Several of the little quotes that I collect seemed to coalesce onto a more complete thought today.
“You fear what you don’t know.” (Chad Druetzler)
“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” (Nelson Mandela)
Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. (Marie Curie)
I was a little unsure how to position the last two quotes, but I think the order is correct.
It seems to me that fear of things that we don’t know or understand is what underlies most of the hate, prejudices and conspiracy theories that we see and experience in the world. Most, if not all, of that fear is caused by a lack of knowledge and understanding. We encounter someone who is different from ourselves and immediately become fearful because we don’t understand them – they are outside of our normal frame of reference and thus represent some sort of unknown danger. Fear takes over.
Unfounded prejudices are based on this fear reaction when the fear is generalized and applied to a group of people who share some characteristic or trait – perhaps the color of their skin, or the way they dress or speak (language, or even the color of their hair or the fact that they have a tattoo or piercing of some sort. It is easy to recognize within yourself, if your reaction to encountering someone different is immediate fear, disgust or defensive, without any additional reason.
It is much harder to take Mandela’s or Marie Curie’s advice and overcome those fears. The key is probably to be found in Curie’s quote and that is to shift your thought process from fearful reaction onto trying to understand what is causing your reaction. Just stop yourself to ask, “What am I really afraid of and why?” That pause alone will allow you to regain control over what might have been a thoughtless, “knee-jerk” reaction, which is often called prejudice.
Curie’s answer to Druetzler’s observation is to take Mandela’s advice and conquer your fears by making the effort to understand what is driving them. So, as you hit new challenges or meet new people; rather than approach those events in trepidation, embrace them in wonder and with a resolve to understand them, not fear them.
Be brave. Learn to overcome your fears. As a side-benefit, you will live a rich and more satisfying life.