Fear or Affection—Which Do You Instill?
WHICH do you instill: Fear or affection? What a contrast between the sunny, heart-warming affection of a fellow human creature and the disquieting, morbid fear of man! Deep down in our hearts we may want to instill affection in those with whom we have to do, and especially should we want to do so in those who are in any measure dependent on or accountable to us. Yet in spite of our best intentions we may do the very opposite. How so? Because of thoughtlessness, lack of discernment or even a measure of selfish ambition.
Dictators rule by fear. “When the wicked rise up, a man conceals himself.” Fear does not build up, and so, as a rule, the sway of dictators is short-lived.—Prov. 28:28.
Employers and foremen must be on guard in this respect. An employer might easily instill fear instead of affection in his employees by holding over them the threat of being discharged, or by being arbitrary and unreasonable. As a result his employees may work only when they are being watched. Likewise, parents, the congregational overseer and the teaching Christian minister must exercise care in their relations with those entrusted to their care.
Some fathers, especially those of central Europe, are prone to instill fear in their families. They may demand implicit obedience and the greatest respect, while failing to show loving concern as family heads. In other lands the wife and mother is more likely to instill fear, the husband abdicating his role because he wants peace. In turn, mothers are yielding their authority to the children, fearing them. No wonder there is so much social anarchy in the world!
The apostle Peter counseled Christian overseers in this very regard. He told them not to lord it over God’s flock but to be examples. One who acts as a lord instills fear; he who sets the example instills affection.—1 Pet. 5:3.
It is so easy to instill fear if we are not thoughtful. It may be by our very facial expression. When we note another smiling or wanting to smile and we keep a poker face, remain expressionless or do not reciprocate with a smile we cause doubt and fear as to whether we are harboring something against that person. How little effort it takes to smile, and yet it can mean so much!
Then again we may instill fear by our very tone of voice. A gruff, harsh voice, a hard, unyielding tone can cow others, causing them to fear us. We may by nature have a harsh, rasping voice; we may be putting too much force in back of it. If we do, it would be well for us to give some thought to improving its quality. We can, by watching and exercising self-control, cause it to become more warm, friendly, pleasing to listen to and so have its very sound instill affection instead of fear.
Then again, we may instill fear by appearing to be so occupied that we do not have time for others. Persons having problems may be afraid to come to us because we give them the impression that we are too busy to listen to them. They fear to disturb us, although it may well be that the most important thing we could be doing at the time would be to listen to them and offer counsel and encouragement.
Are we impatient? That also may instill fear in others. If we get annoyed at interruptions, tend to get irritable, fly off the handle or make a sharp reply due to lack of self-control, it is very likely that we will instill fear instead of affection. Others, not wanting to be hurt, not wanting to annoy us, will get to fear us, fear lest they cause offense.
One of the most common ways in which we may, wholly unconsciously, instill fear is by our lacking empathy, by our failure to put ourselves in the place of others, by our failure to understand them. How often has the remark been made, “Oh, you just don’t understand!” That lack of understanding instills fear in others. It causes us to form wrong judgments, which act as barriers between ourselves and others.
How easy it is to instill fear instead of affection in spite of our intentions if we act thoughtlessly or without understanding! Not that we must always be governed by others’ feelings in the discharge of our duties. Rather, we want to be as effective as possible in the discharge of them. We know what our responsibilities are, we know that we are accountable to someone else, even as others may be to us. But, while recognizing our duties, we can give thought to the manner in which we discharge them. We can be firm on occasion and yet be kind. There is a time for every purpose under the sun. We do not need to go to the opposite extreme of harshness or ruthlessness, by being wishy-washy. When there is need to administer discipline, let us remember to be slow to anger and to appeal to reason.
The Word of God is full of good examples of those who instilled affection instead of fear. One of these, the greatest among men, is none other than Jesus Christ. He was kind, thoughtful, understanding. Said he: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”—Matt. 11:28-30.
One who set a good example for us in following Jesus in this respect was the apostle Paul. Note how he instilled affection in others: “We became gentle in the midst of you, as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, having a tender affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not only the good news of God, but also our own souls, because you became beloved to us.”—1 Thess. 2:7, 8.
Following these good examples, we will bring happiness both to ourselves and to those with whom we associate.