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  • Writer's pictureCraig Richards

‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’

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The phrase “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” was first used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his inaugural address on March 4, 1933. While the country was going through the Great Depression, President Roosevelt uttered that now famous line to encourage people to retain hope, remaining optimistic during one of the nation’s most challenging times. But how do we fear, fear?

One of the most powerful tools in the history of civilization is the human mind. Within it is the ability to apply logic, dream and even conceive reality through perception. It was to the latter function that President Roosevelt was attempting to address to his fellow Americans. Our minds can manipulate our reality, and in doing so, create a false perspective.

For example, and just between you and I, I’ll tell a story about my wife. (Don’t tell her I told you this.) It was early in our marriage, and we were, like most young couples, strapped for cash. That early pressure fueled our talent for arguing over even the silliest of things, a skill set that would ultimately cost us even more money we didn’t have.

One day in late 1989, we were arguing over some world changing issue like why the dishes were building up in the sink. In my frustration, I threw a glass against the wall, declaring “I guess we don’t have to worry about cleaning that one.” To my surprise a dish shattered against the wall near my head, followed by Tam exclaiming, “that one either.”

The anger in the room was so palatable that I immediately feared that the marriage had arrived at the pinnacle of irreconcilable differences. My mind, distorted by fear, had decided that it was over. I began to head up to the bedroom to pack a bag. That was until I heard something stopping me in my tracks, laughter... Tam’s laughter.

It seemed our dinnerware debacle was a very powerful exercise in stress relief for Tammy.

She, perceiving the silliness of breaking plates and glasses, did not fear it was more than what it was, frustration. However, fear had manipulated my perception, distorting my reality.

Thus, the only thing I had to fear was fear itself. If we both would have allowed phantom fear to dictate the situation, then that would have truly reshaped both our realities. Ultimately, it did cost us more money in purchasing replacement dishes.

While the example is not at the level of a national crisis such as the president was addressing, it is relatable. Fear is not reality. It is an emotion that contains enough power to manipulate how reality is distorted. Today, many of us might fear the world around us. Our nation is politically polarized, causing many people to lash out in anger. Attacks in Israel and the ongoing war leaves a fearful sense of gloom and doom. The struggling economy, the security on the southern border, the erosion of basic morality and civility; all these things empower the unhealthy reactional mechanism of fear.

That births the greatest threat of all, fear in and of itself. Granted it is hard to shed ourselves of such a relentless foe. It robs us of joy. And while we will all face times of trial and tribulation, the more we embrace faith, hope and love, the more we deny fear the opportunity to frame or mold the perception of our own reality.

In those unavoidable moments when fear attacks our very being, wield the weapon it cannot defeat, hope. When our mind subdues fear with hope, it not only changes our perception of reality but often ignites a response to the challenge we face. “The only thing you have to fear is… an inability to Hope.”

Craig Richards is the Publisher for The Hammonton Gazette.


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