Be unafraid, be very unafraid
Some make an acronym out of the word “fear” — “false expectations appearing real.”
Novelist Paulo Coelho wrote, “If you want to control someone, all you have to do is to make them feel afraid.”
Right now, fear is sweeping the planet, and its name is COVID-19, a coronavirus. Should we be afraid? No. Why not? Because fear interferes with immune function, rendering us less able to fight off infection. Should we be concerned? Absolutely, and there are practical steps to take, like maintaining good hygiene and a healthy lifestyle, and minimizing risky exposure. And, not flying to China.
Fear leads to panic, and panic can cause otherwise sensible people to act impulsively and make unwise decisions. We can manage our own emotional state and bring comfort to those who are panicking, largely over false expectations appearing real. How? Education helps, so we can separate the truth of what’s happening from the shrill hysteria circulating on social media. If we do, we’ll learn that the coronavirus is less deadly than the SARS outbreak was. We survived that threat, we’ll survive this one.
Suzy Kassem has some good advice for our predicament today: “If you want to bring the world closer to peace, be a peacemaker by creating peace whenever you can.” This would include whenever we find ourselves discussing this particular situation. She added: “If you find yourself engaged in an argument that only stirs anger in the heart, quickly make peace and carry on.”
It’s OK to have different opinions. What’s challenging is when someone feels certain about theirs, even though they are poorly informed. But it doesn’t help to correct them. Studies have proven that when someone who holds a strong belief is confronted by proof that they are wrong, it just bolsters their conviction. We are stubborn creatures.
What does help is to actually be a peaceful person, and this has nothing to do with our opinions about anything. It does have everything to do with how we react to circumstances. We can practice on our own, for instance as we are reading, listening or watching the news about this health danger. What comes up for us, fear or concern?
Those who are overwhelmed by fear can feel threatened by anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs and will oft times accuse them of being in denial. But just as concern is not fear, concern is also not denial. Being concerned prompts rational action, starting with self-education to expand awareness of what’s happening so that smart choices can be made.
The first smart choice is to identify as a peace maker and act like one. This means that we show up as someone who brings peace into the situation. We listen, we respect what others believe, we feel empathetic about their fears. This is polar opposite to the attitude that we know better than others. That kind of simmering superiority is tangible; others feel it and they will resent our arrogance.
Instead, we can be kind, appreciating that many people are afraid. But, we’re not. We’re concerned. For ourselves, and for others. We show it by calming the troubled waters, sometimes without saying a word. We all know those special people who exude a peaceful atmosphere. Just being in their presence comforts us. It’s time for us to become special that way.
This can turn the coronavirus situation into a personal growth experience for us and actually help to grow relationships in healthy ways. And it very well could turn out to be good practice because it’s reasonable to expect that there will be many other challenges for us to handle as we forge into an increasingly uncertain future.
Developing our peace-making muscles right now is a good investment, putting us in a preferred position if things get dramatically worse, which they could.
We live in a chaotic world. The coronavirus came out of nowhere. What else could be lurking around the corner? We’ll find out. But that prediction is no reason for fear. It’s just a realistic appraisal of life on planet Earth in the 21st century and a nudge to prepare.
We don’t want our fear to enable others to control us. They might not have our best interests in mind. The solution? Let’s maintain our sovereignty by exhibiting a healthy concern that stimulates responsible behaviors.
Will Wilkinson is a local author and communication trainer. His latest book is “The Noon Club.” Email 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Sally McKirgan at email@example.com.