Fear can be a good thing.
Fear can serve to make us aware of dangers and keep us from engaging in unsafe, unhealthy or illegal behaviors. Fear has its root in our limbic system, and its sudden response serves to move us quickly out of dangers path.
Fear can also be a bad thing. It can serve to blind us to better reactions, better choices, more reasonable and patient response.
Fear can overwhelm us, drive us apart and turn even friends into perceived enemies.
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Fear seems to be our nation’s most widespread currency these days. So many people fear so much. Some fear our government’s overreach while others fear its tendency towards inaction and complacency. Some fear their neighbors, especially those of a differing color, different language, differing sexuality, differing religion or differing political party. Fear of serious climate change has some afraid it’s too late to make needed changes while leading others to simply deny the science behind such claims so that no action is deemed necessary.
Fear and its urgent siblings of dread, alarm, panic and terror have an ever-deepening and broadening grip on hearts and minds. It is this very thing that makes me most afraid. Instead of coming together, pulling together, working together, our nation (and even the church) seem destined to become a broken community (with no unity).
It is of no help that many potential leaders consistently act to enflame our fears for their own political gain instead of working to replace fear with hopeful action.
Unchecked fear is the opposite and the enemy of faith, hope and love. It’s the acid that destroys trust. It’s become the emotional weapon that continues to draw us into confrontation, filling too many with anger. Fear is also what feeds terrorism’s hatred and violence.
Given our human tendency to let fear rule over us, it’s not surprising that the Bible speaks often about and against fear. One of the most frequent admonitions Jesus gives to his disciples is to not fear, to not be afraid and to not let fear control their hearts or life. Faith and trust in God’s presence, providence and promises are to keep us faithful and not fearful of anything or anyone who might stop us from loving and serving any and every neighbor.
Though we walk through the darkest valley, the psalmist sings, we will fear no evil for God is with us and all creation.
Columnist Kim Latterell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.