“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself’, said President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1933 inaugural address – a phrase that has since become part of the pop culture. How true it is.

Think about fear – how it holds us back in so many instances. We fear branching out or leaving our comfort zones. Just like a baby loses sight of his mother and immediately starts to fret and wail, we fear taking first steps. We fear imagined dangers, loss of money, wealth, prestige, reputation, a debilitating illness and even life itself.  We fear change, loss of status, and losing a loved one. We fear losing face and being humiliated or humbled.

Fear on the other hand can certainly be a good motivator and in many instances a wise and sound choice. A healthy fear or regard for harmful reptiles, insects, and animals is necessary and can be lifesaving. As a former performer, some amount of logical fear of letting down my colleagues, missing that high note, or forgetting a line motivated me to prepare and practice, practice, practice!

Fear of the ‘other’, of people and cultures, religions and lifestyles we are not familiar with or do not fit in with our particular worldview, is the stuff that sells papers, novels, movies and keeps network television alive and thriving, particularly the 24-hour news outlets. There is no end of things and people to fear according to social media and conspiracy theorists. Follow their trail and down the proverbial rabbit hole we go!

We shun minorities and immigrants, fearing to lose the very fabric of what we view as America and the American Way.  And oh, how we’ve experienced fear with the Covid 19 pandemic and our recent political divisiveness.

Yes, fear can be good but in a limited amount and for making sound choices. Mostly fear drives us away and holds us back from experiencing life to the fullest and exploring our maximum potential. A friend remarked recently that a closed door merely encourages her to walk through it – see what’s on the other side and be adventurous. Typically, she finds something valuable rather than detrimental.

Our world is moving toward greater global connectivity every day. This necessitates that we do our best to put fears aside and open our hearts and minds to the myriad of ways that people around the world think, live and do business. As I engage frequently in interfaith, sharing my faith and learning about others, a common fear among newcomers is that one will lose their faith under such circumstances. Interestingly, the reverse tends to be true. Most of us say that by talking to others about our deeply held and sincere convictions, our attachment to our faith only grows stronger. Plus, we have learned to shed misconceptions (brought about by fear mongers) and feel the expansiveness that learning about others and the world tends to afford us.

Being now among a minority that many people fear, due to ignorance, stereotyping and a general painting one group with a single brush, Muslims statistically have found that if a neighbor, colleague, classmate etc., knows even one person of the Islamic faith, these misconceptions disappear. Simply accepting that we are all human – and within our collective humanity are individuals both good and bad, liberal, conservative and extreme is liberating. We all have families, hopes and dreams, struggles and triumphs. Eventually we all come unto this life in the same manner and will leave in a similar fashion. So let’s put fear aside and truly start living.  “Oh, the places you’ll go!” Dr Suess