There are many things that motivate people in life. There is money of course. There is also happiness, security and even the spiritual promises of eternal reward that all serve as motivation for people. These things drive people. These things can help to get you up in the morning and push yourself to work hard. But there is one thing that motivates like no other. Fear.
Fear can be healthy. Fear of drowning, for example, can help to keep you alert and behave safely in and around water. Fear of heights can help you to be extra careful on a ladder or on a rooftop. But fear can be very unhealthy as well. Fear can fill you with emotions that are detrimental, not to just yourself but to others as well. Fear is an instigator, a battle cry…and at times, fear is a liar.
Fearmongering is a term described in this way… It is “the action of deliberately arousing public fear or alarm about a particular issue.” Religion uses fear as a means of control. The threat of hell for all eternity is enough for some people to give up their time and money to bow down at the feet of a pastor. Leaders of the churches know how much fear motivates people and they know how well it works to fill those empty seats on Sunday morning. Religion often uses fear to keep traditions alive. Marriage for straight people only is a way to keep those “sinful gays” from corrupting us. They somehow believe that what two consenting adults do is somehow affecting them in a negative way. They tell people to fear the non-believers because they are filled with evil that will tempt us into leaving God. Speaking of God, the fear of him is said to be a virtue. As if cowering before the almighty is a good thing. For some reason, a loving and caring God wants us to know that he could destroy us in an instant if we’re not careful. Fear works wonders for religion. In fact, without fear, religion would not likely exist.
Fearmongering is not just reserved for the pious and the “spiritually gifted” among us. Fearmongering is also a political tool used to pit one side against another. If one side portrays the other side as being pure evil and hell bent on destroying everything you know and love, then people may think twice about supporting them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, hopefully just this one last time: I hate discussing politics. It’s far too divisive and creates far more enemies than it does friends. What makes matters worse is when we think that the differing political ideologies need a little more help from us. One side says this or that and the other says pretty much the opposite. That’s standard. That should be enough to get us to find where we fit on the political spectrum. It’s when we say that, not only are the two sides different, but only our side is the right one and those not on our side are 100% wrong 100% of the time that we create a bigger mess. That’s not true (people being wrong all the time), but when you make the situation sound more dire and at times life-threatening, it creates a situation that turns a rational fear or uncertainty into an irrational, hateful movement.
Before I go further, I want to say that this post is not directed at any specific person or group of people. This is not a post designed to malign anyone or single anyone out. Don’t get offended, this isn’t about you. This is a post that is directed at all of us. Every one of us, no matter how angry and hurt we can be, needs to find ways to work together. Not work together in our own groups to take over another group, but work to find a way to be one large group of people working together for the common good. I wrote this post to maybe make us stop for a moment, take a deep breath and find ways to communicate without being so angry all the time. Fearmongering is a way to push agendas, push buttons and push and shove each other. Fear sells. Fear incites. Fear eventually turns to anger. Anger turns to hatred. Hatred, if not stopped early, can turn to violence. We run the risk of becoming monsters instead of friends. We become enemies instead of family. We become segregated in our quest to become one as a people. Fear brings out the very worst in all of us.
I know that we do not all agree all the time. I know that some of our leaders are not great at bringing people together and all too often divide us with insensitive words and policies that work for some but not all. Despite some of the fear being peddled on the news and on the internet, the end of the world as we know it is not coming soon. The sky is not falling and another civil war is not on the horizon. Some people are getting what they want and some are not. Some are prospering and some are hurting. Some families are getting stronger while others are separated. Blame doesn’t solve a single thing. Actions do. If a wrong needs to be righted, then make your voices heard. There are avenues that lead to peaceful resolutions and avenues that lead to bitterness, hatred and rage. Fear is the tool of those who only want change by force. Fear is a tactic used to stir up emotions and get people to react impulsively. Calmness and reason get you much further in life. That’s not an outdated idea. Peace should be a common goal. Compromise should be a common goal. Love should be a common goal. Fear that leads to taking anything by force should not be a goal that anyone shares. Don’t complain about how the other side mistreats you and then call for people on your side to do the same to them.
I do not wish to start a political debate on here nor do I wish to have a religious debate. I just want to make the suggestion that selling fear instead of handing out peace is going to push people further apart. If someone hurts you, make them see why and work towards a resolution. Simply hurting them back makes you just as culpable for the unrest and divisiveness as they are. If religion has lied to you, then walk away and share your story. Getting back at the church won’t make the past go away. If your vision for our country was shattered by an election, then make your voice heard and tell people what you believe and why you believe it. Again, fear and hatred are not good resolution makers. They may change the situation, but all you are doing is grabbing what you want for your own personal gain and making the other side as angry and hate-filled as you were. And round and round we go. If it’s always one side versus the other then it’s always a fight and it’s always going to push people apart.
If you feel people are backwards thinking, then educate them. Don’t shame them, call names or threaten them. Education is a much better weapon than fear. I was misled by religion for much of my life. Instead of trying to get back at those who lied to me, I try to educate people into seeing why I left. The same tactic can be used in all of life’s situations. You may see a coup as the only way to regain what progress you feel has been made, but hatred and violence to get your way is only going to make someone else angry and violent.
Whatever your passion is in life, whatever values you have and whatever you feel is important and good for all people, just reach for your goals with an open hand, not a fist. Talk to people. Don’t yell at them. If you are angry, then say you are angry and explain why. Most people will listen to calm and rational people. When people feel threatened then they tend to lash out. If you are angry, it angers others. If you dish out fear, then they will hit you back with their own. If you scream out your truth, then they will scream theirs right back at you. Religion, politics, equal rights, tradition versus progressiveness and many other social issues are triggers for so many people. It’s best to calm down, put the safety on and holster your fearmongering. Speak out for injustice. Be the voice for those who have none. Hold the hands of people who are down and help them up. Just do it in a manner that you yourself would want. How do you react when someone screams at you? How do you react when someone accuses you of being wrong when you know you are right? How do you feel when their fear tactics are used to try to get you to change even though you know it’s not a rational fear? Be a calm voice of reason and not an angry, hateful, screaming voice of fear.