Everybody gets scared. Everybody has at least one thing that fills their bones with a chilling sense of fear, something that makes their heart beat out of their chest and their hands shake. Some people have more superficial fears, their terror emanating from alarming heights and the ghastly little creatures we call spiders. Others have fears that are a tad more profound, tormented by thoughts of abandonment and loneliness. The point is, everybody is afraid of something.
Fear, while commonly considered a negative emotion, is not always bad. Fear is often what keeps us safe. Fear is the voice in the back of our heads that tells us to stay away from the edges of cliffs and oddly colored snakes because they might cause us harm. Many of us even invite the feeling of fear. We watch horror flicks, force ourselves through haunted houses, and wait hours in line to go on amusement park rides even though the terrified screams of other riders pierce the air around us. We welcome fear because the ball of dread that pools at the bottom of our stomachs and the adrenaline that rushes through our veins make us feel alive. In these ways, fear is pretty harmless. Quite the opposite, actually.
Fear doesn’t become a problem until the moment when we let it take control of us. When we allow it to slip into our hearts and lie there, festering, growing, and becoming a part of who we are. Many of the ugliest parts of history are products of fear, of people being afraid of others who are different or may bring about change. These are the types of fears that get beneath our skin and haunt us, the ones that turn ourselves into something to be feared. Change and straying from what is “normal” makes us feel uncomfortable, and this uncomfort transforms us into something unrecognizable.
Would there be prejudices such as racism and homophobia if people did not carry such fears within themselves? If people let go of their anxiety and instead looked at what lay beneath the disparity? My guess would be no.
Fear does not solely cause trouble on a social and political level, either. It can also disrupt life on a more personal level as well. Have you ever shied away from making a choice simply because you were afraid of what somebody else would think? Whether it is something as trivial as choosing an outfit to wear or as significant as deciding what you want to do with the rest of your life, fear of criticism and societal disapproval often holds many people back from following their true desires. Many people would rather give into fear than face it, even when something they care about is at stake. When we let fear guide the decisions we make about our lives, the outcome is often unsatisfactory and we end up living without really being alive. Instead of experiencing life at it’s best, we experience the life as merely puppets, merely responding to the the pull and tug of fear behind the strings.
Fear is a universal emotion. We all deal with it, and many times it haunts us for our entire lives. On the inside most of us are still little kids with a fear of the dark and what may lay within the shadows. But being afraid is not synonymous with being weak. Rather, it is synonymous with being human. Being human, however, does not have to mean letting fear control you. As a collective, we need to stop allowing fear to enslave us and transform us into monsters with no care regarding what is right. Because until we learn to let go of our fears, to look past the terror and hate, that is all we will ever be: monsters who destroy what we fail to understand and cower at uncertainty.