The Friday Mirror will return, I promise. What I have to give tonight is somewhat different from the Friday Mirror. Feel free to reflect on your week, spend some time writing this weekend (as I will), and know that the Mirror will be back soon.
“Courage is being willing to at what you’re afraid of, truly look at it, and engage with it…and choose to act with courage even though you still feel fear.” Marianne Elliot
“True love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18; the New Testament of the Bible)
According to Ms. Elliot—an extraordinarily courageous woman, herself—to be brave is to live with fear. Not to be driven by it, not to be forced into a smaller, less expansive place by it, but to live with it. To live with the fear, and moreover, to turn towards the part of us that is afraid.
Turning towards the fear within us and letting it know that there is not—assuming there isn’t—an imminent, physical threat is powerful. It is physical attention that gets around our mind’s terror and automatic thoughts—getting in touch with our body’s feelings, to breathe regularly and deeply and simply, and to rest where we are.
Feel where your feet are. Feel where your butt is. What part of you is connecting with the floor or ground? And continue to breathe—regularly, deeply, and simply—and rest where you are.
We cannot always think our way out of fear. In fact, coming through awareness of the body into a calmer, more centered place is much more effective than any thinking, logical process.
Where does love come into all this?
I believe that fear responds to love. That love does not cast fear out as one might imagine a demon being cast out in an exorcism. Rather, love can reassure the parts of us which are afraid.
Love for ourselves; love for those closest to us can help us take bigger, more courageous steps that we have ever before imagined. How does this work?
Love brings care. It is care, the desire to nurture and protect, that can help us live with fear and hear what its concerns are. It is care that leads people to lay down their lives, fortunes, and reputations for others. Care, the fierce desire to nurture and protect the beloved, is the shortest way to courage.
Cultivating love, then, cultivating care, is one way to cultivate courage. Furthermore, love, true love for ourselves and others, brings integrity along with it. Again, if we love ourselves, if we care for ourselves, then we will set boundaries and make commitments that honor and nurture ourselves. Here is the maxim I learned from Jonathan White: Love ourselves but not only ourselves; love others, but not only others. To love ourselves but not only ourselves and to love others but not only others is to love with integrity.
Living with integrity lets us love ourselves and others, both. Integrity happens when we set boundaries and make commitments that are life-honoring. Integrity happens when we own our mistakes and take responsibility for our actions. Integrity, too, helps us look at, live with, inquire into, and let go of fear.
If we know we can trust ourselves—that is to say, if we know we are persons of integrity—then we can walk through and past fear. We can know that our choices are life-honoring and that fear does not get the final say.