She didn’t aim an Uzi at us in staff meetings, but if words could kill, we’d be all dead. Working for a crazy lady who struck the fear of God into her employees whenever the mood struck was terrifying. This woman was so difficult to work for that 19 of her 22 employees quit within a period of three months. Each time someone walked out through the revolving door, the remaining few would stare at each other and ask ourselves, “Why? Why are we still here?”
My answer came in a profound journal entry at the end of my first three months when I was struggling over whether to stay or to go:
“If you can stay and be happy, then by all means, you should stay for there is much for you to learn. If you cannot stay and be happy, then by all means leave, because to stay in a situation in which you are not happy does not benefit you or anyone else.”
Words to live by. My choice. I decide.
I stayed, and for the next five years and learned life-changing lessons from an unbelievable teacher of love and fear.
One evening after a particularly brutal verbal assault, I went directly from work to a weekly workshop series that I had been attending. Still reeling from her most recent verbal attack just hours prior, I sat myself down and tried to settle in. The workshop leader began with a simple exercise in which she invited us to close our eyes and imagine a situation in which we felt fearful. No problem. I was right there—in it!
After a few moments, we were asked to switch gears from a state of fear and imagine a situation in which we experienced love. It was in that moment that I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life. Love and fear cannot coexist. While in a state of fear, it is absolutely impossible to experience love. As hard as I tried, I was not able to move beyond fear and find love.
That memory reignited the realization that in today’s challenging world, fear is running rampant in our lives. It makes me wonder—if just one person can strike fear into the heart of just one other person (me!), or into the staff of an entire company, imagine the mayhem caused by fear running amuck on a global scale.
My experience in that exercise was a turning point in my life. My journal rambling was right; there were lessons to learn, if I was willing to hang in there long enough to learn them. Either I control my thoughts, or my thoughts control me.
Just as I was confronted with a choice point about love or fear so many years ago, it seems apparent that we are all being confronted with the same question and asked to make a choice now. We can either add to the world turmoil with fear, or we can help to dissolve it with love.
Love and fear cannot coexist.
The mind can hold only one thought at a time.
If your life depended on it, would you be able to choose love?
And with that question, I will stop writing and start pondering about what love is. Compassion, forgiveness, understanding, empathy, non-judgmentalism, acceptance of self and others, acknowledgement that we are all one. If what we think is what we get, rest assured—I’ll be thinking love.
Will you? I hope so!