Mass Murders and Fear

Posted on September 25, 2013 by Robert Ringer


Thirteen people, including a three-year-old boy, shot in a South Side park in Chicago … thirteen more people killed just a few days earlier in the Washington Navy Yard … Newtown … Aurora … Tucson … Virginia Tech … everyone knows the locations by heart.

About the only thing everyone agrees on is that these mass slayings — whether you blame them on too many firearms or too few firearms — are going to continue, and probably get worse.  After all, there’s no other way for a mentally ill or angry person to get so famous so fast as to mow down a bunch of innocent people.  Welcome to the United States of Violence!

Every time these mass murders occur, it reminds me of two kinds of people:

First is the person whose philosophy is, “It’s amazing how many things won’t kill you.

Second is the person whose philosophy is, “It’s amazing how many things will kill you.”

So, who’s right?  On balance, I think probably both of them are right.  It really is amazing how many seemingly dangerous things seldom kill people.  Example:  parachuting.  But it’s also amazing how many seemingly harmless things will kill you.  Example:  driving a lot, especially long distances.

It pretty much gets down to the law of averages.  If you smoke three packs of cigarettes a day, it might not kill you.  But the law of averages, based on actual statistics, say there’s an excellent chance that it will.

On the other hand, if you cross a busy street corner when the light turns green, the  law of averages says the odds are overwhelming that it won’t result in your death.  But it could.

What I’m leading up to here is how the law of averages can be utilized to keep fear under control.  Fear is a basic instinct that, thankfully, we are born with.  Without it, we wouldn’t survive very long.  But over the centuries, as civilizations have advanced, learned fears have come into play in so many areas of life that they often cheat us of many of the splendors of life.

What it all gets down to is reasonable fears versus irrational fears.  A phobia is an irrational fear.  There are people who literally lock themselves in their houses all day because they are afraid of the dangers that lie outside.  These are mentally disturbed individuals who can only be classified as the walking dead.

While being too fearful of too many things is not a healthy way to travel through life, it’s still a good idea to be cautious and play the law of averages.  And rule number one when it comes to playing the law of averages is to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

Which brings me back to the mass slayings that are becoming America’s trademark.  The problem with mass murderers is that they operate primarily in broad daylight … Columbine, Forth Hood, Tucson, Virginia Tech, and the Navy Yard in Washington, to name but a few of the more famous examples.

How can you possibly avoid such broad-daylight dangers?  You can’t.  It’s true that carrying a concealed weapon shifts the odds in your favor a bit, but sometimes that’s either not possible or practical.  And there’s certainly no guarantee that you would be able to use your weapon quickly and accurately enough to stop a mass murderer.

So, there comes a time when you have to rely on those well-known words from the “Serenity Prayer”:  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”  Serenity and fear cannot coexist.  If you’re fearful, you cannot be serene.  If you’re serene, you cannot be fearful.  No question that serenity is the better choice.

It may be a cliché, but a good antidote to excessive fear is coming to grips with the truth in the aphorism, “When your time is up, it’s up.”  But that doesn’t mean you have to do things that increase the odds of your number coming up sooner rather than later.

Even though total freedom is a myth, everyone wants longs to be free.  And freedom from fear is at the top of the list.  As discussed, it’s a waste of mental energy to fear things over which you have little or no control, such as random mass murders.  But it’s even more important not to blow the daily cares of life out of proportion and fear them as though they were fatal conditions.

You need not fear quitting your job and starting your own business with little or no money.  Going broke is not a fatal condition.

You need not fear being rejected by someone, because you don’t need any one person.  Thus, rejection is not a fatal condition.

You need not fear being criticized, because sticks and stones can’t break your bones.  Therefore, being criticized is not a fatal condition.

You need not fear losing “the best deal in the world,” because the best deal in the world comes along every day.  Clearly, losing a seemingly great deal is not a fatal condition.

That isn’t to say that things like the above examples aren’t painful.  They are.  But the greatest advances in life often stem from pain.  While I appreciate the fact that it’s much easier said than done, it’s a big mistake to waste mental resources fearing such things as rejection, criticism, or the loss of a deal, a lover, or a job.

As Nietzsche put it, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.’  Random mass slayings aside, pain builds character and lays the groundwork for success.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

12 responses to “Mass Murders and Fear”

  1. Steve Wardrip says:

    There are worse things than death. Fear is one of them.

  2. Ragnar says:

    Not a bad article Robert until I read the words "even though total freedom is a myth". Of course we don't have it but that doesn't mean it's not possible. Was flying an airplane in 1900 a myth or nobody knew how it do it yet? Total freedom is not a myth it just has not been built yet because not enough people know how to do it.

    • Fred says:

      I agree. Freedom is our nature. The world we live in conspires (successfully!) to steal that from us every moment. That’s why it is so rare. To use Robert’s terms, the odds are stacked against us! None-the-less, total freedom should be the goal. There are those who have achieved it in this world, without having to escape to a cave. A mentor of mine speaks of 4 Absolutes: honesty, selflessness, purity of intent and living in reality based in love. These values are then either supported by our beliefs…or not. Those beliefs will determine our priorities, which determine our actions…which lead to the results we get in life. It is our beliefs, therefore, that must be constantly examined if we are to ever truly obtain and attain success in all areas of life.

