Leading by Fear

Donald Trump, among other candidates, has taken to a political style that I call “Leading by Fear.” He points out troublesome things going on in the world and then expect a fearful reaction and falls into a hasty despair.

Too often, I fear we all default to this mode in our own everyday affairs. Ignatius of Loyola would call this the fatal flaw of making decisions in desolation. Leaders would do well to not make a hasty decision, but rather a measured one.

This is age-old wisdom and it is in the heart of today’s gospel today. King Herod is also leading by fear and the reaction to Jesus’ birth is a perfect example of overreacting. Herod not only tries to hoodwink the astrologers into pointing out the Christ-child, but he later would kill all of the newborn babies in the land.

Despair drives Herod’s decision–always a bad way to go.

The astrologers, on the other hand, lead by intuition and a gathering of facts. They realize that the baby is in fact a threat to King Herod and they are troubled enough by their experience with Herod that they discern a better route to head home instead of heading back in Herod’s direction.

Anxiety and despair are always going to come our way. It finds us faster than we would like. But we cannot lead with our fear. We have to notice that we are feeling anxious and in that, it should signal to us that we need to push those feelings away and walk into the light of a new day.

So when someone annoys us, we have to stop and count to 10 instead of snapping back.

When we feel distrust, we have to ask direct questions from those we perceive as a threat to shine more light on the situation, so that cooler heads prevail.

And in all of life, we have to look for where God provides us with consolation. So that like the astrologers we can be comforted by the presence of God in our lives and then head down the path of life by a more discerned route, living by the light that God sheds on our experience.