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February 2, 2017

Fear-based or Love-based? 5 Questions to Know who you’re Dealing With.

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for our country.

So much to process. So much to understand.

So much division flooding social media with arguments, name-calling, labeling. I’m no different; I can get hooked into it, too.

Being a daughter of immigrants, however, I have found some much-needed clarity this week.

My desire to find a way to maneuver through relationships with those who disagree with me or who just don’t care about politics, seems to have reached an end. A kind of crossroads that has given me pause. Perhaps even hope. A belief that there truly are two opposing forces in the world.

It’s not hate versus love but fear versus love.

I came to this realization while reading a meme on Facebook that compared the refugee ban to an intruder who needs to be locked out of one’s house to protect those inside. I had seen this meme once before, but this time it knocked the wind out of me.

It turned me on my head—and then later warmed my heart. It made me realize that fear is often just a coping mechanism or protective device that arises when we hold something dear. It isn’t something to break down or even avoid, but rather something to affirm and examine.

It became clear to me that the division in this country may look like hate, but in reality may just be an opposite world view between fear of the unknown as a protective defense versus love as a lens.

When Lenny Kravitz sings “Let Love Rule” he might mean, “Let us be everything or nothing at all.”

Knowing this to be true has calmed me down. It has gifted me with an awareness that there is a fundamental difference between fear and love. Neither will know the other until one chooses to do so.

Moving forward, and preparing for my next run-in with a friend, family member or co-worker, I plan to take a moment to affirm the simplicity of the situation and go from there. Some hints that I’m dealing with someone with a worldview of love–or fear–may include the following:

Is the person interested in the arts?

Whether playing an instrument, painting or writing, the arts open up a part of our brain that brings color and depth to any mundane situation. It’s literally the difference between seeing things as black and white versus all the colors of the rainbow. An exploration of the soul that makes us uniquely who we are. A living, breathing entity that can manipulate a cardboard box into a play house, boat, car, plane, whatever the imagination wants it to be. And in this way, the soul adapts to a higher connection and power that affirms that all was well, all is well and all will be well in the future.

Is the person curious?

Being curious is incredibly brave and courageous. Basically, you are putting yourself “out there” to experience and learn about things that are outside your comfort zone. Scary at times and almost always uncomfortable as your assumptions will most surely be proven wrong. Not only that, you may even learn that, in fact, you actually know very little. Talk about bursting your own bubble! You truly need a strong sense of love for yourself. You and others to continue to fuel that drive to explore the unknown.

Has the person suffered?

I believe the most honest, down-to-earth and resilient people are those who have felt pain. Not the martyr-like kind of pain that draws attention to itself and screams, “Look what I did, such a Saint am I,” but rather the kind that one has no control over. The kind of suffering that comes out of nowhere and literally knocks you down, causing you to re-evaluate and remake yourself from a new foundation that wasn’t there before. Like “humpty-dumpty,” this pain makes you put yourself back together again with battle scars to prove it. The kind of felt pain that creates a sense of compassion and allegiance for those who journeyed through this valley of darkness before you and for those who will go after you.

Has the person studied another language?

Whether you are gifted in languages or not, knowing what it feels like to be a stranger is important. You don’t have to travel to the country of the language you are studying to get a flavor for the culture. Noticing the nuance of a phrase in a different language can tell you what that culture values and even help you understand why they may act so unexpectedly differently in similar situations. It’s about being open and letting yourself make a fool of yourself when ordering in a restaurant or trying to make conversation. It’s about humility and trusting that what you are experiencing is not “bad” or “good” just different and embracing that difference with love and acceptance.

Has this person lived abroad?

So many millennials today are interested in experiences versus accumulating things. Not being a tourist and doing boring, prepackaged activities, but rather becoming an actual member of the community.

Allowing yourself to immerse in a culture, language and geographic location that is different from your everyday life. Getting outside of yourself and opening up to something outside of your comfort zone.

Growing and changing can be scary stuff but if one believes in the core foundation of love, there is nothing more enjoyable than finding a piece of yourself in another country that you would never have discovered if you had stayed home.

Again, fear of the unknown is based on isolation and defensiveness but it is not the same as hate. Fear cannot love that which it does not know. Unlike love which will never fear what it does not know. Opposing forces cause opposing viewpoints.

Not rocket-science but convoluted in rhetoric that currently seeks to shame those who love to those who live in fear. Neither approach works until each one chooses to affirm the other.

I, for one, am far from a Pollyanna and believe love is much more complicated than just a positive outlook.

I see my worldview to be about hope and trust in a world that is full of amazing people, cultures, languages and religious beliefs that are here to evolve us and make us whole.

And if I ever stop believing that, then quite frankly, I would no longer see the point of life in all its abundant discourse—now more than ever.

Author: Vera Snow

Image: Alexsandra Mazur/Unsplash

Editor: Sara Kärpänen

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Vera Snow

Vera Snow is a daughter of immigrants and mother of two daughters who were born in Russia. Most recently, she has been focusing on commentary regarding the current political landscape and building bridges between opposing views. She holds a BA in Journalism with a Russian Minor, MA in Human Development, and Certified as a Spiritual Director. She and her husband live in Minneapolis. Connect with her on Facebook.