    • Robert Ringer RJR says:

      I guess one can always argue that anything is theoretically possible. But in this secular world, to this date, I know of no one who has ever been totally free. The closest we can come to freedom is by achieving freedom of the mind. And in that vein freedom from fear is at the top of the list.

      Thank you for your deep thought.

  3. zimpeterw says:

    Good perspective on fear Robert, living in Africa for most of my life taught me to be especially vigilant about avoiding dangerous situations. Some I was unable to avoid, but the awareness of them allowed me to survive. That vigilance is still highly active now in North America.

    I also played Polo & Polo-Crosse for decades, 2 very fast, very physical sports played on horseback , many falls but only one serious injury. Most sensible people are too afraid to attempt these sports, but the law of averages reveals very few deaths or serious injuries.

    Overcoming that fear resulted in the most satisfying examples of teamwork with another species as well as the most adrenaline filled experiences in my life.

  4. guest says:

    Robert, you did not mention the cause of many of these incidents. Many of these people were on or coming off of pharmaceutical mind altering drugs that cause adverse changes in a person's perception of reality. Many shooters claim to have had a blackout or felt that they were part of a video game that was not real. As more pharmaceutical drugs are needlessly pushed onto people, I also believe that we are unfortunately going to have greater frequency of these types of adverse events. When you add these drugs in a body fed nutritionally deficient processed food and exposed to environmental toxin accumulation, violence will undoubtedly prevail. As a society, we do have a certain level of control over the cause of these events. I do not expend resources thinking about and fearing these unfortunate events, but rather I fear where we are going with all of this.

  5. Sean St Charles says:

    I have total freedom everyday and soon after I am finished meditating I realize there are responsibilities, passions, obligations and commitments; some which I chose and some life choses for me but freedom is within the reach of all of us, its getting there that is the tricky part.

  6. William MacLean says:

    No where else in the world is such violence, accepted with such malaise.
    The lethargy with which USA's population reacts to such continual acts of violence leaves the rest of the world agog. Amazed at your passivity. You are letting a cancer rot your very souls that you sit back and accept this as part of how your society operates without wanting to change it.
    Freedom at what cost? It is time as a society you joined the rest of the world community and started looking at the level of violence compared to similar societies around the world. You are a society ruled by fear.
    WAKE UP and join the human race!
    Robert as well as you may write you have certainly missed the main point, I guess you don't care about creating a BETTER society.

    William MacLean – AUSTRALIA.

  7. David Antony says:

    In response to William MacLean. You stated that "No where else in the world is such violence accepted…" Maybe you need to look in to what's going on in Africa, the Middle East, parts of Asia, the history of Europe, including the recent history of Eastern Europe. This might give you a more realistic view of the situation and show the US in a better light. "Freedom at what cost?" As you don't elaborate further on this I will assume that you were referring, negatively, to the right to bear arms and the historical favouring of small government and individual rights over big government and collectivism. A govt that's powerful enough to take away it's people's guns and restrict people's rights in order to guarantee there will be no mass murders, is also powerful enough to confiscate the property of, murder, or imprison anyone that it chooses to. The worst atrocities in history have been committed by governments, not individual criminals. Robert Ringer has been working for decades to create a society based on freedom, individual rights, small government, personal responsibility, value production, market economics and civility. Which of these things do you object to?

    David Antony – Adelaide, AUSTRALIA

    • Bill Zimmerly says:

      Well written, Sir!

    • SirTerry says:

      Well said David Anthony! One only has to look at the viciousness of the Middle Eastern culture to realize that they have been killing their neighbors and family members in the name of Allah ten times longer than we (The United States of America) have been a nation.
      They are the ones who call us weak and naive, because we are a compassionate nation. We take better care of other citizens of the world than we do our own citizens.
      As for gun control…you can take every weapon from every citizen of the world and those prone to violence and murder will still find a way to commit attrocities. Someone who knows how to make a weapon will do so just to have an edge on his fellow human.
      Remember, Cain killed Abel with a stone. GOD did not ban stones! HE punished Abel.
      WE have enough laws to cover gun violence, rape, murder, etc., all we need to do is enforce them and stop making knee-jerk reactions to something that some mentally deranged person does.

  8. zimpeterw says:

    Have to support David Anthony, I have no direct experience of the Middle East, parts of Asia or Eastern Europe but having lived almost all my life in Africa, there is no comparison. Life is worth very little in most of Africa, and property rights even less.

    I have personal experience of atrocities carried out by a government, the theft of my, and thousands of other productive farms, the wrecking of a once vibrant economy, the forced migration of 25% of the population, hyper inflation and the eventual abandonment of its own currency all deliberately done by the Zimbabwe government to destroy all opposition and reward a select few party faithful.

    The only reason my wife and I were not killed was because we DID have guns.

    Guns are not the problem in America, political correctness that allows unstable people to obtain them is.