Terrorism seems like an abstract issue for lots of people. It’s not in most of our lives directly (except via the news), and it would seem there is little we can do individually to solve the problem.
Bullying, on the other hand – day-to-day aggressiveness, intimidation, discrimination, domination, harassment – tends to come much closer to home. We’ve all faced pushy drivers, difficult co-workers or family members, a prejudiced coach, classmates who say hurtful things, or a friend who dominates. Or there may be times when we exhibit these tendencies ourselves.
It’s been said that terrorism is bullying on a large scale. It is fearmongering with guns and bombs, on a national or international stage. But the core is the same: acting from fear and acting to generate fear. Without fear motivating a bully – without terror – there would be no terrorism.
So we can actually contribute to the downsizing of terrorism in the world by defeating fear and bullying (whether we seem to be on the sending or receiving end) in our individual experience.
This is possible because our thoughts and actions are continually weighing in for good or ill, not only in our own experience but in the lives of our families, communities, nations, and beyond. Like water in a pond, every drop – every thought – counts. And we can challenge fear at every level through its opposite, love.
Such love is not a human emotion, but the love that comes from God, that is God. The first letter of John simply states, “God is love” (4:8). It continues, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment.” The Amplified Bible puts it this way: “There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection].”
This alerts us to two things: that our first priority is to cultivate the pure love for our neighbor that Jesus lived, and that the apparent perpetrator of fear or terror – the so-called bully – is more a victim of fear than anyone else. And thus more needful of the love that refuses to see another as inherently evil but instead as the child of Love itself.
Perfect love is spiritual and always present. It is found in God, and because of this – and because we each are in reality the child or expression of God – love, instead of fear, is natural to us. Isn’t this why love tends to feel so welcome and fear so uncomfortable?
Sometimes it’s no easy thing to see and feel this love of God. It can take real effort to stick to what divine reason tells us must be the case: If God is Love, Her children cannot be anything less than loving and lovable. At times we may behold only a glimmer of such spiritual truth or reality, of goodness or right in ourselves or another. But hold on to it! Because every ray of heavenly light leads to the sun, divine Love – and is true and powerful.
Once a troubled adult relative who was living with my parents threatened my mother with a large knife. The two were alone in the house at the time, and the relative – bigger, stronger, and younger – held the knife above my mom’s head, as though she would immediately bring it down on her. But my mother later recalled that she looked this young woman squarely in the face and felt nothing but love and compassion for her. She just seemed to see right through that hardened shell of anger and aggression. The next thing she knew, the knife had fallen to the floor, and the relative was calm and apologizing. No incident like this ever recurred.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, wrote from the wisdom of experience, “Persecution is the weakness of tyrants engendered by their fear, and love will cast it out” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 191). We can be confident that every fear routed from thought and experience lessens terror in some measure for our neighbors near and far. Prayer that pauses to recognize Love, God, as the one true power, always present in every life and situation, also does its part to ratchet down the vitriol in places we have only read about. As a hymn by Margaret Morrison says:
Love now is dawning over every nation;
Showing true brotherhood, publishing salvation,
Love bids all discord cease.
Conquering hate, enthroning peace,
Love, Love alone is power.
"Christian Science Hymnal," No. 179