What’s Holding Us Back?
If you could have it your way, would you opt out of going through trials and troubles in life, and take the road of sunny skies and good fortune? Or do you think you’d miss the occasional mishaps that come your way?
Essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his Conduct of Life collection, discusses why adversity adds to our power, saying that “we acquire the strength we have overcome.” Struggle doesn’t always go completely to waste, but is usually something we only appreciate in hindsight. We may eventually look back and be glad we learned lessons the hard way, because they made us stronger. On the other hand, we unfortunately also learn there are some things we don’t want to ever experience ever, ever again—like pain, loss or broken trust.
And that’s where fear comes it. When faced with tough situations that we or someone we know has gone through before, it’s hard to think that we’d actually want to go through them again. Our first thoughts don’t usually digest challenges as strength-building processes. Instead, our tendency is to resort to protecting ourselves by either avoiding situations we don’t want repeated, repressing bad memories or otherwise coping with fear.
In psychology, these actions of self-protection are referred to as defense mechanisms. Despite the temporary comfort, over time, these walls that we put up begin to harm us more than they protect us, and hinder our relationships. We lose trust in people, dodge fearful situations and tend to shield ourselves through life and prevent ourselves from living fully alive. Don’t we want to develop true and lasting strength? Don’t we want to change this world rather than hide from it?
Riding the wave of our fears
Surfer Derek Rabelo, born blind, dreamed of surfing the Pipeline in Hawaii. His success inspired his peers, and he thanks God for helping him through the ups and downs of life.
Rather than running in the other direction when faced with hardship, we can use them to launch us forward. Sometimes the things we fear the most are what we need to level up to something more: loving the people who have done us wrong, speaking up, letting life take its course and trusting in God. When we do what we are resisting, we’re no longer being passive or weak; we’re actually living with intentionality.
Father Moon, founder of the Unification faith, said, “Even if you experience lonely times when you feel you have no power within, do not get discouraged. Know that through such periods, you could overcome all the valleys of your life. A reason why God lets you go through this process is that He wants you to realize something very important and significant. If you face a period of difficulty or loneliness, you can overcome the period with faith that is rooted in the conviction that God loves you and has been protecting and encouraging you. Go through the period with this faith, and once you overcome it, you will receive great blessings. After you experience this several times, you will never doubt God’s Will nor wonder about your destiny.”
What are some ways you feel you are being guided to build up your own strength?
Self-Check: What’s Your Fear Factor?
Elizabeth Eckford was among the first African Americans to join an all-white high school in 1957. The social attack from the majority of whites toward African Americans at this time was something Elizabeth had good reason to fear, but her decision to face it paved the way for America to heal its racial prejudice.
1. Have you ever felt like nothing was going your way? Perhaps life wasn’t acting against you, rather you acted against life. Resistance gives us a sense of control, but this illusion of strength is actually inflexibility, and a bit of fear. Little by little, we make that our comfort zone and can’t handle much beyond it. This doesn’t mean we can’t have our own idea of where we want to go, but sometimes surrender and vulnerability can open us up to greater possibilities.
2. Have you ever felt like you just don’t care anymore? Sometimes we toughen up against life’s setbacks by letting go of any hope or ambition, so they won’t be shattered. Or, we see bad things happening around us, but we just walk on by. We adopt a mentality of indifference because we feel that, by pouring out our hearts, we will get hurt, too. The truth is, however, that we feel for a reason. It hurts sometimes, but recognizing that it does is the first step to stepping up to make a change.
3. Have you ever tried to love someone, but something about them just bothered you too much? Perhaps this is a reflection of something in yourself that you are not comfortable or satisfied with, and by loving that person, you can either change yourself, or accept yourself, in a way you never could before.
Hiding from our problems doesn’t help us, nor does it help the world, and when we shut out the world, we run the risk of shutting God out too. We can regain true strength by examining our walls, finding God on the other side, and going through life outwardly and fearlessly, with the confidence that our Heavenly Parent has got our backs.