Choosing Love: How to Cope With Fearful Times
photos courtesy of Scarlett Lewis and pirtuss/Shutterstock.com
by Scarlett Lewis
It’s hard to make sense of some of the troubling things we see on TV and read about in the news. Our kids ask us, “Why are these things happening?” It’s an important question and it all comes down to two competing feelings: fear versus love.
When we see disturbing images such as school shootings or political opponents attacking one another, it cultivates anxiety, which is epidemic in our society. When left untreated, it can lead to negative outcomes including substance abuse, depression, suicide and violence. Often, we look to those in perceived power to solve these issues. Perhaps what we haven’t considered is that these are not political issues; rather, they are issues of the heart and only we can solve them.
So we continue to see pain and suffering played out before us. We feel powerless and this feeds our unease. Our personal safety is a priority and external safety measures sometimes fail. If we don’t feel safe, nothing else matters. There is a solution. The opposite of anxiety and fear is love. When we examine the trajectory of most societal ills, there is often an arc of loneliness, depression, isolation and often abuse.
From a young age, we can learn to choose love as a thoughtful response to any situation. When we do this, we take back our personal power. We become part of the solution to the issues we see, and science tells us that others will do the same.
There is a formula for choosing love. It starts with courage. My son Jesse was a 6-year-old boy who stood up to the shooter that came into his first-grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School and saved nine of his classmates’ lives before losing his own. We all have that courage within us: the courage to be kind, to speak our truth, to do the right thing.
We can only have one thought at a time, so we can shift our thinking by replacing a negative thought with a grateful one. Forgiving helps us to take back our personal power and is a gift we give ourselves. It is the foundation of healthy relationships that lead to greater happiness and connection in our lives. Compassion in action helps us step outside our own busyness, distraction and even pain to help others.
When we do this, we’re choosing love and helping to create a safer, more peaceful and loving world. When we model the practice of these character values as a thoughtful response for our children, they grow up to do the same.
Scarlett Lewis is the founder of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure every child has access to social and emotional education and support. Connect with her at [email protected].