Love. Hate. Fear…Hope

Most people think that hate is the opposite of love. I learned a long time ago that actually it’s fear. Fear is the opposite of love.

Hate is a by product of fear. Violence is a by product of fear. Failure, frustration, jealousy, anger, shame, rejection, guilt…all rooted in fear. I didn’t believe this when I first heard it but the more I noodled on it the more I recognized the truth of it. When you dig deep enough you begin to see that while it may hide itself well, fear is the root of most, if not all, of our negative emotions.

About a year or so ago, a friend challenged me to begin making a daily list of the things that I am thankful for. My initial response was “Seriously, I’ve got nothing.” My second thought was “WOAH!! When did I start thinking like that?”

I’m not sure how I allowed myself to become so focused on the negative aspects of my life that I could no longer see all that I have to be thankful for, but that is exactly where I found myself. It was certainly a defining moment for me. I determined right then and there that things had to change…well, I had to change actually. That day I began paying attention to my negative thoughts and then re-directing them, reminding myself of all the things I had to be grateful for. It wasn’t a quick fix. It took days, weeks and months even to retrain my brain to focus on the positive instead of the negative, to focus on love instead of fear. It’s still a work in progress.

As I look around these days there are so many people who seem to be living in fear and sadly it is manifesting in so many ugly ways. My Facebook feed is full of posts about all kinds of things that we are supposed to be afraid of…Republicans, Democrats, the government in general, Muslims, Christians, Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, people who don’t think like us, act like us and believe like us…and lots more.

The media seems to want us to be afraid. Often the politicians want to use fear to motivate us to vote for them or “their team”. It seems that sometimes even people near and dear to us want us to be afraid…likely because they are afraid. We want others to validate our fear and it’s not difficult to find people who will do that for us.

Human beings are rather tribal. There are even people who will teach you to find your tribe…for a price. We want to be around other people who are like us. We prefer people who look like us, dress like us and talk like us. In order to find those who are like us and to weed out those who are not we look at the people around us and we slice and dice them into bits and pieces. We label them… black or white or brown, pro-choice or pro-life, liberal or conservative, men or women, homosexual or heterosexual, mask wearers or anti-maskers, too young or too old, Cardinals fans or Cubs fans, meat eaters or vegan (for the life of me I can’t understand those vegans!) The list goes on and on. If we look close enough we will find plenty of ways that those around us, even those closest to us, are different from us and that scares the heck out of us because it doesn’t validate our beliefs. These days, we think different is bad and something to be afraid of, so we choose fear.

But we have another choice. We can choose love instead of fear.

We can choose love instead of fear.

Just like our negative thoughts, feelings and emotions are based in fear, all of our positive emotions are at the very root based is love.

Hope, faith, forgiveness, joy, gratitude…they all flow from love. And love, like fear is a choice.

We tend to think of love as a feeling but really love is much more about what we do than about what we feel.

We can choose fear or we can choose love. Everything else will flow from that choice, all of our actions and all of our reactions.

These days I see a lot to be hopeful about and a lot that makes me feel very grateful. While fear still tries to creep in on occasion I am doing my best to purposefully choose love. I don’t always get it right but more and more I am trying to ask myself “what would it look like to love in this situation?”. It certainly changes the way I view people and situations. It also helps me realize that I don’t need to save the world (not that I could anyway!) but rather all I need to do is focus on the person or situation right in front of me at the moment.

I believe that appreciation is a holy thing, that when we look for what’s best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something truly sacred.

—Fred Rodger

Honestly though, there are still times when I just don’t want to choose love because sometimes it’s just hard or I (wrongfully) want to hold on to my negative views of people and situations. When I really want to I can even convince myself that I am justified in refusing to choose love. 😕

While the whole COVID-19 situation has been stressful, distressing and downright fearful for many, for me it has been a season of many blessings. I find myself looking at all that is going on in the world and I have great hope.

It seems to me that God is currently reshaping our country and our culture in many positive ways. While to some it looks like it may all be falling apart, I think God may be doing something really cool here. Certainly no real and lasting change comes without some hard work. Grasping something new always means letting go of something old. But we don’t like to let go. It’s scary. It feels much safer to hang onto what we know, even if we don’t like it all that much. (Which reminds me on a old Super Bowl commercial that is totally worth the one minute it takes to watch it: Ideas are Scary)

Here is what I see. There is a lot of movement back to small, family businesses, a simpler way of life and more connected family units…some of that due to sheer necessity at this point. Many small businesses have been very innovative over the past few months. They have found new niches, new ways to operate and new ways to move into spaces that larger businesses may not be able to fill right now. Small farms are seeing the opportunity to fill many gaps from providing fresh, locally grown food to creating training programs to help others become farmers. More people are growing gardens, baking bread, checking out library books, playing board games and learning to knit….because they have the time. I see people connecting with others in new ways—across political lines, across lines of religious belief, finally taking the time to get to know people who are absolutely different than them. They are choosing to really listen to the voices of people who think and believe differently than they do. I see people leading in new ways. I see many who refuse to let the fear overcome them and they are instead choosing to love those around them. They are being intentional about getting to know their neighbors. They are choosing to love people in real and tangible ways, even people who are different that them. I see them choosing love, being hopeful and offering hope to others around them.

Choosing love over fear, it’s life changing. It’s world changing in fact.

I believe God has used COVID-19 to intentionally disrupt our lives…for His own great purposes. He’s certainly not surprised by it. And I can’t help but think it’s exciting to see what is happening as we are all forced to move outside of our comfort zones!

I know some people are just holding on and hoping that we will soon go back to normal, back to their comfort zones. Personally, I hope we never go back to “normal” because it never really felt normal to me.

How about you? Are you feeling hopeful or struggling with fear? Are you looking forward to getting back to normal or to creating a new normal? Drop me a comment below!

Also, I’d be thrilled if you’d share this blog on your social media.

Thanks for hanging out here with me for a while.

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