Most people's unpleasant behaviors (one-upmanship, being overly cautious or too eager to please, dishonesty, bullying, gossip, curtness, micromanaging, etc.) stem from fear. Fear of lack or loss, fear of weakness, fear of rejection or exclusion, fear of suffering or failure, fear of isolation and death. The most powerful antidote to fear is love - and not mere human affection and kindness, which is not always enough to permeate a fear, but the presence of Love itself. When wrestling with challenging behaviors in yourself or others, begin by feeling Love as a presence, holding and soothing our deepest fears, forgiving us, holding us in acceptance, waking us up, meeting our needs, speaking to each of us specifically in ways we can understand. The Bible says, "God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
Our human minds easily compare ourselves to others or to our own standards, find ourselves wanting, and then think we are unworthy of love. Today, bask in the Love that loves without judgment, that rejoices in you as you are, who does not compare or withdraw love as a punishment for underperformance or misbehavior. This Love delights in you. This Love gives you room to make mistakes, learn, and grow. Love's affection is enormous, all embracing, and a safe place for you to rest.
In a digitally connected world, where we have access to stories of remarkable people doing remarkable work, we can easily undervalue our own lives.
Today, consciously give respect to the tasks that are yours to accomplish, to the circle of people you have been given to love, to your areas of passion and expertise. Inspired visionaries do shape and shift our world - and so do less visible people, devoted to the work in front of them, attending to their lives and circle of influence with integrity and care. Have respect for your life.
Sometimes what our busy human mind believes is required of us and what Love is calling us to do is different. Today, pause. Feel Love loving you. Feeling Love loving all. Let yourself be part of Love's activity. Move forward, willing to be surprised by meaningful interruptions, a sudden awareness of your true priorities, the arising of a long buried dream that is calling for attention . . . Your job is not to fulfill everyone else's expectations or to meet your own impossible, arbitrary, and unnecessary human standards. Instead, be curious, joyful, surprised. See Love work. Learn stuff.
Today, have a more realistic sense of what you can and cannot do for others. Acknowledge that each person is on their own path and has their own journey. Your kindness and compassion is invaluable, and sometimes you will be the person to say just the right words or offer just the right support at the right time, but each person's journey is their own and may be a mystery to you. Sometimes your faith in another's capacity is what they most need.
Sometimes we can use our care for others, which can be all consuming, as a way to avoid taking responsibility for what needs attention in our own lives. Attending to our own issues will build wisdom and health, provide a roadmap for others, and make us more capable of providing real help when called upon.
Today, practice accepting love. Open yourself to Love loving you. Let in that divine Love and care. Don't turn it away out of habit, doubt, old scripts, confusion, a lingering sense you aren't worthy or are forgotten. Accept kindnesses, love, affection, and gifts - large and little - from others. Be less suspicious of goodness given to you.
The therapy technique of tapping, or EFT, utilizes self-acceptance phrasing as part of the treatment. "Even though I'm feeling anxious, I completely and deeply love and accept myself." "Even though I'm feeling shame about ________, I completely and deeply love and accept myself." "Even though I haven't accomplished _______, I completely and deeply love and accept myself."
Today, whenever a fear or a self-judgment arises, practice this phrasing. Do not fear this will make you complacent. When we embrace ourselves in love, we gain courage and wisdom and energy to see what actually needs to be done and to do it. Anxiety and shame fool and inhibit us.
Today, let go of feeling overly responsible for other people's feelings and well-being. Trust in other's journeys and their own capacities. Recognize that some of your need to care for others might be compulsive, based on too much responsibility in childhood, a false belief that your own worth and safety depends on managing others and fulfilling their needs. Of course, be kind and generous, but as much as possible, do this with respect for others self-sufficiency and from a sense of your own wholeness. Have deep compassion for yourself on your way to this ideal.
Today, take baby steps in facing fears. For example, I had a car accident quite a while ago, but I'm still nervous while I drive, particularly while changing lanes. Today, I'm going to take a baby step and change lanes a few more times than necessary. You might take one step on a project on which you have been procrastinating or write a true, uncomfortable feeling in your journal or give someone a compliment you've been too shy to say. Maybe you will research a class you want to take but have been afraid to try. Maybe you will speak up in a meeting. Maybe you will be alone with your thoughts for five minutes. The one-small step strategy, done regularly, is powerful: it builds your courage muscles; it is gentle and doable and kind; it will result in a more expansive life.
Tarn Wilson is the author of the memoir The Slow Farm and numerous essays. You may read more of her work at tarnwilson.com.