I think that my blog post last week sparked my thinking about the ways fear has impacted my life. Since writing about love lost, I have been flooded with memories of other occasions when I made decisions based on fear rather than trust.
How many times have I lost love because I was too scared? How many missed opportunities for love have there been?
Fear is useless; what is needed is trust, I tell myself over and over. But living those words continues to challenge me.I recently watched Inside Out, an animated film about the emotions that influence our lives—joy, fear, anger, disgust and sadness. Riley, the girl in the movie, grows up in a loving family; when she is eleven, her father’s work takes the family from Minnesota to California. Everything changes, and she goes from primarily being joyful to being terribly angry. In her anger, she loses trust in her parents and makes decisions that are clearly misguided.As I watched the movie, I wondered about my own decision-making history. I wondered how many times my family and friends have watched me make decisions based on fear or anger—and stood by shaking their heads at my misguided choices.
After I had lived in l’Arche for about six months, I came back to Pennsylvania for a two-week holiday. My friends were shocked at my appearance. In those six months, I had lost twenty pounds or so and apparently looked unhealthy. I knew I was fatigued and generally unhappy, but my friends’ reactions were alarming.
“You can’t go back there,” one friend after another told me.
Not go back? I had to go back. I had made a commitment.
But, like Riley in the movie, I was having a really tough time. Change can be so difficult.
How could I admit—after just six months—that I had made a mistake or that I could not do what I had set out to do? Pride and fear paralyzed me.Going back meant my health would continue to suffer. Moving back after six months felt like a failure. Neither option held much hope for me; either way, I felt like I was a disappointment.
Looking back on that time, I can now see options and possibilities that were not clear to me then.
Back then, fear was motivating my decisions. Fear of failure, fear of looking weak, fear of disappointing. My judgment was clouded.
Inside Out shined a light on how memories stack up to create a preference or inclination. If I have lots of joyful memories, I am more likely to expect joy and to look for it. If my memories are sad, fearful or angry, I am more likely to see through that lens.
Moving from fear to trust is a conscious decision, and I have decided to recall two joyful memories every time sad or angry memories surface. Hopefully this small exercise will help tip the scales away from fear and toward trust.