As we explored in my case study of Anakin Skywalker, young Anakin is denied entrance into Jedi training because he is too old, and because he has too much fear in his heart. He is confronted with the fear of losing his mother, and when he complains “what’s that got to do with anything?” Yoda tells him.
“Everything! Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
What Yoda is telling him, and us, is to be aware of our fears and control them before they control us.
Fear, when it is unneeded, can be a very damaging and debilitating part of our lives. Fear can make us go to great lengths to protect ourselves, and if the thing we’re protecting ourselves against is hard to identify or control, that frustration can turn into anger.
Anger is a more difficult emotion to control than fear. Anger is the emotional response we feel when something needs to be changed. If the thing we want to change is difficult or impossible, the frustration compounds and our anger becomes internalized and compressed until it becomes hatred.
Hatred is a very strong emotion and extremely difficult to control. Far more difficult than anger or fear. If someone has hatred embedded in their psyche, it can be used to justify any outpouring of anger or violence. This can manifest internally or externally, but the result is the same. When hatred grows and spreads, people suffer. This is what Yoda is trying to prevent.
Yoda’s intention is to teach Anakin that if he is not careful to control his fears, it can grow and intensify until he hurts himself or others through anger and hatred. The Jedi teaches control of emotions to promote a peaceful existence. If someone is unable to face and control their fears, their path will more easily lead them to the dark side.
I like this quote a lot because I value my sense of control over my fears. I understand the purpose of fear; to keep myself safe from harm, but I also understand that irrational fears of things that are within my control will only do me harm in the long term if I don’t face them. I work hard to study the thing that causes me fear, educate myself about it, until I understand why I feel this way and can begin healing until I have no need to fear what I don’t need to fear.
What Yoda unintentionally teaches Anakin is to suppress and deny all his emotions. An invalidation that leads to, well… you know.