Never Numbing Out; Overcome and Carry On

This is the first of four follow-up articles on the many facets of fear including a four-part Interview/Special Report with Rabbi Moshe Scheiner of Palm Beach Synagogue.

After I wrote about the paralysis of fear, its' numbing effects, and resultant feelings of powerlessness, it was pointed out to me that there was another, more intentional, response to fear beyond freeze, fight, and flight.  That response is loving persistence or courageous non-violence. It is evidenced in the Sermon on the Mount, as Jesus called for his followers when confronted by fear and violence to turn the other cheek.  This was not an instruction of pacifism.  Turning the other cheek was about demanding equality from a person of authority. This is the most measured and effective action that can be taken when fear, anger, and aggression show up.

Courageous non-violent cheek turners were named by Columbia University's School of Journalism as 2019 Pulitzer Prize winners on Monday, April 15th. One award went to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for exposing failings by officials before and after the deadly shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Another went to Staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for immersive, compassionate coverage of the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue that captured the anguish and resilience of a community thrust into grief.  These journalists stood strong for their communities and for us all in the face of fear and anger.  They exposed the truth and rejected the lure of moving on to other stories.  They refused to numb out.  The parent of a Parkland victim wrote South Florida Sun-Sentinel after Pulitzers were announced encouraging the paper to continue its' work saying there was still much to be done.  He can rest assured that they will carry on.

It takes a lot of guts to persist, to remain steadfast, and to overcome.  A courageous cheek turner must have the resolve of Gandhi, who when confronted by his jailers with threats intended to invoke fear replied; "They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me. Then they will have my dead body, but not my obedience.” But this is exactly the kind of response which will defeat fear in its' tracks.  We shall overcome. It is the essence of love.  And love refuses to capitulate.  It will not retaliate-in-kind.  It will not run away.  it will not numb out. Love is an action-choice made by the brave soul who finally rejects all notions of self in deference to the greater good.

A Recipe for Living

“Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.” ~ John Quincy Adams (Sixth U.S. President)

Life is unpredictable. Just when things seem to be going our way the rug gets pulled out from underneath us.  Good times become hard times.  Health issues crop up. Money once plentiful gets tight.  People leave us or die. When times get tough it is important to remember that everything will change. The ingredients needed to face these situations are courage to straightforwardly deal with them as they happen and perseverance in our efforts to overcome.

The fact that change will always occur can be as comforting as it is disturbing.  Happiness, joy, celebration, friendship, and abundance are every bit as certain as their counterparts.  When we begin to understand that God is not punishing or judging us and the power of love will conquer anything...courage and perseverance are not so hard to muster.  Life happens and God is never distant.  Like the Prodigal, we can take stock of what is happening and accept the unconditional embrace which is always waiting for us.

The Courage to Speak Up

Opportunities to be courageous present themselves every day.  These challenges often come with a little dose of fear.  This is not the significant fear faced on the battlefield, but that gnawing emotion which stops us from doing the right thing.  

Courage presents its opportunity to stand tall when we hear mean comments, character assassinations, racial slurs and demeaning jokes.  It shows up in conversations and in casual encounters.  The little doses of fear stem from our need to be liked, admired, appreciated and loved.  It takes real courage to deal with the possibility of rejection.  Sometimes we cave in and sacrifice beliefs we hold sacred but more often than not we just choose to keep our mouths shut.

“Courage has to do with our determination to be great. It has to do with what we decide in that moment when we are called upon to be more.”

Rita Dove

The decision to be silent is not much different than siding with a perpetrator.  We are witness to the effects of silence as victims of abuse come forward to tell their story.  So many people say nothing, even when facts are presented which are unimpeachable. 

The physical and emotional trauma borne by the wounded-one are magnified by all of the responsible people who somehow justify ‘not getting involved’.  We all have chances to be brave.  We can choose to face our fears by saying what should be said and rising up for those who are being injured.  In so doing, someone might stand with us when the tables are turned.

Today I will be courageous in my defense of those who are being injured and victimized.

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

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Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast