Turn on the news this week and you are sure to hear about the subway bombing in Russia and about the death threats against American politicians over the way they voted on the recent health care bill. These are but two isolated examples of what people do all over the world to try to make change though the use of fear.
Fear is often used as a motivator. The political machines of the world use fear to win elections and to pass legislation. The marketing organizations of the world use fear to compel you to purchase their products. Many people in the medical profession attempt to use fear to change behavior. Parents use fear to modify behavior as well. As a matter of fact it is hard to find any facet of civilization that does not use fear as a motivator. Heck, most organized religions are steeped in fear based motivation even as they exult the virtues of unconditional love.
Fear in many ways runs this world and when fear is planted the crop that is reaped is all too often violence. Violence becomes the tool of those who live in fear because they have come to believe that is the only way they will be heard and that through violence they will make change happen.
One must ask why we use fear and violence to drive the change that we want to happen. Sadly the answer is because we don’t believe we can affect the same change through peaceful and loving means. Truth is that many people have not learned the tools to affect change through love and peace. The examples we see in day to day life to affect change demonstrate that we must scare those whom we wish to change, that is, we must instill fear, uncertainty and doubt to motivate people to change their behavior, weather that behavior be who to vote for, what products to purchase or to clean your room, eat right, etc.
The reality is that fear does make change take place, however the change that takes place is not true long lasting change. Change that is motivated out of fear is usually short term or will only remain in place as long as the fires of fear are continually stoked. When change is forced by fear it too often leads to an eruption in emotions which manifest into violence in the name of a cause. Want to see this in action at a personal level, watch anyone going through a divorce. What was motivated from fear often will manifest in violent emotions and sometimes in physical violence.
Some of us have been taught to motivate using a carrot and a stick. The idea is that I will reward you if you do what is desired with the proverbial carrot and if you don’t do what is desired I will beat you with the stick. The problem with this method of motivation is that fear is still part of the equation and the “stick” is usually much bigger than the “carrot”. Again we find that for short tem motivation the carrot and stick method works however it does not affect long term change.
As we live an authentic life it is important for us to turn inward and examine our motivations. Are we doing the things we do because of fear or because of love? Are we motivated by the positive or the negative? We need to ask why we are doing certain things. For example it is tax time in the United States, that is every working citizen must file their personal income tax by April 15th. One could ask, do I comply with the law to file my taxes on time because I fear the consequences of not filing on time or do I file my income tax because I believe this is a legitimate thing to do to support the government and country in which I have the privilege to live?
When we examine our motivations and the way we motivate other people in our life we can choose to eliminate the negative, we can choose to eliminate the sticks and in doing so live a life motivated by love and live a life which is enveloped in peace.
One may argue, “Well that all sounds good but what if I am living and motivating from love and other people are still living and motivating from fear than how can I be at peace?” This is a fair question. The answer is that all true change takes place within each individual and it is through our individual example and energy that we affect the change of others. We have great examples of this in the Buddha, Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, Mohammad Gandhi and many others who have affected long term change. In contrast consider the changes that Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin and others of their ilk attempted to make, their changes were short term, they worked for the moment however they did not last. One may argue that their changes did not last because they were immoral however one could also come to an understanding that real change did not take place because the change was all fear based. Change does not have to be viewed as moral to happen, change; true long lasting change does have to be motivated through love and peace.
I challenge you today to listen to the language and methods you employ to affect change. I also challenge you to understand the motivation driving your behavior and consider how you can remove fear based motivation from your life and exchange it for motivation driven by love.