Sunday, December 16, 2012
Are You Responding Out of Love or Fear?
I realized, a couple of decades ago, that I would on occasion agree to do something, do whatever it took to do that thing and at some point realize I felt angry at the person who asked me to do it. I found that confusing and would argue with myself that I agreed to do it and therefore had no right to feel resentful. As I began to increase my self-awareness, I realized that I seemed to have two motivators for agreeing to do things. One was love and the other fear. I wish I could say the difference between doing things out of love or fear was easy to discern. It requires staying tuned into yourself and attending to your thoughts.
I think a great deal about the fact that the greatest minds of philosophy and religion have encouraged us to love ourselves. Buddha said you must have compassion for all living beings, starting with yourself. Jesus said to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.
I taught myself to stop to think about whether I really wanted to do something or not. I would only allow myself to do something if I was doing it because I really wanted to out of love for the other person and for me. You probably think I became very selfish if I only did things "when I felt like it". Truthfully, I think I became more giving. I know I experience much less anger. In stopping to think about what I was being asked to do, I considered my feelings for that person and why they might be asking something of me. I thought about my own needs. I began to realize that my initial reaction of "well, I better or they won't think I am a good friend (parent, employee, spouse)", could actually change to a heartfelt, "I would love to!" simply by attending to my thoughts. As I thought about my feelings and my desire to be a loving compassionate person, the fear would disappear. My motivator became love.
When I do something out of my fear, I will end up feeling taken advantage of which then leads to resentment. If I store up enough of that it can build to a "full head of steam" of righteous anger (see earlier posts on grudges). Often the results are not what I intended if I am motivated by fear. If you ask or tell me to do something and I do it because I want you to like me or I am worried for any reason about what will happen if I don't, I am responding out of fear. I may find myself feeling taken advantage of or not respected. My fear turns to anger. You might sense my ambivalence and start reacting negatively toward me out of your own fear or anger.
Before I became aware of my own thoughts and motivations, if you asked me a question and I was afraid to be completely forthright, I might end up behaving in a defensive or even aggressive manner towards you. My fear was being translated into angry behavior. I see this in those around me. It is confusing until I think about the motivations for behavior. If we are afraid of losing something, whether it be a possession, respect, or a relationship, we can get defensive and even aggressive. If we do not think about the motivators for behavior, we may end up wrongly believing we have done something to create the other persons behavior when they are dealing with their fears.
If I am motivated by fear, I am in a place of insecurity. I look at those around me and see my fellow travelers cloaked in total defensiveness at times. If I respond aggressively to their fear, feelings between us can escalate. If I respond by being aware of what lies beneath the defensiveness or passive aggressive behavior (fear), my compassion and love towards others will surface. It seems our culture breeds insecurity, fear and defensiveness. We are afraid if we do not perform as expected we will lose love, prestige, employment, etc.
If I am in a place of love, what happens? If I agree to do something out of love it feels good. I am not doing it because you might be mad if I don't. I am doing it becauses I want to. I will not build up rage or resentment if I choose this path. I have found that if I simply acknowledge my thoughts about doing something, I end up saying yes as much if not more and do not build up anger. Being present in all we do, and chosing consciously to always respond out of love will lead to peace and love in our hearts.