01/08/2016 3:23 PM AEST | Updated 02/08/2016 1:34 AM AEST

To End Violence, We Must Stop Stoking The Fear That Fuels It

We must not rely on our leaders and armies to keep us safe.

Carlo Allegri / Reuters
"Just imagine if we all chose to act with love over fear, courage over comfort, daring over indifference."

Terrorist attacks. Police shootings. Brexit. Political coups. Refugee crisis. Zika. Trump.

Let's face it, we live in fearful times. There's no shortage of headlines alerting us to potential threats to our safety and future. Which is why, when headlines scream loudest, we have to be extra discerning between the fears that are serving us and those that are hurting us (and others).

While fear exists to keep us safe, too often it keeps us living too safe. Left unchecked, fear can spread like a virus. Without realising it, we can find ourselves living under it's shadow where it clouds our judgement and drives us to make choices that, while providing the illusion of safety, only make us less secure in the long term.

Countering the impact of fear requires staying alert to its reach into our lives and decision making. Wired for safety, fear drives us to overestimate the risks, to 'catastrophise' the consequences, to focus on what we could lose over what we could gain, on what might go wrong over what could be made right, and on protecting the status quo rather than improving it.

It's why now more than ever we need to be conscious not to buy into the fear-laden conversations going on around us, to stand against the divisive rhetoric it spurns, and to step up to the leadership plate in our lives, homes, workplace, community and society.

Of course it's easy to find reasons for cynicism, protectionism, and battening down the hatches. Yet, now more than ever, the world today is hungry for people to do just the opposite. People with the courage to:

  • Reach out to those who are different to us and try to see through their eyes
  • Spend less time blaming others for their troubles and more time working to solve them
  • Own their personal power to affect positive change and act with the moral courage we want to see in our leaders
  • Refuse to buy into the rhetoric of fear, intolerance and division
  • Call out those who preach it and recognise hate and bigotry for what it is, a symptom of fear
  • Show the compassion needed to heal the deep wounds that incite revenge, recycle generational hatred and perpetuate violence

As human beings, our brains aren't wired for happiness, they're wired for safety. It sets up an internal tug of war between what scares us and what inspires us; between sticking with the familiar and embracing uncertainty. It's why every single day we must choose to put our weight behind the best part of ourselves; the bigger part that is urging us toward growth, connection and contribution.

We must not rely on our leaders and armies to keep us safe. We have to look into our own hearts and ask ourselves, honestly, if we are doing our part to create the kind of world we want to live in, or are we simply buying into the fear that has created the problem to begin with?

Imagine what our world would look like if we each refused to surrender to complacency or comfort and decided that our actions, however insignificant they may seem to us, truly matter. Just imagine if we all chose to act with love over fear, courage over comfort, daring over indifference.

Wishful thinking? It needn't be. Not if we each refuse to sit idly on the sidelines with those whose indifference led us to where we are now. Never underestimate the ripple effect you set in motion when you decide that you will actively participate in improving the world you live in.

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