Fear or Love

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Banner reads ‘I am Brussels’ in French & Flemish – Reuters pic

One week ago on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, three coordinated bombings occurred in Brussels, Belgium’s capital. Two attacks occurred in the Brussels airport, and one at its metro station. During these attacks, 31 innocent victims were killed along with three suicide bombers. Even more disturbing is the 300 innocent people who were injured.

I feel great sadness when I hear of a terrorist attack especially when it occurs in Europe because just six months ago my wife and I were in Europe. In October of 2015, my wife and I visited Belgium. While Brussels was not one of the places we visited, we did visit several of the World War One sites in Flanders’ Fields. We also visited Paris, France on our trip so when the Paris attacks happened it deeply affected us both, as did the Brussels attack.

As I stated in my November 27, 2015  post about the Paris attacks, terrorism is something I cannot understand. I’ve tried to put myself into the shoes of a terrorist in order to comprehend how someone can cause harm and death to innocent people like the bloodshed that happened in Brussels. The news media repeatedly tells us that the people who carry out such acts of violence have been radicalized.  Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a radical as  “advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs”. So as I understand it, radicals are people who carrying out acts of murder for political gain.  This is what I can’t wrap my head around.  In my mind killing innocent people for political gain, or any reason, is wrong!

How can someone with any kind of conscience murder innocent people? As I mentioned in the November post, the only thing I can come up with is that these people have been brainwashed. It is the only explanation that makes sense.

What disturbs me the most is when a terrorist attack  happens on our planet panic sets in. Panic is a symptom of fear. The school that I taught in is taking a group of students to Germany this month. The Brussels event set off a wave of panic among the parents. These parents were fearful because their children were off to Europe, where terrorist attacks occur. Now I’m a parent, so I understand the need to protect your children. But when we cave in to fear, the terrorists succeed.

Perhaps it’s time to look at the issue of terrorism from a different perspective. According to many spiritual writers today, all behaviours and emotions can be put into two categories – love and fear. These writers tell us fear is the opposite of love. So what is fear? Fear results in a feeling of not being protected or feeling secure. So when it comes to terrorism, fear sets in because we feel insecure and vulnerable. In fact, that is what terrorism is all about, instilling fear. Terrorists want us to be fearful. They want to cause terror. In fact, ‘terror’ is the root word of ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’.

Fear limits our minds. People who live in fear will do harmful things. They lash out at those whom they perceive to be the cause of their pain. The same could be argued for animals. When do animals attack? It is when they fear for their survival.

Now most people would argue that the opposite of love is hate but when you think about it, hate is really stemming from fear. A person might “hate” someone who has abandoned or disrespected him. Abandonment makes more sense in terms of the fear. When a person feels abandoned, their emotions are stemming from fear of being alone. Disrespect is when a person feels scorned or disregarded, so it stems from the fear a person has when they are not honoured or regarded.

In a CNN report, Republican front-runner Donald Trump is quoted as saying,

“It’s going to get worse and worse. In my opinion, this is just the beginning. It will get worse and worse because we are lax and we are foolish — we can’t allow these people, at this point we cannot allow these people to come into our country. I’m sorry…”

His remarks clearly come from fear. His and others like him lack love and compassion. Banishing others does not stem from love. It stems from fear which indicates that there is no love.

Love on the other hand doesn’t hurt. If it hurts it is fear. Love is a core emotion from which many other emotions are created. Emotions such as happiness, kindness, charity, faith, empathy, fairness and compassion all come from loving intentions. This type of love is what the Greeks called agape love. This love is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. It is the highest form of love there is. With this type of love there is no exclusiveness.

Fear is the opposite of love because fear is the base emotion from which hate, prejudice, greed, stress, paranoia, and many other negative emotions are based.

1 John 4:18 of the Christian scriptures tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” It is also interesting that scripture scholars tell us the phrases “do not fear” and “do not be afraid” appears 365 times in the Christian Bible. I don’t think that is coincidence. Perhaps a basic message in the scriptures is, do not have fear because when you are fearful, you do not possess love.

The CNN report referred to above quotes Pascale Rouhier, a 38-year-old resident of Brussels, as saying, “I’m not going to change my way of living because Brussels is my city.”

The article also reports that 2,000 people gathered in front of  the Brussels stock exchange, with Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel and other leaders who laid wreaths at Maelbeek metro station.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “Our strength lies in our unity, and our free societies will prove to be stronger than terrorism.” (see article)

These are all examples of people whereby fear has not taken hold. Their reactions and comments stem from love. Love unifies while fear divides.

Perhaps former Beatle John Lennon sums it up best when he said,

“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. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States was right when he said during his inaugural address on March 4, 1933,   “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself.”  If terrorists succeed in their mission to instil fear into the world then they will create a culture of fear; a culture where there is no love; a world full of hate, prejudice, greed, stress, and paranoia. But, if we don’t allow fear to take hold then we will have a culture filled with happiness, kindness, charity,  empathy, fairness and compassion; a culture where there is love. The choice is ours.

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Author: Sommer season all year

I am a retired school teacher. I taught high school for 35 years.