WHENEVER YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON SOMETHING CREATES EMOTIONAL PAIN, IT’S ALWAYS BECAUSE YOUR PERSPECTIVE IS STILL SO NARROW THAT YOU’VE YET TO SEE ALL THE GOOD IT WILL MAKE POSSIBLE. BECAUSE IT WILL. ALWAYS. (MIKE DOOLEY)
A weekly tradition in my church is to end the service with a final song that concludes with the words, “Now there is peace on earth and it has begun with me.” However, it is devilishly (deliberately wry adjective) difficult to actually remain at peace. I could be excused for being not at all peaceful when mistreated in a heartless or even malicious manner. Or to experience emotional turmoil when my water heater fails and floods my garage floor, or someone breaks the window of my car and steals my stereo system, or the lump I have been worried about turns out to be malignant.
Nevertheless, at any of these points, according to the quote above from Dooley, it actually is my perspective that “creates emotional pain.” The philosopher, Victor Frankl’s, time in a Nazi internment camp led him to discover a shining oft-quoted truth:
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
In other words, my response to a circumstance rather than the circumstance itself creates positive or destructive energy.
The survivor of a shipwreck was stranded on a desert island. He had gathered the few remnants from the sunken ship that had drifted to the shore, assembled some reeds and branches into a ramshackle lean-to, continually nursed a small fire that he had somehow managed to ignite, and spent his daylight hours in a continual struggle for survival.
One day the man was searching for food along a distant beach when he noticed smoke billowing up in the direction of his little encampment. He raced to the scene and discovered that his cooking fire had gotten out of control and had completely devoured his small miserable collection of belongings. The man sat on a log holding his head in his hand, bitterly grieving his loss. Suddenly he realized that his downcast eyes were looking at two pairs of boots. Glancing up, he was astonished to see two sailors sanding in front of him.
“Where did you come from?” the man asked. “From that ship,” the sailors responded, pointing to a vessel that lay just offshore. “How did you find me?” the man asked. “We saw your signal fire.”
The story assists me in deliberately maintaining an attitude of peace in the face of any alarming, disappointing, or malicious event or circumstance by regarding it as a summons calling up resources from my spirit, vital energies from the dynamic universe about me, and powerful energies of grace from a benevolent God. As a result, distress, anxiety, and anger evaporate under the warmth of emotional uplift that comes from a sense of assurance that good will surely come to my expectant heart. As someone said, “Everything will be fine in the end. So if everything isn’t fine then this isn’t the end.” Joel Osteen wrote:
Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed, or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness.
I was delighted when my friend Lisa Bass observed, “Disgust is a negative emotion but it can have a positive effect. When are you going to be sick and tired of being sick and tired?” It’s all about attitudes and intentions we cultivate in our minds. I love the little ditty:
“Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.” (Ritu Ghatourey)
After all, grace means receiving from the hand of a benevolent God (or Source) gifts and blessings that I don’t deserve and bestowing upon others gifts and blessings that they don’t deserve. Therefore, I’ve discovered how possible it really is to channel that grace into evolving my own spirit and then naturally creating and maintaining relationships and responses that are commonly at “bulletproof” levels of peace. “Now there is peace…. And it has begun with me.” I’m going to keep it going.