Beyond my birthday, October has many observances that I believe in and support involving diversity, anti-bullying, anti-violence, crime prevention, LGBTQ, dropout prevention and mental health. With that in mind, I wanted to focus on something I learned many, many years ago.
According to philosopher Erich Fromm, “The opposite of love is not, as is often or almost always thought, hatred, but the fear of loving. Fear is the breeding ground of all the resentments, bitterness, anger and destructive behaviors that constitute and give rise to hate.”
What is needed to combat discrimination, oppression, violence, bullying and hatred? Courage. Not courage from the victims, but courage from the perpetrators. October 17 is National Face Your Fears Day, followed by Evaluate Your Life Day on October 19—two opportunities to face and evaluate the things that truly scare you. Are you a white person who’s afraid that Black and Brown people are replacing you? Are you a cisgender, straight parent who’s afraid that societal acceptance of the LGBTQ community will turn your children gay? Do you fear people who look different than you, like things you don’t, or think and believe differently from you? It takes courage to face these fears and really get to know and understand someone who you were taught to hate.
Domestic violence abusers often fear the loss of the person who is supposed to love them. People who drop out of school may fear failure in the educational systems that don’t serve underprivileged students very well. People who oppose diversity programs may fear the consequences of children learning about white supremacy and the patriarchy. They may also fear what the oppressed might do if they gain power.
Many societal problems have roots in trauma. According to a study by Allely & Allely in 2020, 75% of incarcerated adults report a history of trauma—physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect in their childhoods. And those are just the ones who report. Frontiers in Psychiatry reports up to 94.2% of people receiving mental health services have a history of trauma, and the Australian government’s Trauma-informed Care Module claims that most have multiple experiences of trauma. Addiction treatment facilities Turnbridge, Sanctuary Sedona addiction recovery, and Northpoint Seattle all estimate two-thirds of all who struggle with addiction have trauma in their history. More research is needed before any correlation can be made between high school dropout rates and trauma.
It is way past time to stop asking, “What’s wrong with you?” and instead start asking, “What’s happened to you?” Have compassion for the brutalized children these pariahs of genteel society once were. They never had the privileges you did if you grew up in a home with two parents who loved and protected you from bad things, no matter how poor you were. That is a privilege.
Are you aware one in three girls and one in five or six boys will be sexually molested by the time they reach 18 years of age? No child should ever be treated in that way, long before their growing brains have even been able to determine their own self-worth. They grow up believing that the only thing they are good for is pleasing others. Stop fearing and start having compassion, especially on October 7 for You Matter to Me Day. If you weren’t there at the time of the abuse, at least you can see the person today and extend a hand of caring. Be an example of Make a Difference Day by making a difference in someone’s life. Treat them like a person who didn’t have what every child has a right to—parents who loved them and protected them from abuse by people who were supposed to love and protect them.
Choose love instead of fear. Let this long list of October observances inspire you to practice and foster compassion and choose love instead of fear.
- Antidepressant Death Awareness Month
- Domestic Violence Awareness Month
- Global Diversity Awareness Month
- LGBTQ History Month
- National Bullying Prevention Month
- National Crime Prevention Month
- National Dropout Prevention Month
- National Emotional Wellness Month
- National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month
- National Substance Abuse Prevention Month
- Positive Attitude Month
- Mental Illness Awareness Week, Oct. 1-7 (first full week of the month)
- YMCA Awareness Week Without Violence, Oct. 16-21
- Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 23-31
- International Day of Non-Violence, Oct. 2
- World Day of Bullying Awareness, Oct. 3
- World Smile Day, Oct. 6
- You Matter to Me Day, Oct. 7
- National Face Your Fears Day, Oct. 10
- World Day Against the Death Penalty, Oct. 10
- World Mental Health Day, Oct. 10
- National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11
- National Stop Bullying Day, Oct. 11
- Stop America’s Violence Everywhere (S.A.V.E.), Oct. 11
- International Pronouns Day, Oct. 18
- Conflict Resolution Day, Oct. 19
- Evaluate Your Life Day, Oct. 19
- LGBT Center Awareness Day, Oct. 19
- National Youth Confidence Day, Oct. 20
- Make a Difference Day, Oct. 28 (fourth Saturday of the month)