By Maren Schmidt, Author of Understanding Montessori
Fear is a powerful motivator and behavior modifier. Fear, though, does not promote growth. Fear doesn’t promote kindness, caring or compassion in ourselves. Fear doesn’t open our hearts to new experiences. Fear doesn’t connect us to other people.
What is the opposite of fear? Love.
The opposite of love is not hate, but fear. Hate refers to a strong preference. When we dislike something we say, “I hate broccoli.” When we prefer something above all else, we say we “love it.” “I love butter pecan ice cream. I hate bubble gum ice cream.” In other instances when we use the word hate, we should perhaps substitute the word fear. “I fear war.”
The word love is used in two basic ways: to express preference and to express an ability to be open and accepting of a person, place, thing or situation.
With love we accept the entire experience of a relationship. A horse-loving friend embraces the ups and downs of owning a horse. Danielle rides everyday. She sings ”What A Beautiful Morning” mucking the stall. Horse smells invigorate her. Money spent on her mare, Misty, is never wasted. Two hours spent brushing Misty fly. With her horse, Danielle takes the good with the bad, and doesn’t worry about getting kicked or thrown. Danielle understands the nature of horses, is cautious and aware, but not fearful.
Danielle’s sister, Martha, on the other hand, appreciates her sister’s horse, but Martha doesn’t care to be involved in any aspect of being with a horse. Martha is not open to the horse experience. She considers horses to be dirty and smelly, and a drain on finances and time. Because a horse kicked a friend, Martha fears being hospitalized by a horse.
Danielle wanted to share her love of horses with Martha and to help Martha lose her fear. Danielle convinced Martha to help groom Misty. At first Martha was hesitant about touching Misty, but after a few visits, Martha was bringing carrots and braiding Misty’s mane. As Martha’s experience and knowledge increased, her fearfulness diminished, and she began to seek out new experiences with Misty and Danielle. Martha found that facing her fears helped her feel more courageous in other aspects of her life. Martha attributed her connection to Misty as the impetus for a balloon ride and deciding to go to grad school.
Fear causes us to withdraw from life. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address, “…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Being open to the experiences a relationship has to offer, having realistic expectations by seeing the positive with the negative of the situation and serving the needs of others are expressions of love.
In St. Paul’s famous letter to the Corinthians, he tells us:
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…”
Substitute fear for love and Paul’s passage might read like this: Fear is impatient, fear is not kind and is jealous; fear brags and is arrogant, and acts unbecomingly. It seeks its own, is easily provoked, takes into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in righteousness, but mocks the truth; fear destroys all things, believes in nothing, hopes for nothing, endures nothing. Fear always fails…
When we are afraid, let us gain the necessary knowledge and experience in order to transform fear into love. It is in facing our fears that we look into the eyes of love.
Let us show our children how to turn away from fear and towards love, knowing that love never fails.