Should you be afraid?

Just a few thoughts today.

Earlier I was talking with some people, and the conversation moved away from more general matters and onto the threat of ISIS, and the likelihood of more terrorism and persecution making its way over to the West. You don’t have to know every detail about current affairs to have some idea of the truly dreadful things that have been happening, and, it seems, with more and more frequency. Decapitation. Abduction. Historical vandalism. There is too much to list, and I don’t have the words to do justice to the magnitude of what is happening.

As I say, we were talking about the probability of us having to face these things directly sooner or later, and at one point in the conversation, I said something along the lines of: “Well, we have to be prepared. But we shouldn’t be frightened; that doesn’t do any good.”

Pretty much everyone disagreed with me. “I think we should be frightened. When you think of the scale of what it is that’s happening… if that was happening here, I would be scared. That’s a natural reaction.”

Those I was with talked a little while more on the scale of risk and what it meant to be frightened, and the conversation moved on again. I didn’t really get the chance to explain what I meant – so, here I am to blog about it instead. *le sigh*

I suppose when you say that you shouldn’t be frightened of something, there is a danger of looking like you’re belittling the subject. “Oh, it’s nothing to be frightened of!” As you might say of the dark, or clowns, or heights. When you tell someone not to be frightened, it’s normally in the context of irrational fear. Of course you shouldn’t be frightened when there isn’t an actual threat. But does that mean that when there is actual threat, you ought to be frightened?

I have a feeling that it sounded like I was belittling the threat of terrorism, or the likelihood of extremist activity becoming more prevalent in this country. That was not my intention. I would not be surprised if these things came here, and I do not deny that there is much to be frightened of.

My point, rather, is that fear does no good. It has no benefit – it only makes the thing you are frightened of more powerful. When you are frightened, you are less of a threat.

Now, to clarify further – I’m not saying that it’s wrong to be afraid. Fear is an automatic reaction much of the time, but like other emotions, it is how you act when you are afraid that is the most important thing. Do you embrace the fear – well, you should be frightened, what good would it do to fight against it, etc? Or do you fight it?

I think my real point is that even if there is a real threat, one for which fear is a natural reaction, the most important thing is to not let your fear be greater than your hope. Don’t let fear overcome you, for that can drive you to despair. Stay hopeful, keep your faith. Let your faith be stronger than your fear. Don’t let fear kill your faith; don’t let the threat destroy your hope.

Equally, don’t belittle the threat in order to make it seem more manageable to remain hopeful. You have to open your eyes to the reality of the situation, look the danger in the face for what it is, and then hope anyway. Let nothing be stronger than your faith. And don’t let anyone tell you that you should be frightened. Instead, look the threat in the eye and defy it with your hope.

“Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances that we know to be desperate.” – G. K. Chesterton


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