The Price of Fear

My favorite singer/songwriter is Bruce Springsteen. His lyrics capture feelings and ideas and tell stories of regular human beings better than anyone I’ve heard (and I’ll argue ’til blue in the face on this point). One of my absolute favorites is the following entitled “Devils and Dust“.

I got my finger on the trigger
But I don’t know who to trust
When I look into your eyes
There’s just devils and dust
We’re a long, long way from home, Bobbie
Home’s a long, long way from us
I feel a dirty wind blowing
Devils and dust

I got God on my side
I’m just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear’s a powerful thing
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
And fill it with devils and dust

Well I dreamed of you last night
In a field of blood and stone
The blood began to dry
The smell began to rise
Well I dreamed of you last night
In a field of mud and bone
Your blood began to dry
The smell began to rise

We’ve got God on our side
We’re just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear’s a powerful thing
It’ll turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust

Now every woman and every man
They want to take a righteous stand
Find the love that God wills
And the faith that He commands
I’ve got my finger on the trigger
And tonight faith just ain’t enough
When I look inside my heart
There’s just devils and dust

Well I’ve got God on my side
And I’m just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear’s a dangerous thing
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust

It’ll take your God filled soul

Fill it with devils and dust


These are some of the most powerful words describing the consequences of fear I’ve ever heard or read. I also think that he accurately describes the soul of human beings as being “God-filled”. Our nature is such that there is a fundamental “Godness” in each and everyone, awaiting love and freedom to draw it out. Fear and force do exactly the opposite and will “turn [our] heart black [we] can trust” taking our “God-filled” soul, leaving it filled “with devils and dust.”

The emptiness and darkness of soul portrayed by these lyrics drive home to me the fundamental importance of trust and love in the place of hatred and fear. The state of our soul, its resemblance to God and goodness, is dependent on what fills it: God and goodness or fear. Let’s keep our souls “God-filled” by casting our fear via the pure love that is charity.

2 Replies to “The Price of Fear”

  1. Mike,

    I find the subject of fear and love fascinating (as you know). I wonder why, if we know love is the right path, do we so often choose to cast it out through our fear. Why choose fear when we know what is waiting for us down that road? A soul filled with “devils and dust”. I tend to think that it is because we don’t understand the power that comes with love. By this I mean a real, get things done, kind of power. I have too often in the past thought that love is great and feels good, that love means that I am right with God and man, and that was the end of it. But what if love was the source of, or is itself real power?

    “We love him because he first loved us.” That is a statement of power (it might even be the ultimate statement of power). I see the truth of it in my own life. As I look back on the people who have the most impact on me I find a similarity in every relationship. Each of these people believed something about me that I didn’t believe about myself and they took the time to tell me through word and/or deed. They gave me respect, consideration and support that I did not deserve. I had nothing to offer them in return. I had nothing they wanted. In short, they “first loved me”. Now this is were I find the power that they have because of their love: I would lie down in traffic for any of them. They wouldn’t even have to ask. If I knew they need my help I would get moving.

    There is an interesting characteristic to this kind of power: it has nothing of coercion in it. This power is in the form of an invitation. And it is in most cases an implied invitation rather then explicit. As opposed to the kind of power that is based in fear (force) there is nothing of passive aggression or nagging at one extreme and a “gun to the head” at the other. This power based in love seems to flow from the person possessed of it; marshaling resources to their desired ends, always inviting never demanding; and somehow reflecting back to those who answer this call a deeper look within themselves were they find that they are better and more powerful then they have ever known. Power that comes from love leaves those it animates with more, while force that is the product of fear consumes those who succumb to it…and those wield it. The agents of force always have to look over the shoulder; always calculating if there force is enough to control. Too little and the controlled will remain in a torpid stupor, too much and the tyrant pushes them past ambivalence into a fury. Not a safe lifestyle. Nor does it make for a restful night’s sleep.
    Perhaps if we came to know real power, power that comes from, or is love itself, then we might never consider fear simply in terms of economics. Perhaps when I come to know the actual result of my efforts and see that love is the only one that pays, will I abandon fear as a negative return on investment.

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