My Year of Peace: Peace and Fear

The greatest enemy of peace is fear. Some people erroneously equate the two, suggesting that people choose pacifism because they fear fighting or fear war. In fact, fear is the motivation for war and fighting, not for peace. Peace cannot be lived without great courage, supernatural courage. I don't think anyone would accuse Gandhi or MLK of being cowards, yet they were pacifists, the kind of bold pacifists whose courage still inspires us.

Fear is really at its core a basic instinct. It is one thing that we share with all animals. I believe that if most of us are honest, we could identify dozens of experiences in our daily lives when our immediate emotional response to a situation is fear. If we are being even more honest, I would bet that we could even admit that we act out of that emotional response far more often than not. Fear is universal, an instinct we are all born with. It is our mind's way to protect us from pain, physical and emotional. Courage is not an absence of fear. Courage merely recognizes fear and chooses to act in spite of fear. That is why peace and love are ultimately courageous acts and why war and violence is not, which is not to say that war is absent of individual acts of courage.

Wars are fought out of fear. We might dress up our justifications with fancy names and ideologies, but the ultimate origin of all war is fear. Right now our country is engaged in two wars primarily because we are afraid of terrorism, afraid that democracy might not be powerful enough to stand on its own without weapons backing it, and afraid that America and its values might become irrelevant or might even be offensive to some. We might say we are fighting for liberty and an end to tyranny, but the truth is that we are afraid. What peace asks us to do is to recognize those fears and simply to deny them, not through ignorance or recklessness, but through faith and love. I fear terrorism as much as anyone. I fear extremism. I fear tyranny. However, I believe that peace is stronger than war, that love is stronger than hate, that freedom is stronger than tyranny, that courage is stronger than terror, and that wisdom is stronger than extremism.

Some days, I struggle to believe this. Some days, I doubt. Some days, I lose faith in the power of good over evil. On those days, I pray for the peace that passes understanding and the love that makes us more than conquerors. Peace is not naive optimism. It is not ignorant. It is not passive. It is hope and love, and it is bold. I don't just hope for a peaceful world someday. I must live peace now even when it scares me.

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