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Better to Be Loved Than Feared?

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Machiavelli, the well-known philosopher of the Italian Renaissance, poses this question in this famous book excerpt The Morals of the Prince: "is it better to be loved than feared, or vice versa?" Machiavelli answers his own question, arguing that a prince is much safer being feared than being loved. Inducing fear upon his subjects with cruelty will keep them united and loyal. Those who are fearful of a person of any authority are more inclined not to cross the boundary of disrespect, for fear of punishment. Without a doubt, being loved is desired and has a greater value compared to being feared. Love has the power to nurture, support and ultimately, liberate; fear restricts, denies and imprisons. Personal growth and human achievement thrive on love, while fear hampers and destroys potential.

Many people who aspire to be feared actually are fearful people themselves. They command respect rather than earning it, but they desperately want it all the same. To allow ourselves to be loved we have to also allow ourselves to be vulnerable. If we are very fearful people then we may feel that we need to form a protective emotional barrier around ourselves and shut out love. When this happens we may come across to others as cold and unfeeling. At the same time we may want to have as much control as possible, including control over other people. Being loved is not about having to abandon discipline, or being soft and fuzzy. For me, love means that the support, instruction, good example and encouragement help others towards freedom and goodness. It brings respect, emulation and admiration. Yet there are some in positions of power and authority, who would disagree, believing that fear achieves more.

A dictatorial and rigid boss will rule by fear. Fear of the consequences, for workers, if they cannot meet his or her demands, is the way such a person chooses to operate. The unfortunate people who have to work for such a tyrant will be afraid of losing their jobs. Those people afraid to offer innovative ideas, and afraid to approach the feared person with even the simplest request work under duress, as stress and resentment build, disgusted to go to work, but fearing to do anything other than what the boss demands. In such a restrictive atmosphere, the job will get done, productivity figures might be reached, but nobody other than this boss will have much pleasure and satisfaction. Those who are in positions of great importance and power have been advised throughout the centuries that an aura of fear can be their best asset. Famous "leaders" who used fear, while pretending that love was a motivational factor, include Hitler, and Stalin. The historical evidence of them having been feared and the results of that, speaks volumes for how fear does indeed restrict and imprison, while denying the human spirit.

Some iconic individuals in history, who have led by love and not fear, come to mind as examples of how it all works.



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