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“Fear is a great motivator”…I don’t remember who first said this but I’ve heard it a lot. Mostly, I think it is supposed to mean that fear motivates us to change. If an unexpected health issue arises, fear is supposed to motivate us to make healthy lifestyle changes, for example.

Yet, fear changes us in other ways as well. Fear is the root of all prejudice because prejudice is making a negative judgement about something we do not fully understand, something that is different than what we have been taught or what is outside our understanding. Prejudice makes us act in cruel and harmful ways and when not confronted for the ignorance that it is, it spreads like an unstoppable disease often killing innocence in its path.

Fear also fuels hate like throwing gas on a flame. It is white hot and hard to contain when it is used as propaganda to spread a message of intolerance, often leading to explosive violence and unspeakable pain. Fear is the great divider. It puts people in different camps and justifies us to inaccurately define ourselves as good and others as evil. Fear stifles a desire to understand and to cooperate. It is the fuel for desperate acts of unjustified harm toward mankind.

Fear lies. It does not seek to understand the truth. It thrives in dishonesty and falsehoods. Fear is deceitful because fear is full of trickery and this deceit feeds ignorant rumors and wildly inaccurate information which helps to keep us in an agitated state of turmoil.

The other side of fear is courage. Fear hates courage because courage is the only real thing that can destroy fear. Courage allows us to overcome our misunderstandings and accept our differences with peace and grace. Courage is the only thing that can suppress the flames of fear. Courage often requires taking a risk and having a certain amount of faith that by doing the right thing, the wrong one will be eradicated and the truth will prevail.

Both fear and courage are a choice and it is up to each of us to decide which one will drive our decisions and behavior. Do we want to live in ignorance, simply believing the lies that others tell us to keep us oppressed by fear? Do we want to spend a lifetime doused in hate, living in ignorance that ultimately leads to despair and violence?

Or, do we want to be free of the bondage of fear? Are we ready to end violent hate filled bias? Do we want to seek a better understanding of truth and fairness? If so, then we must be brave. We must choose courage, for with it and only with it, can we break the cycle of fear that perpetuates hate. If we want change, the only real way to get it is through peace and to act with peace, despite our trepidation, is to act with courage.