We cannot escape a certain level of anxiety. It is a very certain element of interrelating with others; be it at work or at home or with friends.
For some this anxiety is minimal and manageable; even unnoticed. For others, this anxiety is quite uncomfortable or severe. Kierkegaard (philosopher-theologian) said of anxiety; no grand inquisitor has in readiness such terrible tortures as has anxiety… choosing the instant [one] is weakest… to lay traps where [one] will be caught and ensnared (The Concept of Anxiety, 1844).
Many find themselves occasionally searching for some calm respite; a sense of peacefulness. And what I`d like to address here is that often times, too often, our solutions have the opposite effect.
In my experience as a pastor (especially in couple and family counselling), when feelings of anxiety overcome a sense of peace, people will close down and become self protective. They will, if their anxieties increase too rapidly, resort to an almost narcissistic level of defending themselves. It is in essence, a ‘fight or flight’ response that will intensify depending upon the level of perceived challenge. More often than not, this reaction is overkill and makes matters worse. Consequently, at that point, Peace, true Peace, becomes an unlikely possibility.
Peace doesn’t come from controlling our circumstances. That kind of peacefulness is best called safety. And safety is circumstantial. We know too well that just when we think we have a situation under control, something bulldozes the landscape.
For me, for many, true Peace is found only when we turn our energies towards being people of Peace. In other words, the Peace that we want to feel inside is discovered when we become that Peace on the outside, and within the circumstances of our life. Peace is not so much an inviting space outside of ourselves, as it is a warm reality that we carry within us. And to activate it, we must share it.
This path to Peace is counter intuitive. It seems only right that we make of our life what we can; including a peaceful space for our selves. So to consider Peace as something shared instead of something made, we must act contrary to seasoned reason.
I have come to appreciate the depth of meaning in the simple words of this well known and well repeated prayer attributed to St. Francis; make me a channel of your peace…where there’s hated let me sow love…where there is despair, hope… where there is sadness, joy…may I not so much seek to be consoled, as to console …for in giving, we receive… and in letting go our life that we find it.
Mother Teresa, missionary and winner of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, publicly recognized this prayer’s profound truth when she taught; so let us be one heart, full of love in the heart of God and so share the joy of loving by sharing, helping, loving and serving each other.
As I see it, learned through trial and error, the truth of this seemingly counter intuitive path to Peace, is not known until it is practiced. So, I pray you well in your journey. May your new year be one of Peace.