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 hurts.


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.

Fear kills.


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?




5 thoughts on “Fear

  1. Steph

    hate is just hat, but love is still love

    (honestly the first thing that went through my mind when I read the first sentence)

  2. Steph

    OK now I’ve read the whole thing — very nice, Shannon. The quote is lovely. But I’m not sure how to “open [myself] to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality”??

  3. deb

    ugh – i just lost my comment. i was saying that, although this is a bit astray from your focus on socio-political fear, I can’t talk about fear without mentioning that my daughter suffers from severe anxiety. In that context, I can say that fear also limits, controls and disempowers.

    On the monday after the Newtown shootings, i sat in the car with my daughter in front of her school. Rooted to her seat she said, “I don’t want to go in.” She seemed paralyzed by her fear. I had to insist she go because we know from experience that if she listens to her fear, it will only get stronger. I didn’t cry until she got through the door. And yes, I was afraid too.

    i’m so interested in the book you reference “smile at fear” because the title references something so similar to the strategies my daughter has learned in therapy–to talk back or otherwise exercise some kind of resistant energy in the face of fear. maybe i will read it someday after i finish the 20 other books stacked like a tower on my bedside table!

    Nice post. i found it really hard to write about Sandy Hook. You made it look easy.


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