One of the most common statements I hear when working with clients is “I don’t understand why this issue keeps coming up. I thought I’d resolved this already.” Almost always, the issue at hand is Fear.
- We are afraid of success.
- We are afraid of failure.
- We are afraid of not having enough money.
- We are afraid of having too much money.
- We are afraid no one will notice us.
- We are afraid everyone will notice us.
Obviously, these fears are irrational. But that fact doesn’t stop fear from creating resistance and stagnation in our lives.
Here’s the story I share when client’s are threatening to beat themselves up for having to deal with the same issue repeatedly:
On October 2, 2006 a milk truck driver walked into an Amish schoolhouse near my hometown in Pennsylvania. He had a shotgun, a stun gun, nails, lumber, wires, chains, duct tape and a tube of personal lubricant among other things. He ordered all the boys out of the school and locked himself in with the girls and female teacher.
Before finally killing himself, he had shot 10 of the girls, ages 6-13, killing 5 of them. For anyone close to the Amish community it was an unimaginable tragedy.
What followed in the hours and days after the shooting was almost more shocking than the massacre itself.
Immediately the Amish families banded together, including the newly grieving parents, and traveled to the home of the shooter’s widow.
They wanted to let her and her children know that they forgave her husband for his terrible crimes. They brought her casseroles and pies. They hugged her and cried with her.
Days later, Amish attendees flooded the killer’s funeral to show support for his family. They even set up a college fund for his kids.
Their capacity for forgiveness astounded the world.
When I finally was able to listen to an interview of one of the victim’s fathers (the Amish are not known for their love of media attention), his explanation floored me. I’ll never forget it.
He was asked how he could so easily forgive the man who killed his daughter. He smiled patiently and spoke softly.
It is anything but easy. Everyday I wake up with the same rage and grief for what I’ve lost. Everyday I am faced with the decision to forgive or to hate. Everyday I must begin the process all over again. It never gets easier.”
Every. Fucking. Day.
It’s not the answer I wanted to hear, believe me. But it still chokes me up when I think about it. And it continues to inspire me to carry on when things get tough. If this man can face his awful decision with such courage and faith every morning, who am I to complain when my issues of fear or resistance reappear in my life?
In his book Do The Work Steven Pressfield explains that fear must be faced on a daily basis, “The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”
There is much truth in Mr. Pressfield’s words, but I would suggest taking a less militant approach. Fighting a battle implies resistance, and I strongly believe that what we resist persists.
Maybe we can try forgiveness instead.
Fear is a healthy emotion. It protects us from dinosaurs and fire-breathing dragons. It suggests we not walk down that dark alley at night. It keeps us alert as we’re doing 80 MPH down the expressway. It is not our enemy.
But we also have many irrational fears that interrupt our creativity and ability to produce anything meaningful. And we struggle with having to face these fears over and over and over again. We get angry with ourselves, and at fear. Then we sit in a corner and sulk.
What if you came from the space of forgiving yourself on a daily basis? What if the first thing you did in the morning was to give yourself permission to feel all those fears…then to make the decision to do those scary things anyway?
There is nothing special about that grieving Amish father. He does not possess any secret knowledge or ancient techniques. He is simply aware that there is a decision to be made each day. And he has made a commitment to himself to make the best decision he can as often as he is able.
Can you make that same commitment? What would change in your work if you did? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.