Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The difference between fear and respect... Fear is a noun, the name of a feeling... "of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger." Respect is a kind of a verb (tr.), an action, "to feel or show deferential regard for; esteem."

As a society we have lost the finer distinctions between fear and respect. In fact we have favored fear and disregarded respect. Respect has become a sign of weakness. In this day and age, if I respect my enemies, then I am weak. If I am weak, I will be vanquished.

Fear has become the banner of the unknown. We indeed fear the unknown. The extent of our fear is a direct indication of our lack of knowledge. (Side note: we are instructed to "know" our enemies, so as not to fear them.) But our lack of knowledge prevails. Perhaps because we sense how little we really know abuot the world we live in.

Example 1: I know a fellow who insists on carrying a licensed concealed weapon where ever he goes. His stated rationale is that the weapon is for his personal protection. To date I have never heard of him needing to even show the weapon in response to a compormising situation, let alone use it. What sense does he have that prompts such a behavior? I suggest that he is afraid, fearful of his surroundings. More specifically, he is filled with fear. Fear of what? He cannot say, specifically. He does not know. More to the point, the experience of his 38 years has not shown him one instance to substantiate his stated rationale.

Example 2: I have encountered a pervasive fear of snakes in my social travels. No where was that more clearly demonstrated than when I went out on the soccer field to "rescue" a 6" Garter snake. Players, moms and dads were aghast that I would pick it up and carry it off to the tall grass behind the playing field. And then let it go!

"Why didn't you just kill it."

"Oh, I just hate snakes!"

"You are so brave."

I have never been in the presence of a snake that attempted to harm a human being. I have been on the Island of Tortuga (Gulf of Mexico) where you couldn't take a step without hearing another rattle snake buzzzzzzing. A few actually coiled defensively, in preparation, in fear, of being attacked by the giant featherless bi-ped, me. I have cleaned the cage of a hungry and nervous Red Boa who hissed and postured, telling me of her discomfort at being disturbed. Was I afraid? Was I fearful? No!

Was I respectful? You betcha!!! I may look silly but I ain't stooopid!

Here in lies the great and important difference. Correctly identifying a situation where there is an actual and impending threat to one's well being - that is something to be feared. Having the presence of mind to subjugate the adrenaline rush and correctly assess the situation, that is being respecful.

I suggest that we, as a society, put a stop to living in hyperbole and work at respecting our world not fearing it. Respecting ourselves and each other not being so filled with fear that we cannot walk down the street without our licensed concealed weapons.

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