Are You Acting From Love Or Fear?

Love and Fear Are Opposites

Someone once told me that everything we do is done either out of love or fear.  I wish I could remember who told me this so that I can thank them for this insight.  It has helped me understand so much of what I see in this world.  More importantly, it has given me a simple and powerful way to reflect on my motivations.   I only need to stop and ask myself:

“Am I doing this out of love or fear?”

So, when I came to write this article, I thought I better find out where the quote came from.  The earliest reference I can find came from Seneca the Younger (4BC – 65AD). He said:

“True love can fear no-one.”

This statement suggests that there can be no fear when there is true love present, and in the opposite, where there is fear, there is not true love.  Here we see the certain proposition that love and fear are opposites and cannot exist together.

With further research, I have found that this assertion was also made by two amazing modern and open-hearted thinkers – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and John Lennon.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a revolutionary in how we care for the dying and how we deal with death. She certainly would have seen the extreme of perspectives in those facing their last days and the family and friends who were preparing themselves for a life without their loved one.  Here’s what Elisabeth said:

“There is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

John Lennon was, in my opinion, one of history’s greatest poets, philosophers and protagonists.  During his days in the Beatles, he passionately professed that “all you need is love” (1967).  His solo song ‘Imagine’ (1971) was a testament to the vision he had of a world founded upon love, where there is no fear, and all the people are “living a life of peace”.  John has been recorded as saying:

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love.” ~ John Lennon

So why is this important?  Why should we care about which one, love or fear, we are motivated by?  To answer this question, let’s look at the outcomes of each scenario.

What Does Acting From Love Look Like?

Looking at the descriptions provided by Kubler-Ross and Lennon, it appears that when you are acting from a place of love, you will see a flow of positive emotions.  Happiness, contentment, peace and joy will be felt by the person acting from love.  Moreover, they will share this peace and joy with all around them.  Lennon believed that acting from a place of love was the vital ingredient to authentic creativity.  He saw that when you are working from love, you are open to life’s reality but have the passion and excitement to contribute and bring positive change.

These views are very similar to the work done by Dr David Hawkins in exploring the levels of consciousness.  As shown in summary below, the positive ‘Power’ emotions lead to happiness, productivity, optimal performance and extraordinary outcomes.  You can find out more about the Map of Consciousness here.

Force vs Power Emotions

It appears then that operating from a perspective of love is beneficial not only for the person undertaking the activity but also for the good of the communities they are serving.

What do we mean by love, though?  I like to think of acting from love as being motivated by deep and honest care for your well-being, spirit, future self, and care for the world around you.  It means being vulnerable enough to show your true self and be brave enough to commit to something bigger than yourself.

Photo by BERTRAND MORITZ on Unsplash

What Does Acting From Fear Look Like?

Being the opposite of love, it is obvious that from fear comes a flow of negative emotions.  These can be seen as the ‘Force’ emotions on Dr David Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness and include pride, anger, desire, apathy, guilt and shame. These emotions are rooted in the prime concern for what other’s think of us, rather than being true to ourselves.  When we act from fear, we hand our power over to others and allow them to define our sense of self-worth.

Spending our days in fear is nothing short of destructive – for the person living in fear and the world around them.  Because as Lennon so wisely perceived:

“When we are afraid, we pull back from life.”

Fear closes us down to others and our potential.  We mistrust ourselves and sacrifice our ability to make a positive contribution to this world.  When we are scared about how others may react, we do not give all of ourselves.  We are not honestly and fully ourselves.  The result is that we live in a state of conflict – there is a war between who we know we truly are and that which we display to others.   Care, creativity and contribution are stifled.  Gandhi recognised this when he said:

“Fear kills the soul.”

Photo by Malicki M Beser on Unsplash

Why Do We Act Out Of Fear?

It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it – just be yourself!  So why are so many of us trapped in fear and conflict with our spirits?  There are two possible answers to this question:

  1. We allow others to tell us what we should be.  The fear we have here is one of rejection, of looking stupid and not being accepted.  It is the ultimate fear of being an outcast and lonely.  We choose the comfort of the tribe over the courage of living a unique and full life.
  2. We are afraid of what we could be.  I believe that inherently each one of us knows what we are capable of.  It is grand, beautiful and brave.  And yet, it is risky to shine.  What would happen if I release what is within and live a life that is big and bold? What would happen if I loved myself enough to let myself live freely and fully in this world?  This deep fear of succeeding, of our power, is captured succinctly by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us”.


