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June 1, 2018

What’s more powerful than fear?

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer
with passion, excitement, and acceptance.”
(John Lennon)


Fear is among the most powerful of all emotions. And since emotions are far more powerful than thoughts, fear can overcome even the strongest parts of our intelligence.


This is why intellectual arguments against this political candidate, or against that side of an issue, are rarely persuasive. Our thoughts in an argument are like classically trained boxers, studying their opponent for their opportune time to punch. Our fear, though, is like a pro wrestler, stepping into the ring and whacking its opponents with a folding chair.* Fascist dictators, guerrilla revolutionaries, and talk radio hosts alike know this truth about fear, and that is why, for them, facts are secondary. Fear is primary.


If we’re not careful, the worst parts of ourselves will act the same way—toward ourselves. We can paralyze ourselves by conjuring up all the bad things that could happen, or by only remembering the bad results that did occur. It doesn’t matter that the actual facts in front of us, or behind us, paint a far more balanced picture. Fear shades all competing notions with its shadow.


And that’s why you can’t defeat fear with only thoughts. They must be accompanied by another powerful emotion. Contrary to popular thought, this other competing emotion is not courage. Courage is necessary, but it cannot be primary, because it seeks to take fear head on. Courage tries to defeat fear, to overcome it. But this will not work, because A) fear is too strong and too enduring—it may lose battles but it wins the war eventually; and B) we don’t need defeat fear; we only need to manage it so as to be vitally useful when absolutely necessary.


So, what is the emotion that’s stronger than fear? I think you already know it.
• It is the most powerful of all emotions, but it can appear weak to those without it.
• It is the most lasting of all emotions, but it is, in many ways, the slowest to develop.
• It is the most courageous of all emotions, but is the scariest to put into practice.
• It can seem fleeting and fickle at first, but it is the only emotion the God of Abraham actually commanded us to feel toward others.


Like I said, I think you already know it.


*Thanks to Roland Barthes, and Judd Legum, for that analogy.


Peace begins with pause,