I think my fear of spiders came from my mum; maybe I saw the way she reacted to them and believed that there was something to fear. I don’t know if her fear was also ‘inherited’ as well. At one point, somebody attempted to get me to accept them for the useful and mostly benign creatures they are by forcing me to touch one. To say that didn’t work too well was an understatement of great magnitude.
Kids at school are cruel; or, so I believed. Looking back though, they probably just thought that watching my reaction when they threw rubber spiders at me was amusing. They certainly seemed to get a good laugh out of it anyway. I, on the other hand, simply became more paranoid about our fuzzy, little, fly-eating helpers.
My best friend was as afraid, if not more so, than me. If she saw one, you could be forgiven for thinking there was a serial killer in the house if you heard the blood-curdling screams. Imagine my surprise, after we were ‘all grown-up,’ when she told me that she had held a tarantula! Not to be outdone – some years later – I went to the butterfly house, here in Colorado, and held Rosie, the tarantula. They gave me a stick-on badge to prove it!
So why write this interesting little tale right now?
Because, after being presented with proof that you CAN conquer irrational fears if you want to, I chose to do it. I didn’t succeed because I’d been tormented and ridiculed; I did it because a friend shared her story with me, not as a challenge, even, but in a spirit of love, because she thought that it might help.
In the last week, I’ve seen some awful posts from people who are celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling to make gay marriage legal all across the USA. I celebrate that decision, too; I have had many diverse friends over the years and have loved them for themselves and am so glad that they can now choose to live their lives in legal unions.
But I didn’t always feel like that.
It took getting to know and love people, in all their diversity – with all their differences, with a spirit of acceptance – to change my irrational fears and inherited thought-patterns.
Whatever it is that we fear, we cannot be persuaded to change by being taunted and attacked; those tactics only make us dig our heels in even deeper. Friends who can reflect what love really means to them can help us conquer it. People who attempt to force change through ridiculing us entrench our fears deeper.
A war against intolerance cannot be won using weapons of intolerance.