The remarkable video below led me to ponder the relationship between reverence and fear and more importantly the difference between them. Reverence is a healthy form of fear, as contrasted with a cringing, hostile one.
The word “reverence” is rooted in the Latin reveror, meaning “to stand in awe of, to revere or respect.” Reverence includes a healthy fear of overstepping, harming, or violating something or someone we hold in awe or deeply appreciate. It is somewhat like the Holy Fear of the Lord counseled by Scripture, wherein we hold God in awe and dread offending Him out of respect and love.
When we have the healthy fear of reverence, we hesitate to simply barge in and behave “as if we owned the joint.” We proceed carefully, realizing that we are dealing with something or someone precious. We recognize that we are not dealing with something ordinary or with something we own, but rather something that someone else owns and regards highly.
When I have reverence for a person, I esteem him and am loath to cause him harm or grief. I curb my behavior and seek to avoid any unnecessary harm.
So, reverence is a healthy form of fear, a kind of wonder or awe at the mystery and magnificence of things and people. Of course, it should never supplant or overrule our reverence or holy fear of God, but it does have a proper and healthy place in our dealings with people and even with the created world.
If reverence is cultivated, it also helps us avoid unhealthy fear, cringing fear rooted in anxiety about backlash or retaliation. Because reverence keeps us respectful, we need not fear negative consequences.
This video is best understood in the light of this reflection. It features an extraterrestrial being who seems to be exploring an unknown planet. As he explores, he unreflectively (and thus irreverently) collects samples. Soon enough, he experiences something of a call to account, though a very loving one. Nevertheless, his irreverence ignites his fear and he acts rashly and thoughtlessly. In the end he recovers reverence, but sadly at a high price.