So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fearful or fearless?

In happy-go-lucky suburban North America and academia, most threats merely live in people's heads.

People tend to act to protect themselves when they feel threatened—in the workplace, in checkout lineups, behind the wheel of a car, strolling down the street, on the bus on the way to work, etc. Fear, real or imagined, motivates.

Those trained to act rather than react—military service men and women, police officers, martial artists (at least some), mediators and counsellors, ambassadors—may protect themselves guided by a commonsensical rationale that is necessary given a real threat.

Fears concerning things imagined, probably due to a persistent scar that has been torn into someone's psyche, are powerful inhibiters of reasoned action. People project their fears on to others and blame others for being the cause of their discomfort when there is no real justification for doing so. A person fights or flees because he has, on some level, associated mere words with probable threats. Mere words, by which is meant a distinction between bluster and enacted threats of physical violence. Words, of course, are powerful and therefore can be terribly intimidating. Recovery from a history of verbal abuse (and psychological trauma) by a family member, co-worker, employer, coach or teacher, for example, often takes much longer than recovery from a broken bone. Words can really mess with one's head.
Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.—G.K. Chesterton
Sadly, the workplace can be a hellish experience if a boss or senior colleague is given to reacting to imaginary scenarios. Can you think of someone who only hears what they want to hear? That obvious indifference to input, feedback, counsel and criticism is surely the practiced habit of one who has been exposed to a sufficient cause in his or her life to fight to protect herself/himself at the expense of another's integrity, or at least offer excuse for avoiding culpability for any insensitivity he or she might cause. 
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.—Plato
Adult children can be, for good or for ill, for better or worse, the perfect reflection of their own parent or parents. Has someone you know been injured by a former boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse who has taken advantage of them, assaulted them physically or inflicted mental anguish upon him or her? His or her suffering is understandable given the circumstance. However, if the wounded allows himself/herself to be manipulated by his or her fears, she or he too often becomes the one who wounds others. It takes a courageous person who is honest with him/herself to realize what's going on and to avoid becoming drawn into fear-inspired manipulations.
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.—Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 10:28-31
There are people who, though not free from fear, have mastered the discipline to avoid imposing their fears on others and who have learned to avoid reacting irrationally to people's comments or behaviour. Their courage is learned, communicated by a parent or grandparent or trusted mentor, and, for the Christian, such courage is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Are you such a person? The saints possess freedom from their fears because grace empowers them. They allow themselves to be taught by the Holy Spirit speaking through Holy Scripture, the Sacraments and through the witness of the saints.
There are times when fear is good. It must keep its watchful place at the heart's controls.—Aeschylus
Saints have the good sense to know they are not in control. Like a river, they flow around those behaviours directed at them by others which have fear as their origin. They absorb those fear-driven actions and gently expose them by observing silence which affords the initiator of those punishing actions the opportunity to hear and see what's going on. The saints battle against the darkness, but they do so without malice.
Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood.—George S. Patton
The defence of the innocent requires that we must put aside our fears:
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.—St. John 15:13
We would do well to meditate on John's counsel:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.—1 John 4:18
The entire abortion culture is driven by fear mongering—'Oh, if only you abort your child you'll be able to have a better life, a good career, a spouse and house, annual extravagant vacations,... . A child will only weigh you down.' If that's the argument, then why get out of bed in the morning? Life is risk. Love is risk, in the sense that true love sacrifices self in order to serve others. Anything or anyone who promises you a "safe" life is lying and trying to manipulate you, or is lying to themselves, or both.

The last fear, and the first.

Fear of the Lord is absolute trust in and deference to the Lord. This 'fear' is of a kind that Aeschylus lauded. We are creatures; we are not the Creator. We depend on God for our very existence. God sustains us in being.
If he should take back his spirit to himself, and gather to himself his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.—Job 34:14-15
It is right and just that we, God's children, acknowledge God's sovereignty over us. Jesus is always the faithful Bridegroom. Will we be faithful to the Lord? Love of God casts out all irrational fear.

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