“You’re always afraid to take that first step, because all you see is every negative thing ten miles down the road.”Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting
If I could sum up the fear, anxiety, and even the core of the negativity that is so pervasive in our culture today – it would be this line. But it is more than this. It seems that public opinion and policy is now driven more by fear than by truth or true courage. How?
It is fear that prevents an entire generation from committing to marriage because they fear commitment, divorce, or hurt — yet the world applauds continual transient relationships. It is often fear that prevents people from having children or being open to children because they fear economic conditions, unrest, political and social uncertainty, career impacts, personal struggles — yet the world lauds keeping the birth rate shrinking and putting careers first. It is fear of engaging in the world and dealing with actual messiness of human lives that keeps perfectly healthy individuals on forums and social media instead of actually engaging in real world work of change — while social media posts are rebranded as heroic action. It is fear that tells a woman she must be able to kill her own child, and that she cannot succeed without that right – while the world says it is empowerment. All of these things bring immediate gratification/simplicity – but rob of us of the deep growth that gives real meaning to our lives.
So what would true courage look like? It is easier to just go from relationship to relationship uncommitted, but robs us of the freedom a committed relationship gives us to express ourselves with another person. Or as Jessie Jackson said decades ago, it is simply easier and cheaper to promote abortion among the poor and minorities than actually build support and education systems for people to actually have the choice to keep their children. It’s far easier to push for shrinking population growth instead of changing our behaviors to be more sustainable. It’s easier to spend all our money on ourselves instead of helping others. It’s easier to simply legalize homelessness than actually spending the money and effort to address the substance abuse, mental health, education, and skill training issues that caused the homelessness. It’s easier to repost divisive social media rants than go out and actually dedicate our lives to helping others in the actual messiness of life or find common ground to unite people and build constructive relationships.
Contrast that with the hope in the words of John Paul II, a man that faced down all the power of the Soviet Union and was critical in the fall of the Iron Curtain. Here’s a man that knows that the impossible becomes possible with faith:
Do not be afraid! Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. To His saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization, and development.
Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch…. I plead with you–never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid!
Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God. When pronouncing these words in St. Peter’s Square, I already knew that my first encyclical and my entire papacy would be tied to the truth of the Redemption. In the Redemption we find the most profound basis for the words “Be not afraid!”: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (cf. Jn 3:16).
Peoples and nations of the entire world need to hear these words. Their conscience needs to grow in the certainty that Someone exists who holds in His hands the destiny of this passing world … And this Someone is Love.Pope John Paul II