Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Being Feistier Than Fear: Seize Your Power!

courage

What are you afraid of? Fear is the tool evil people use to try to manipulate. “Boston strong” is an antidote that worked after the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Bostonians knew instinctively that fear robs you of your power. You stop thinking of solutions and start cowering. When we allow ourselves to live in fear, we give bullies the reins.

Bullies get a sick thrill out of pushing their victims around. Did you see the grin on the face of the guy who ordered the kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian school girls? Can you imagine a strong, healthy man who would be proud of terrorizing little girls? And yet, he is. He’s like a rapist or a school bully who drives a vulnerable “friend” to suicide. As Jon Stewart of THE DAILY SHOW observed, girls who attend school in the face of horrific threat have more courage than the bullies can imagine. One girl who escaped the kidnapping explained her continued dedication to her education as a way for her to help her nation. Courage spits on fear.

In the film HANNAH ARENDT about the real-life philosopher of the same name, she observes that terrorists (she was referring to war criminals from the Holocaust, but she could have been talking about anyone who inflicts physical or emotional violence) have stopped feeling like persons. They feel no blame. They feel no responsibility to ask themselves about whether what they’re doing is right or wrong as an individual act. They excuse themselves and set themselves outside morality. They may be followers who don’t comprehend the doctrines or authorities they think they’re following. They believe they’re merely pawns. I once met a child abuser who said, “They made me hit them.” She wasn’t unusual. The boys who wreaked carnage on Columbine High School, like the men who exploded the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, thought they were compelled by their victims.

How do people come to excuse themselves from humanity? One reason may be an aberration in the brain–a malfunction that makes violence a default action. When that’s the case, we need to work very hard to understand what’s happening inside that person, remember we’re dealing with another human being, and find a way to eliminate or lessen the harm that person can do to him or herself and others.

Sometimes well-meaning people invite violence. In the film CHOCOLAT, the mayor feels threatened by the arrival of what I might label boat people, and he calls for a boycott of immorality–the immorality being the visitors who are simply different from the locals. He tells a local man he believes he is redeeming from being a domestic abuser, “Something must be done, Serge.” The man misunderstands and sets the boats on fire, nearly murdering boat people and locals, alike. The mayor is horrified. What has he done? How is he different from real-life “leaders” who have directed their fearful followers to do evil?

How does a ship’s captain allow hundreds of students to drown in his vessel while he saves himself? He was afraid. Who hasn’t heard the whine, “It’s not my fault.”

When I started teaching high school many years ago, English teachers used to use classic literature to help illustrate for their students the profound accountability mature adults have for their own behavior–even if they don’t get caught. A group of parents came to our school to protest. Their particular interpretation of their religious doctrine didn’t allow for personal responsibility. The administrators didn’t want trouble with the parents, so they changed the guidelines. The teachers stopped relating literature to accountability. Characters just did things.

We don’t have to offend religious doctrine to teach that maturity is responsibility to act on the difference between right and wrong. Our children must be responsible for what they say and do–as we are. My first school principal used to say, “Be firm, fair, and consistent.” As role models, we have to stop being excited by adults who behave like bad children and killing as entertainment and a go-to answer to serious problems.

Most of all, we have to reject fear. Many of us receive countless emails or posts daily that drip with fear of our president, our social systems, and all sorts of disasters. Insist on finding out both sides of each story. Being well informed decreases fear. You start thinking of what you can do. You wouldn’t stand in the middle of the road and watch a tornado until it sucked you into Kansas. Use the warnings that are valid to help you make decisions about the wisest path into the future. Stop listening to the fear voices. Be Person Strong. Run the marathon, anyway. Insist on being happy.

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