I’ve always had a preoccupation with death.
As a young child at bedtime shortly after my mom would tuck me in and retreat to the family room downstairs to watch television with my dad, I’d become so overwhelmed with my love for them both, that the thought of either of them dying while I slept would send me into a full blown panic attack. I can remember lying in bed, tears streaming down my cheeks, just from the fear of their sudden (but probably highly unlikely) death. But even bigger than the fear that I might not see them the next morning, was the fear that if they died they wouldn’t know how much I loved them. As a result of this fear, it became customary for me to jump out of bed and run to the top of the stairs to shout down to them both “I love you!” and then they’d shout back that they loved me too, and then I’d promptly return to bed and fall asleep.
I learned at a very young age that love is really the only way to combat fear. And while this particular bedtime routine of mine might’ve been a tad neurotic, it was the only thing I could think to do at the time that would overshadow the fear and bring me the sense of peace I needed to go to sleep. I knew that while I had no control over whether my parents lived to see the next morning, I did have control over my own emotions and response to this irrational fear. And the motivation behind it was two-fold: I didn’t want to live with regret of not letting the people I love know that I love them AND I also learned that replacing the feeling of fear with love is really the only way to reach a peaceful state of mind.
You could say love un-paralyzed me from events I knew were outside of my control.
The reason I wanted to share this is because I see fear everywhere lately. It’s throughout the nation and all over the world and in each and every one of us. And with good reason, because every single day it seems we learn of yet another tragic event and our fear, evidenced in our reaction to these horrific and terrifying events, is extremely overwhelming and utterly debilitating and we feel as though nothing is in our control anymore and of course our natural response is anger. Innocent people everywhere are getting kidnapped, beaten, blown up, shot at every day and we’re all afraid and fully aware of the fact that none of us are going to make it out alive. The world is going to hell in a hand basket and people suck and we’re all going to die, it’s just a matter of time.
We’re paralyzed with fear.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned, nothing is in our control except our own reactions, feelings, and attitudes. Whether it’s our reaction to other people or events, and neither one is predictable or controllable by the way, we get to choose to respond to people and/or events from a place of fear or love. It’s one or the other. We’re human and so it’s only natural to respond to violence and tragedy with anger (fear) but at some point, if we hope to gain any sense of peace in life and our place in this world, we have to learn to replace our fear with love. It doesn’t have to be some hippy trippy love fest where we strap sandals around our ankles and walk around hugging everyone and everything and plaster peace signs all of the planet and I’m certainly not suggesting we love the criminals and those who commits acts of violence, but simply suggesting that we maybe try something small, something within our power and reach that reinforces the feeling of love and connectedness that we need in order to feel at least the smidgen of peace we long for; simple gestures like smiling at a stranger or extending your hand to someone in need, being there for others and truly listening, and most of all, letting the people close to you know what they mean to you and how much you love them.
Sadly, there are no guarantees in life and there is very little within our control, but just knowing that the one thing, probably the biggest thing, that I can control in this life is how I choose to live it. In my responses and actions, I get to choose whether they come from a place of fear or love…and that’s where I find my freedom and ultimately gain peace.
Evil will always exist in the world and bad people will continue to try to rob us of our peace, they will succeed only if we choose to be afraid; however, we succeed when we choose to combat that fear with love in whatever ways possible – BIG or small.