With the recent violence in our country and elsewhere in the world, the conversation on what our response should be is very controversial. Should we respond with love? Should we respond with aggression? Should we close our borders? Should we enact stricter gun control laws? We seem to be polarized on the issues, with strong opinions on both sides. Who is right and who is wrong?
When we feel threatened, we can tend to choose one of three pseudo-solutions: aggression, submission, or withdrawal. While we may justify our attitudes and behavior as essential to our safety, these defenses are actually distorted versions of three valid, healthy responses: courage, love, and serenity.
The Courage to set a boundary and respond with appropriate action.
The strength of Love to feel compassion and concern for the situation of the other.
The Serenity to keep a cool head and draw on wisdom to negotiate a solution that supports all parties.
When we are defended, we are in distortion, and we see these three qualities as mutually exclusive. If our personality type favors the aggression defense, we often perceive an act of real love as weak submission. If we tend to choose the submission defense, we are likely to view those who would set healthy boundaries as cold-hearted aggressors. If we prefer the withdrawl approach, we are likely to be in judgment of both of these responses, and detach from the whole situation. We can spend endless hours arguing which defense is the RIGHT course of action, when they are all just different flavors of the same ice cream. All pseudo-solutions actually end up attracting the very behavior that they were intended to protect against.
The divine qualities of Courage, Love, and Serenity, on the other hand, depend on one another and are inclusive of one another. We can set healthy boundaries and take necessary action while at the same time holding others in compassion and love. We can choose a thoughtful response informed by serenity and wisdom, rather than an overblown emotional reaction or a shutdown detachment.
Courageous action is not the same as arrogant aggression.
Compassionate love is not the same as weak submission.
Serenity is not the same as detached withdrawl.
Our divine gifts are not our defenses.
When we relinquish our defenses and bring our divine gifts to the table, there is no problem we can’t solve. It takes some practice however, and a good deal of inner awareness to begin to distinguish between a distorted defense and a healthy response. Often we can have both currents running through us at the same time, which complicates things even more. For instance, if courage is our strength we may sense the real need for appropriate boundary setting, and yet our action ends up reflecting an aggressive response due to our overwhelming fear. Love may be our divine gift, and yet our fear leads us to act in people pleasing ways that encourage abuse and victimization. Serenity may be our greatest strength, but we turn our backs on others rather than risk experiencing the emotions we would inevitably have to feel if we got involved.
This world desperately needs our willingness to do the inner soul searching necessary to find this balance within ourselves, so we can then bring it to others. It is possible. It is challenging. It requires commitment, intention, and humility. The Pathwork offers a powerful process that enables us to identify and transform our defenses, so that we can embody our true gifts and fulfill our true purpose in life. We learn that the only way we can be safe is to live aligned with the authentic, powerful love that incorporates healthy boundaries and necessary action, as well as compassion, concern, and serenity.
As we approach the Christmas holiday, a time of love, peace, hope, and joy, my prayer is that we become willing to do the hard work of listening for the grain of truth and wisdom in the other’s perspective, the honesty to discern the difference between our defended reactions and our healthy motives, and the faith we need to surrender our distorted motives and bring forth our divine gifts. This is what Christ taught us. This is what we are here to learn.