Edmund Burke claimed, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Often, this politically charged quote is used to draw attention to flaws in large-scale systems, but it is equally applicable in small-scale communities. In fact, when fear runs rampant in a community, it is often because the fearful voices are the only ones being heard. There may be those who are level-headed, trusting, and full of faith, but if they do not speak up, they diminish their chances to influence a community.
In the past, I have watched as communities divided over petty issues, or as charismatic and vocal individuals spread panic through a group of people in order to gain support for personal agendas. Fear can be very persuasive, and it doesn't take much effort for us to become fearful. And yet, individuals and communities who react to situations out of fear or panic often do things that are in direct conflict with their purposes. Fear gives us an excuse to behave badly, a justification for doing things we would criticize in others.
And when no one points it out to us, fear keeps us blind. Fear puts sheets up over all of the mirrors so we never clearly see who we are being. It takes a certain trust, confidence, and willingness to stand up in the face of that kind of fear and call it what it is. In communities where those kind of trusting and willing people speak up, fear is less likely to take root. It is not always comfortable or easy to speak up in a rising tide of fearfulness or panic, and yet it is vital for the well-being of a community.
When individuals are willing to hold one another to the true purpose of a community, that vision can remain clear and focused. When we see something happening that is out of alignment with the purpose we have claimed for ourselves and our communities, it often only requires us to be willing to open our mouths to defuse the fear. It may seem easier to step back and criticize, to form our own secret collusion committees, or to suggest that "someone" should do something, but those responses only engage our own fears. There is something noble in each of us that calls us into action, and that noble action can be as simple as a calm, gentle, and disarming reminder of purpose and vision.