Author's Note: I wrote the following post the day before the horrific tragedies in Newtown, Connecticut, the day before a dear friend of the family who I thought was one of the happiest persons I knew took his own life in Chicago. I removed this piece, "A Fear-less Existence" that day. Like millions of people the world over, my sorrow took up too much room for me to consider the idea of fearlessness and peace. Since then, I've tried to write nearly a dozen or so posts about everything from gun control to mental illness to loss. I've fought the urge to even rewrite this piece, afraid my emotions might get the better of me and it. It appears just as it was written, before Sandy Hook and the loss of our Kevin. The events of Friday have made one thing crystal clear: We cannot live in a constant state of fear and claim to be free. We must fight for peace with every fiber of our human beings.
What if we feared less? What would the world look like?
Imagine a world where all of humanity feared less. Where we found less of a reason to await potential tragedy of every shape and size. Where we didn't waste time attempting to protect ourselves against harm caused the human or natural forces that surround us. A world where we didn't fear the wrath of a loving God and weren't manipulated by political and religious leaders obsessed with power and greed. A big blue marble where we faced life's challenges fear-less-ly with peace-filled support of those dear to us.
Raised in the Catholic faith, I experienced my fair share of mixed messages. One contradiction, however, stood head and shoulders above the rest: I should fear a loving God. Why on earth (and in the afterlife, depending on my sin status) should I fear the Creator if He loves me? Fear is a nasty motivator, and not nearly as effective as love. What if we were encouraged to perform good works because we were excited to serve rather than out of fear of God's wrath if we sinned? What control would religious leaders possess if every peaceful religion were righteous and legitimate paths to God? Without fear, we wouldn't feel a need to judge those who believed differently or those who didn't believe at all. Spiritual Inclusionism would be our palatable fare.
In a fearless society, peace would break out all over the globe. There would be no argument over gun control, weapons of mass destruction, the size of one's military and the like because we wouldn't have them. Not fearing the loss of their riches, generosity would be the norm for the wealthy and those less fortunate would have what they needed. Community would serve community, regardless of borders. Conflict would be reserved for unsolved math problems and made for TV movies. Tabloid media would be extinct, taking with it Honey Boo Boo and Big Brother.
Alas, we will never find our Eden here on Earth, no matter how much we wish and hope and pray it so. We can, however, attempt to manage the level of fear we allow into our individual lives.
There is an undeniable truth: What you fear owns you.
Living in the present moment is the ultimate reward of a fearing less life. It is impossible, no matter how hard we try, to live in our past or future. By living in our bygones or attempting to micromanage the future, we waste the life we have. If we're not focused on the moments we get to experience in this life, it's impossible to live them fully.
Less fear also affords us the opportunity to live with less judgment. We can throw away the measuring sticks we were given. It serves no purpose to judge how better we are than our fellow man or woman, nor is it helpful to keep telling ourselves we're not enough.
Fearing less doesn't make us any less susceptible to the bad in the world, it just makes us better equipped to deal with it. Boundary-less people will still try to take what is not theirs and natural tragedies will still occur. Injustice is an unavoidable thread that's woven into the fabric of life on Earth. Less fear simply gives us the chance to live full lives in spite of it.
We wish for the dead to "Rest In Peace". Why not tell the breathing to live in it? Peace should be shared generously with those who believe as we do, those who don't and those we don't even know.
The absence of fear isn't courage, it's peace. A fear-less existence is the key to inner (and outer) solace.
Sarah O'Leary is an author, freelance writer and Spiritual Inclusionist. She can be reached via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.