“To show any sign of love, or fear of another, is to honor; for both to love, and to fear, is to value.”
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)
I daresay almost every man wishes he mattered more. What does this mean? It means that almost every man wishes his opinion was more often taken into account, and that his opinion was in every case given more weight. It means that almost every man wishes others would fall silent when he parts his lips, plan and provide for his happiness, crave and curry his favor, and (to cut to the heart of the matter) quake with fear at the thought of his wrath.
In other words, almost every man dreams of being a tyrant, a despot and a thug.
A man who matters is honored and valued, and Hobbes tells us that a man is honored and valued either because he is loved or because he is feared. Of these two sources of honor and value, it is generally recognized that fear matters most. Machiavelli explains why.
“One ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved, if one of the two has to be wanting.”*
Fear matters most because the bonds of love are weak and the bonds of fear are strong. As Machiavelli goes on to explain:
“Men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligation which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”
What Machiavelli means is that we can betray those we love but we cannot betray those we fear. We give our love, and are therefore free to withdraw love when it suits us; fear on the other hand is thrust upon us whether we like it or not. This is why fear endures. This is why the bonds of love are weak, the bonds of fear are strong–and why mattering is a terrible power.
*) The Prince (1532)