I’m sitting here on the airplane on my way back from a trip to Washington D.C. reflecting on the concept of freedom.
Earlier today I stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial – the place where presidents have held speeches and where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his legendary “I have a dream” speech on freedom.
As you know, my program is called Sing With Freedom and there is a reason for that So it’s interesting to think about what freedom is? Freedom from what?
I reflect on what is happening in some parts of our world lately. How the people of Egypt, in their pursuit of freedom, were able to overthrow their dictator in a mere 18 days without violence. How were they able to do this? One main factor was the possibility to communicate (and become better informed) thanks to the Internet (Facebook). Another was that the world was watching. Another was that they no longer were afraid. The chains of fear had been broken. The sight when they danced and sang with freedom afterwards was truly powerful.
Fear lies at the root of everything we seek freedom from. Fear turns into anger and violence. A dictator can only rule by systematizing fear, and when his own fears are challenged his only means are violence. Mubarak attempted to use violence, but when he realized he had no means (no army), his days were over. Khaddafi on the other hand, who witnessed Mubarak’s “failure” will use violence to any means, just as any animal of low consciousness who fears extinction.
You may be familiar with the fight or flight response, but we seldom have the opportunity to run away and make fear suddenly disappear. In societies where we do not face war or threats of torture and death, our fears are different.
How do we recognize fear?
We all know the bullies are bullies because of fear. We have all encountered people who try to feel stronger by belittling others, blaming others and speaking badly about others. Have you ever encountered people in so-called authoritative positions who intimidate, humiliate, and use aggression? Their biggest fear is of course to have their authority challenged.
We see this in dictators of course, but the tendency still exists all over the place - in religious systems, work places, school systems and families.
But how do we recognize fears in ourselves?
The truth is that we seldom want to. Suggest to any violent person that he is afraid and you might be punched in the face. Accepting fear is by many believed to be a sign of weakness. Courage is for many seen as not having fear, when the word "courage", in fact, describes how we act when we experience fear.
It is the person who cannot be aware of his fears who will be oppressed by his fears and likely oppress others.
Do you ever become angry? Do you ever blame others for your anger? Do you ever blame others when things don’t go well? Do you ever intimidate or speak badly about someone? Do you experience resistance or discomfort? Do you hold yourself back? Of course you do. You are human after all.
So here’s my suggestion…. When we experience anger or some kind of resistance, how about we ask ourselves: “What am I afraid of?”.
The issue is not to try to overcome our fear in that instant. We don’t need to announce our fears to the world. The issue is just to be aware. Fear is not necessarily wrong. Fear is helpful. Fear can be good. There is no shame in experiencing and being aware fear. In fact, to become aware becomes extremely empowering.
It is when we fail to recognize fear that we paint ourselves into corners and justify it as “pride”, or become aggressive towards others as well as towards ourselves (in the form of negative self-talk, disempowering beliefs, stress, skepticism, etc).
Fear, or rather the restrictions that unaware fear produces, makes learning, growing and healing immensely difficult.
So to live and sing with freedom… what does that really mean? What does it mean to you?
If in moments of anger or negative self talk you ask yourself what you are afraid of, do you notice something?
Have you encountered people who belittle, blame others, use intimidation or aggression in attempts to appear stronger?
Please post your views on this.& It’s important. Thanks!