We live in a media saturated, propagandized world. Everywhere I turn I encounter people who are living in fear. Paul Virilio, a decade ago, called this culture “the administration of fear.” If you live with fear, you won’t ask questions. Yet it is only in asking questions, in being skeptical, that we find truth. Not political truth which is mere propaganda as our current situation proves. But the truth that we can live by.
I have more questions than answers. I do have a few ideas. Let me share the questions that can let us begin to find the real answers that we need.
Walker Percy, physician and author ask a question a half century ago that still resonates today.
“Why does man feel so sad in the twentieth century? Why does man feel so bad in the very age when, more than in any other age, he has succeeded in satisfying his needs and making the world over for his own use?”
Why does Percy’s statement still describe a reality that many people face?
Why is it that we find it so easy to trust a blogger or reporter, and not the people who are closest to us?
Why do we trust people with whom we have no relationship, and distrust those with whom we do? Is our trust more a reflection of our fear in being humiliated and left out?
Why is it that we just go along to get along? Why do we follow the crowd? Why do we believe that the governor, the local health department official, or a member of Congress knows more than we do about what is important for our society? Why do we listen to them?
Why do we trust authority figures? What is the basis of their credibility? Do I sound cynical, or, am I just being realistic? Is it true that you can fool some of the people all the time?
What is the source of our fear? Why are we willing to live with it?
Why are we willing to do things that we know are not healthy for us? Why are we afraid to speak our mind? Why don’t we stand up for ourselves when we are treated unfairly? Is it because we are afraid of being ostracized or humiliated? Who are we really afraid of? Are we afraid of the social media crowd? Are we afraid of losing our friends because we may differ on some topic? If so, are they truly our friends?
How did we get to a point where other people’s opinion of us matters more than our own opinion of ourselves? Have we lost the capacity to know ourselves?
Why is it that we find it so hard to say No? Why do feel that we can’t stand on our own feet and speak our own mind? How did we become parrots of other people’s thoughts and opinions? Do we know our own mind? Do you believe that you are special individuals worthy of respect?
If we live in fear of the crowd, is it possible to be a person others trust?
As one friend said to me recently, “You can fool people. But you can’t convince them that they have been fooled.” Would you know if you were being fooled?
We live in a fool’s paradise. We have everything that any human could ever want. Yet, we live in fear. Are we afraid of being discovered a fraud? It maybe that we are afraid simply because we really don’t know ourselves.
Fear produces two kinds of responses. The most obvious is the cowed person who always does what other tell them to do. They are often call sheep. They don’t look you in the eye.
The other kind of fear hides behind false confidence, bravado, and condescension towards others. It is this fear that keeps leaders from being honest about their own limitations.
At its root, fear is a product of self-doubt, which is a product the lack of a clear sense of who we are as unique individuals. It blocks our capacity to see our true selves. This is why asking questions is how we get to the answers that allows us to free ourselves from fear.
With the following questions, write your own answers.
We start by finding clarity about the values that define us. Values are the bedrock of human identity. Out of our values we are able to describe our purpose for life. They form the basis of what we believe. Our values guides us towards places where our lives can make a difference that matters.
Our values enable us to say No to all those pressures that are squeezing us to be someone we don’t want to be. In other words, every No is actually Yes affirming one of our values.
Our values also provide us a way know whom to trust and who not to trust.
Try this experiment:
Grab pen and paper.
Make two columns.
Describe one column as “People with whom I have a direct relationship.”
Make the other column “People I follow and am connected to on social media.”
The second column could have hundreds or thousands of people listed. This is our wider network of relationships. However, write down those whom you feel are the most prominent or influential in your life.
Now ask the question, “Who from these lists do I have a relationship of respect, trust, and mutual accountability?”
We should ask this question because these are the people, who in times of crisis, are there for us, and we for them. With them, there is no fear.
Their relationship with us opens up possibilities of finding a way out of fear
Three More Questions
I want you to answer three more questions. These questions focus on where you work. The focus is on work because for many people this is a place where fear is a natural response to the social pressures of the office. I ask these questions of business people frequently. For many these open up their perspective to both problems and opportunities.
Are you clear why you do the work that you do?
What are those values that help you define the value of your work?
Do the people with whom you work and who receive the benefit of your work respect you? For without respect, it is difficult to trust people. And without trust, accountability becomes tyranny.
Is your company clear about what its impact is? By impact, I mean what is the change that the company creates that makes a difference that matters? This is different than whether the company is profitable or operating with efficiency.
Don’t be Fooled
Don’t play the fool. There is nothing sadder than the person who believes he cannot be fooled.
The only way to escape a fool’s paradise is to be yourself. Think for yourself. Stand up for what you believe. Don’t let anyone belittle you for what you believe. This is why fear has such a toxic impact upon our lives. When fear is vanquished, an authentic life of peace, joy and love can result.