Fear … and Trust
Atheists claim that most religion is based upon fear. Psychologists see fear as a deterrent in keeping us from understanding ourselves and our neighbors. Fear serves a purpose but that purpose is to keep us alive, not make us crawl into a hole and never come out. Much like studying history, we can learn a great deal if we analyze our fear.
I consider myself a religious person. For me, my religion is not just a compass by which I live but is the core of my spirituality. Many see religion as being in competition with spirituality but for me, if one lives both as completely as possible, they go hand in hand. Religion may give me an outline with which to live and perhaps some reasons for doing so but it is the spiritual connection I have with that outline that give its meaning and purpose. My fears do much the same for me…when they are based upon reality and not imagination or ego.
University of Massachusetts-Boston economist Julie Nelson argues that the experience of fear has become highly gendered, a problem that she applies to theory and practice in the field of economics. Men learn to fear because they associate such emotions with a dangerous lack of control over the self and world. In her words, “Since bodies are far more vulnerable, mortal, and messy than the pure Cartesian cogito, contemplation of the feminine-associated aspects of human life may create anxiety”. To avoid this, men gravitate away from the emotional world of fear and anxiety toward a more analytical and objective one in which logic rules over feelings. The danger of fearing fear, Nelson suggests, is that in their economic thinking, men prefer not to seem “risk averse.” It’s permissible, in this societal context, for women to base their decisions on the fear of negative outcomes, but men who do so may be perceived as weak or unmanly. When economic markets develop around men’s desire not to look risk averse, those markets become more likely to crash and burn, as happened in the late 2000’s.
Susan Krauss Whitbourne is a Psychologist who offers some sound advice when it comes to dealing with our fears. “Separate your own insecurities from the actual threats that the people in your life present to you. Not only will you feel better, but your relationships with those people will benefit, as well.” All too often the perceived threats that create our fear are just our own insecurities rearing up.
I can promise you that no one living in a bombed out hole in Syria has kept you from advancing in your workplace. They are too busy trying to stay alive. No one proclaiming bombs are the tools of Allah is quoting the Quran correctly either. I am not an Islamic scholar but Islam is not a religion of fear. Neither is Judaism or Christianity. As we read in yesterday’s blog post, all three proclaim we are to love our neighbors and not fear them. They also define neighbor as pretty much every other living, breathing human being on the planet.
When we build relationships, trust grows. Trust is the anecdote to fear. The key is to take the time and invest on those relationships. Fear may seem to keep you alive for the short-term but trust is the key to longevity. In 1967 a television host named Fred Rodgers wrote a song he used in the opening of his children’s program. “It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood, a neighborly day for a beauty, would you be mine? Could you be mine? I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you; I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you. So let’s make the most of this beautiful day, since we’re together, we might as well say, would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor? “
Fear is not a productive way to live and over the long-term serves no real purpose. Trusting each other, however, is the key to not only good relationships but building a better world. We really are all neighbors. It is time to stop fearing and start living with trust.