Fear as a strategy can work in the short run, but it never seems good for planning anything long term. I remember when in high school taking driver’s education. They would show us films with all kinds of gory titles. One of them I think was call “mechanized death”, that would show all the gruesome details of the aftermath of a serious car accident. They would also add some story line in some of the films to show what led up to the accident. The films did leave a cold feeling in the feeling of my stomach, yet over time, at most a few days it faded. I doubt that it made that big of an impression on me. For in the day to day world, denial is the name of the game, and perhaps it is a good thing much of the time, for who could drive with the knowledge of what could easily happen constantly before ones mind. There are people like that and they become overly cautious, which is just as dangerous as reckless driving.
What stayed with me over the long haul was what my dad taught when he was teaching me to drive. He would state it over and over again when he would take me out driving. “Be a defensive driver, always watch out for the other guy, be observant and alert at all times. Do not be an offensive driver, it only adds to stress and leads to accidents”. This stuck with me. It was based on common sense with little fear in the mix. I still adhere to these lessons and a couple of times they have saved my life. While the blood and guts films are just a faded memory that illicit no response from me; in this I do not think I am unique. This does not mean of course that one day I will not get into a serious or even a fatal accident, yet the chances lessen considerably when driving defensively.
The same goes for any kind of relationship that is worth anything. Fear does not cut it; it only leads to resentment and hatred in the end, or in some cases to apathy. For who needs a relationship that is based on that? Better to fight back or withdraw. Parents who use a great deal of fear in relating to their children lose them in the long run. Trust and fear cannot live in the same room, two different energies entirely.
Religion is important; it allows a structure in which someone can live out their spiritual journey. While healthy religion can lead to deep spirituality that only matures and expands as one ages and grows, leading to deeper freedom and trust in life’s process. The opposite is true when religion becomes unhealthy and fear based. It will either drive people away, or if not, lead them down a path of great suffering and a fear of life and its mysteries. Religion is about structure, rules, worship, which is good, but it is only a covering for the deeper relationship that is forged with God.
For a Christian, love and trust are the heart of the path that we are called to walk. Something very difficult for many, since years of being brain-washed have to be overcome. God is often an invisible idol that rules rough shod over those under this idols governess. It take courage, self knowledge and a conscious choice to move out of limiting fear based indoctrination, to a faith based on personal experience of God’s abiding love and presence. For many this comes after years of struggle, but in the end the idol is overthrown and the joy breaks through.
The sun falls on the good and the evil, life happens to us all, being a good Christian, or Jew, Hindu or whatever will not protect anyone from the ups and downs of life. God is, life is, we are, and we are pilgrims on a rough journey with only one ending for us all. How we react to this reality is probably one of the most important turns in the road we can make. Learning to trust is a hard process to endure, for it is a choice, perhaps having to be made many times, until the time comes when it become a deeply ingrained way of life. Many never reach this point. I have not, but the journey is more than worth it. It is not about easy answers, but about facing life and living it as fully as possible in ways that deepen love of others expressed through compassion and empathy.