The Opposite of Love
The opposite of love is not hate, but fear.
I have no idea who said that or when I heard it. Elie Wiesel said something similar but ended his quote with “indifference” instead of “fear.” Indifference leads to apathy and lack of action. Fear often forces me to act, just as love is an action. Fear is about building walls to protect myself and love is about tearing barriers down.
Inside of me is a small, fearful child who is afraid of not being good enough, of being judged and found lacking. Each of us is afraid of something: having something taken away that we believe we need or is rightly ours; not getting as much as the next person; feeling shamed or small…Whatever that fear is can motivate us to act against those who are creating that fear.
Fear divides us into “us” and “them.” It makes me feel safe to be surrounded by others who are the same as me. It’s easy to start to see those who look different, have different beliefs, and different backgrounds not only as “other” but as “evil.” If I can convince myself that my way is the correct way and “their” way is evil, it becomes easy to stop seeing them as human. Once they’re no longer human, condoning actions done to them that I would never accept within my own group doesn’t feel like a moral disconnect. In fact, I could start to convince myself that it’s being done for their own good.
Love is about vulnerability and openness. When I start to feel fearful, I know it’s because I don’t understand the other person and don’t feel understood by them, or I feel helpless about a situation. The singer Tiamo says,” Fear is the only thing that gets smaller as you run towards it.” The more I can examine my fear to understand my prejudices and biases, the more likely I am to be able to set them aside, to allow myself to accept the other without having to insist on my way and feeling threatened by theirs. I learn to see the beauty and symmetry of their path, just as I wish them to see mine.