Up above the cash register, they have this sign:
The fear of the Lord is the first step on the path to wisdom.
It really struck me.
Fear leads to wisdom?
Interesting concept. It got me thinking about how many ways fear is an organizing principle for humans. An engine for behavior control. Here are some examples:
- Children's fear of parents and teachers.
- The fear of being ostracized/being different.
- Fear of government/rules/punishment.
These societal fears have something in common. First, each one is a conscious decision to use fear as a pressure to change actions. It is purposeful fear.
Second, humanity expressly or implicitly consents to be afraid. Take the fear of God, for instance. For the Amish, the fear of God's punishment dissuades them from doing or not doing certain things. The Amish then consent to this fear by believing that it's for their own good. They encourage each other to be afraid.
For the sake of clarity, we should distinguish societal fear from personal fear. Personal fear is born from individual pain. Once a person experiences pain, he or she wants to avoid its sting again. For example, the fear of intimacy is created by ripping away safe and healthy relationships, often by substituting harmful ones. Positive relationships are desired, but as soon as one comes along, the fear of losing it ignites. Emotions conflict. The person says, come closer, get away from me. The line between the desire and fear is razor thin and unstable. Personal fear can become poison.
Societal fear is different. It's not merely a reaction. It's a choice.
So what do you think? How pervasive is fear as a societal force? Does fear serve an essential purpose, or is it shortsighted? Or how about the deeper question? Is societal fear really personal fear in disguise? Does it all boil down to the fear of pain?
If so, maybe avoiding pain is the path to wisdom.
But first, we should make sure the pain is real. And right.