing my fears with the world. Yeah right. I’m at fault here too. In fact, these past few months have been some of the most challenging months I have ever faced and during this time I have been continually confronted by the fact that I have tried to disguise my fears – even from those I love most.)
You see, there’s no refuting it: We all have fears. We all face battles. Fear is a human emotion. It’s undeniable, and I don’t think we should ever feel guilty for a certain emotion. However, what we do with our emotions, how we respond to our emotions, is up to us.
So, I ask you…
What if instead of being consumed by our fears, we could learn to share those fears? Wouldn’t our fears be more easily conquered with someone on our team?
What if, for one second, we could put aside our fear of being wrong, our fear of other viewpoints, and have a conversation (a real, actual conversation) with someone “on the other side?” Wouldn’t this be a recipe for fruitful conversation and future cooperation?
What if rather than using the fearful circumstances we have faced to reek havoc on other people’s lives, we used those fears for good? Wouldn’t we have a story to share – a story that could make a difference in the lives of others facing similar fears?
What if instead of disguising our fear through bullying, hurtful words, abusive lifestyles, and divisions, our fears were shared and allowed to heal? Wouldn’t we have the power to heal both ourselves and others?
What if rather than speaking from behind a mask of fear, we spoke from a standpoint of empathy and kindness? Wouldn’t that be truly beautiful?
Emotions are strong, and at times fear seems to have a strength greater than any of us. Fear has the power to cage us – caging us in broken relationships, inhibiting our vision to move forward (whether by ourselves or as a business/organization/nation), hurting those with whom we interact, and consuming our every thought and action. But, if used for good, our fears grant us perspective. And when faced, our fears give us a story to tell and a hope for the future.