We never celebrated Halloween when I was growing up. My parents just felt weird about the celebration of evil. Hard to fault them for that. It is a weird holiday, when you think about it. Grim, frightening. A weird sort of celebration, to say the least.
But I didn’t exactly see it that way when I was a kid. I saw the candy and the costumes and the fun. I saw the eerie thrill of the haunted house and I wanted in on it. But (at the same time) I was also secretly glad to be protected from the frights and startles.
There’s Fear And Then There Is Fear
When you are afraid, your heart rate goes up. You shriek. You close your eyes. You might buckle over at the waist because of the drop in the pit of your stomach, feeling like you’re going to barf.
Isn’t it interesting that these are also symptoms of love. This is just how we feel when we are overwhelmed with emotion, on either side of the spectrum.
Which makes it easy to confuse the two. This is why we celebrate Halloween and why we love roller coasters. There is a certain excitement to fear. A certain thrill to danger that makes us feel more alive.
Perhaps it is better said that there is a certain kind of fear that produces this. A certain kind of risk, a lack of control, an uncertainty. This is the kind of fear the Bible talks about when it commands us to fear God.
But there is another kind of fear. The one seeking to kill and destroy. The one who is an adversary to love and goodness. My parents were always concerned the lines between these fears was a little too blurry during Halloween.
Discern and Decide
The difference between these two kinds of fear can feel subtle, but it makes a huge impact. One is a fear determined to destroy us, to put us down. It is like those ill-intentioned kids who steal candy on Halloween. An evil kind of fear, heavy with malice.
The other is the kind of fear that builds us up, like the nerve we feel before a big speech or before sky-diving. The fear that lets us know we are on the ledge. But this fear, rather than wanting to push us to our demise, wants us to fly. It is the before image, full of hope and knowing the after will be that much greater because of the healthy fear on the front end.
The tricky part is discerning between the two. I once saw a costumed teenager (on Halloween) jump out and scare a little seven year old boy. When the boy started to cry, the teenager said, “Oh, come on, toughen up. It’s for your own good.”
We often mask our evil under the illusion of good intention.
Whether it is well-intentioned fear or ill-intentioned evil, we cannot really control others and their motives. What we can do is be bold and make our decisions in the midst of what is presented us. We can chose to discern which fear needs to be overcome and which needs to be shrugged off.
Of course, the other side of the coin is asking ourselves which kind of fear we perpetuate.
There is so much love and beauty and goodness in the world. And there is a fear that adds to its value. But there is another fear that is unhealthy, disuniting, and malicious. Discerning between the two is an important part of shaping one’s character.