How Do you Move From Fear To Love?

In so many ways, this world is geared to keep us in a state of fear.  Our legal and judicial systems are founded upon punishments and penalties.  Marketers rely on FOMO to keep us spending our money on status symbols.  In either case, we are defined by others as either good or bad, rich or poor, successful or a loser, a member of the tribe or an outsider. 

In this context, how do you move from a place of fear where your awesome spirit is stifled to a life of freedom and authenticity?  How do you begin operating from a place of care for yourself and your true well-being?  As shown in the diagram above, there is one initial step: finding the courage to be yourself and accept yourself.  But how the hell do you become courageous? 

If you look the word courage up in the dictionary, you will see that the definition of courage is:

“The ability to do something that frightens one.”[1].

This definition holds the key to what courage is all about.  Courage does not mean that you don’t feel afraid.  In fact, it is the exact opposite.  Fear is an inherent part. Without fear, bravery does not exist.  Dr Hawkins’ confirms this in his Map of Consciousness, asserting that one must work through the ‘Force’ emotions before one can rise above and operate from power.  I remember reading an interview with Paul McCartney when he discussed the insecurity that John Lennon had about how we would remember him.  Despite this concern, Lennon kept going.  He kept pushing the boundaries and expressing himself in and outside his music.

This is because courage is choosing to move beyond fear.  It is the choice to sit with the discomfort of the unknown because of something more important.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Courage is about making the decision that being true to your amazing spirit is more important than allowing fear to keep you stuck in conformity. It is about deciding that stepping into your power is more valuable than giving in to your anxiety.

But more than just coming from a cognitive exercise, courage comes from action.

It is about trying new activities, meeting new people, finding those things that give you energy, fueling your passions, and making your heart sing.

As this definition suggests, courage is not a quality endowed at birth or something our Fairy Godmother gives us with a wave of a wand.  It is an ability, a skill that is developed over time and with dedicated practice.

Courage Is a Skill

So, courage is not just something you are granted. Just like reading, driving a car or playing an instrument, it is a skill that you learn over time.  You will be pleased to know that thanks to enormous research undertaken into how people learn, there are a clear set of steps to take to build your courage muscle.  Dr Russ Harris outlines these steps in his model called The Confidence Cycle.[2]:

The Confidence Cycle

Working through these steps will build confidence in whatever new endeavour you embark upon.  More than this, though, engaging the Confidence Cycle in your daily life will build faith and trust in yourself that you can learn new things – that you can change and grow into the person you truly want to be.

Lennon learnt the ropes of the music industry in the Beatles.  He worked hard to make great music and also learned about what his spirit was calling him to do.  He took the lessons from his ten years as part of the Fab Four and used them to create his individual path.  He built the courage to be his true self through action.  He was able to love himself and forge his way because of the many years he spent doing hard work and self-reflection. 

The Lennon we know and love was not born fearless, nor did he die fearless.  But somewhere along the way, he chose that love for himself, and the world in which he lived was more important than his insecurities.  He chose to step out of the room of fear and into the room of love, and in doing so, brought inspiration to so many. 

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”~ Marianne Williamson

Calling On Your Courage

It takes bravery to start doing things that you love and to do them in a way that resonates and supports your spirit.  It takes guts not to play the game everyone else is, to put yourself out there, to use your voice and to forge your unique path.  It takes a great deal of nerve to question why things are done a certain way and decide for yourself that you will do things differently.  It takes even more valour to actually take action to help your spirit shine and make the biggest and best contribution you can make in this world.

While you would think it may come naturally to act from love, it appears to take a great deal of courage to love yourself. And yet, loving yourself, in all your glory, and all your imperfections is the most courageous thing you may ever do.

This world has enough fear, and it is creating so much suffering.  We need your courage, and we need your acts of love!

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

May today, you move one step further away from fear and one step closer to love!


[2] Harris, R., 2011. The Confidence Gap. Boston: Trumpeter.

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