Fear has a valuable place in our lives. In short, it keeps us safe. But left unchecked, fear can do more harm than good. It can prevent us from trying new things. From taking calculated risks. From succeeding.
Fear is also at the root of many personal, religious and military conflicts. So many causes, crimes and actions are taken as a result of it. The United States is a melting pot. The likelihood of you encountering someone who may look different, or speak a different language, or eat different foods, or worship differently than you is quite high, at least in urban areas. While some embrace this diversity, others attempt to terminate it. Why? When one speaks to such individuals, rarely do they have any personal knowledge or experience to justify their fear and hatred, nor do they have any real facts to back their opinions. So why are they invested in termination of all that is different? In a word, fear. Fear that they will be outnumbered. Fear that they may lose perceived power. Fear that the world as they know it will change.
Historically, this has not happened. When women were granted the right to vote in the United States, they did not ride men out of town on the rails, nor did minorities do so to white people when they were granted the right to vote. Same with education for women and minorities. For that matter, women did not cease to have children when birth control was made available to them, nor did they abort their pregnancies simply because it was a legal option. The same can be said with biracial or same-sex marriages. With each of these steps life changed in many ways, but in many ways it did not.
Do you live in fear? If so, of what? How do you plan to quell your fear without harming yourself or others? Again, we turn to Thích Nhất Hạnh for wisdom and guidance. As described by the publisher, “Fear is destructive, a pervasive problem we all face. Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master, poet, scholar, peace activist, and one of the foremost spiritual leaders in the world—a gifted teacher who was once nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr.— Thích Nhất Hạnh has written a powerful and practical strategic guide to overcoming our debilitating uncertainties and personal terrors. The New York Times said Hanh, “ranks second only to the Dalai Lama” as the Buddhist leader with the most influence in the West. In Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting through the Storm, Hanh explores the origins of our fears, illuminating a path to finding peace and freedom from anxiety and offering powerful tools to help us eradicate it from our lives.”
For those of you fearing racial and cultural differences, I encourage you to consider two of National Geographic’s documentary series: The Story of God with Morgan Freeman and The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman as a start.