Tag Archives: risk

fear-trust-faith

Trust

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.fear-trust-faithI 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.fear-trust-faithAs 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.fear-trust-faithGoing 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.fear-trust-faith

 

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vulnerability-trust-God

Taking risks

“To what end?” my friend Jim used to ask me—usually when I was considering something he thought pointless or even foolish. One incident I remember had to do with a guy I had known when I lived in Canada.

This was a guy I was thinking of marrying—until I found out he was seeing someone else. Ouch! He apologized and asked for forgiveness, and I forgave him. But I was back in the States by then, and I never got around to writing to tell him I forgave him.vulnerability-trust-GodSeveral years later, I happened to see him, and I was genuinely friendly; I had forgiven him. He was so happy—and relieved—I felt a bit bad that I had not written to him. Afterward, he wrote to thank me for forgiving him. His letter included an update on his life (I already knew from mutual friends that the other relationship had not worked out), and he said it would be good to hear from me.

Hmm. Would I write back? “To what end?” Jim asked.

I understood his question. What was I going to gain by reconnecting with someone who had hurt me? Why would I take that chance? What did I hope would happen?

In the end, the impulse to respond passed, and I never wrote back. But I had saved his letter, which I discovered the other day when I was going through some boxes of old letters.

Twenty-five years have passed since he broke my heart, and I have no ill will toward him; I have moved on (ok, perhaps not completely since I have never risked the possibility of marriage again).vulnerability-trust-GodWhile I was in Ireland recently, I visited with two women I also knew from when I lived in Canada. I had not seen either of them in many years and had reconnected with them through Facebook.

When one of them suggested a visit, I responded without hesitation, even though I could hear Jim’s voice in my head asking, “To what end?”

I had no answer except that I wanted to see them—no need to justify or have next steps planned out. I just wanted to reconnect.vulnerability-trust-GodProtecting ourselves from possible hurt is important, and I know that Jim’s question usually came out of his concern for me. He saw the pain I had gone through when my heart was broken, and he cared enough about me to want to shield me from further hurt.

I was always more of a risk-taker than Jim, which was one of the things he loved about me. With risk comes more potential for hurt.

I have been keeping my heart safely locked up for a long time now, not making myself vulnerable or risking pain. To what end? I ask myself. Am I happier living in a cocoon?

When Jim had cancer and was pondering life with intentionality, he often said, “Think big thoughts.” Acting on those big thoughts involves risk; I am ready.vulnerability-trust-God

Five More Steps Toward Freedom

In 2001, I started to pray a Prayer for the Decade of Nonviolence, created by Mary Lou Kornacki, OSB. I prayed this prayer almost every day for ten years. If a habit forms after three weeks, this prayer became part of the fiber of my being over ten years and helped shape my conversation with God about how I am to live.

1) One line in the prayer is May my love for friend, enemy and outcast be without measure. As I prayed these words every day, I found the biggest stumbling block to be enemy, those people I don’t really like or trust or who have hurt me in some way. When I react negatively toward someone, I remind myself that God loves that person as much as God loves me. So while I can so clearly see their faults and flaws, God sees their goodness and invites me to look for that.
2) Another line is May my heart forgive without limit. When I first learned the Prayer, I was working with the Cabrini Sisters, who practice a spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Learning this spiritual practice offered me a framework for having a forgiving heart. Mother Cabrini is said to have changed hearts with Jesus so that she could love and forgive as he did. When I find myself withholding forgiveness, I try to step back, put on the heart of Jesus and then look at the person. Something changes. Everything changes (although it can take me a while before I actually integrate the changes).
3) May my needs be few and my living simple. Our culture promotes the message that we need all kinds of things that we really don’t need—the latest version of every gadget, the most up-to-date fashions, new cars—the list goes on and on. It is easy to be seduced by the marketing messages. Standing against those messages and staying clear on needs versus wants is an ongoing challenge for me.
4) May my tongue speak for those who are poor without fear of the powerful. My life’s work has been advocating on behalf of people who are marginalized and voiceless. It may look like I have no fear of the powerful, but the truth is my stomach still clenches when I read this line of the Prayer because I do fear the powerful. I also know how important it is to speak truth to power.
5) May I risk reputation, comfort and security to bring this hope to the children. When I started working with people who have disabilities thirty years ago, I was taught to ask, “Is this what I want for myself or my child?” I asked this question of human service providers, schools, stores, restaurants, etc. People who are vulnerable and do not have strong voices need others to take risks to ensure their safety and well-being. But first, I have to put myself in the position of the person who is vulnerable and look at every situation from that vantage point.

Prayer for the Decade of Nonviolence
I bow to the sacred in all creation.
May my spirit fill the world with beauty and wonder.
May my mind seek truth with humility and openness.
May my heart forgive without limit.
May my love for friend, enemy and outcast be without measure.
May my needs be few and my living simple.
May my actions bear witness to the suffering of others.
May my hands never harm a living being.
May my steps stay on the journey of justice.
May my tongue speak for those who are poor without fear of the powerful.
May my prayers rise with patient discontent until no child is hungry.
May my life’s work be a passion for peace and nonviolence.
May my soul rejoice in the present moment.
May my imagination overcome death and despair with new possibility.
And may I risk reputation, comfort and security to bring this hope to the children.