Once upon a time, I thought that the opposite of love was hate. Now that I’ve grown (much) older, I believe that the opposite of love is fear.
Fear prevents us from asking for help when we need it, sometimes desperately. Fear prevents us from offering help to others when we know, from the gut, that it is desperately needed.
Fear stops us from accessing our own humanity.
Fear sells weapons.
Fear enforces stereotypes.
Fear tightens, restricts, confines. Fear obscures our interconnectedness.
Fear feeds on fear. Fear snowballs, compounds, multiplies. Fear makes you type dumb things on Facebook that you would never say to a person’s face, things like “unfriend me now if you don’t do this or that.”
Fear creates an insatiable need to create and assign labels, from “outcast” to “weirdo” to “Trench Coat Mafia” to “mentally ill” to “autistic” to “threat to society” to “gun-worshipping NRA lunatic.”
Fear stigmatizes. Fear isolates.
Knowing that, what can we do? Here’s a thought from Pema Chödrön, who has made the study of fear her life’s work:
“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.”
I’m starting to do things differently already–but it’s not easy, and I am afraid. Are you?