Fear vs Love (and Terrorism)

Fear vs Love

“Of course I was afraid, but not living is worse than dying.” Did I really hear myself just say that? That was not like me at all. Without thinking, those words just rolled off of my lips. That was my off-the-cuff response when a friend asked me upon my return from Iraq, “Weren’t you afraid something bad would happen to you?”

It took me quite a while to sort out my true feelings that lay behind that response. By using the phrase “not living”, I meant letting fear prevent me from living the positive life possible for me. If I kept letting my fear prevent me from doing what I wanted to accomplish, I would essentially give my life over to my fear – “dying” one day at a time doing something I did not really want to do. We are all going to die. Choosing to not live any day because of fear is like dying for that day.

I find myself from time to time asking the critical question…”Am I still living, or just marking time?” I think a lot about that question and the root motivators that drive each of us to act. Much has been written about the two primary emotions that drive humans: Love and Fear. All other emotions seem to be sub-categories of these two.

Love-based actions carry positive connotations such as life, truth, trust, joy, goodness, and service. Fear-based actions are better associated with negative words such as death, lies, suspicion, sadness, evil, and selfishness.

Many religions address the love-hate dichotomy, especially Christianity through statements like these: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear”, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”, “We love because He first loved us” and many more.

As you read this, there is likely recent news of another shocking and violent attack…we choose to label it terror. The media puts it front-and-center into our consciousness through their twenty-four-hour news coverage. Where does the terrorist fit into the love-hate equation? What is the motivation and goal of a terrorist?  The goal of the terrorist is to instill fear into the multitude through heinous violet acts to a few. As a proponent of fear, the terrorist strives to herd a panicked society over the cliff of fear. If we succumb to the fear and panic, we ourselves unintentionally propagate fear. Our actions then are driven less by love or caring and more by the fear motivators such as hate, prejudice, and anger.

I would argue that America was founded upon and prospered through the love/caring motivation, and not through fear. Our self-declared link to the principles of liberty and freedom for all is the fruit of love, not fear.  We should all be able to choose because we want to…not because we have to. Isn’t that what freedom is all about?

My hope is that my fellow American citizens will not be so gullible to take the terrorist’s bait in his attempt to push our society into a state of fear.   Allowing ourselves to be controlled by fear only breeds additional fear-based actions. These actions can appear as good intentions, but they are rooted in fear. Actions born out of fear reflect a temporary desperation instead of sustained and lasting goodness.

The opposition of some in our nation to receiving Syrian refugees, now fleeing obvious danger, is a clear example of fear-based thinking. Without the terrorist’s fear-induced spell, I think our response would be much different. At our best, we are a caring nation. We would be prone to reach out and help others in such a dire state of need as the Syrians.  Are we now choosing to let the terrorist control our rational caring thoughts? Look at how the terrorist has transformed our thoughts into stereotyped rejection of the needy thousands, for fear of the unknown dozens? We have moved away from the love-based caring for humanity and toward the slippery slope of hate, prejudice, and mistrust. My question: Have we allowed the terrorist to win?

For the segment of our society who calls ourselves Christians, I see this as an especially shocking and disappointing surrender to the dark side when compared to examples from the Bible. In Jesus’ classic story, the Good Samaritan acted out of concern and did not hesitate to stop and help the stranger that had been beaten and robbed by ‘terrorists’ (even though his own life was likely in danger)! Jesus also chastised those who would not receive strangers, saying “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me…”

Using the word “terrorist” today to describe a premeditated killer of innocents gives him more power over us than he deserves. Let’s take that power away from him and call him simply what he is…a murderer – A murderer to be held accountable for his actions. In a civil society such as ours, we have laws, law enforcement officers, and armies to deal with those who commit such atrocities.

Every day we face a choice. Do we want to live a life rooted in the light of love and freedom or cower under the darkness of fear and bondage?

I still say, “Not living is worse than dying”!

Join me in living today, tomorrow, and the next. Let’s not give up our freedom of life choices!



John Kennedy, Liberty, and Iraq

A quote of President John F Kennedy near his grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

A quote of President John F Kennedy near his grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”   John F. Kennedy

I went to Iraq in the summer of 2003 with those words in my back pocket…literally.  Immediately prior to my departure to Iraq, a good friend, mentor, and Army Chaplain gave me his business card with those words printed on the back.  That card remained with me throughout my days in Baghdad, Mosul, Irbil, Dahuk, Kirkuk, and Sulaymaniyah.  Those words gave me purpose and motivation as I sought to contribute in my own very small way to give liberty a foothold for the people of Iraq after their years of suppression under Saddam Hussein.

Kennedy uttered his bold words in support of liberty in the same address as his “Ask not…” challenge in 1961.  Setting political leanings aside, most would agree that Kennedy’s speech was one of the most inspiring presidential inaugural addresses ever given.  That address ignited a generation and got us started on our way to the moon.

Today we are left to wonder if those were just hallow words, or can they still reflect America’s resolve in the support of liberty.  The commitment to “oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty” has never been an easy task.   Yet we met the challenge in Germany, Japan, and South Korea.  In each of those situations, we committed to a long-term presence to permit the new flame of liberty to grow, mature, and develop that could withstand perpetual threats of outside elements.  Leadership of high resolve and profound human sacrifice underlies each success.  And the citizens of each of those three countries enjoy the fruits of liberty to this very day.

But today I am left utterly disappointed with the state of Iraq.  America clearly failed to carry through with our promise to “assure the survival and the success of liberty” for the people of Iraq.  By ‘walking away’ from Iraq we allowed their flickering flame of liberty to become a raging uncontrolled wildfire fanned by violent outside winds that now destroys everything in its path.  We were Iraq’s firemen until they could develop their own capability.  Iraq didn’t stand a chance after we pulled out.  Our ‘firemen’ did everything asked of them while there.  Pulling them off the job resulted in a disaster it seems anyone could have anticipated.  The real failure was a failure of leadership and resolve to stand behind our national promise.   And while Iraq ‘burns’, the world’s trust of America burns in the ashes alongside it.

And we are left to ask…Now what?  Perhaps Kennedy also provided the answer in the same speech:

“In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty.”