When Fear Goes, Wisdom Comes

We all experience fear in our lives; some more than others, some less. When we are young, our fears are usually of the boogeyman variety, or of being left alone to fend for ourselves. As we get older, those childhood fears morph into more realistic forms, such as being in debt, not able to find a job, worry about loved ones, and so on. Often fear masks itself in anger or acting out. We are deeply afraid, can’t seem to do anything about it, and then lash out in anger in order to have some kind of control over it. Too often, we take out our fears and anger on the ones we love the most.

It’s no coincidence that the great mystics and wise people of the world are and have been long in years. They have come to realize that holding grudges against real or imagined slights harms us, not the other person. They know that everyone loses in a war, and that peace is a fragile and elusive thing that must be nurtured and practiced minute to minute. They have seen the damage that hatred and fear causes, and know how the universal whole suffers when one person suffers. They have come to know that infinite amounts of money have no safety or power when hoarded, but can do great good when used wisely. They understand through experience that it is far easier to live in forgiveness and tolerance than in anger and frustration.

This is not to say that they have given up; it is that they see a better way to live and to share knowledge. They see that youth can in general be hasty, selfish and callous; that it takes years to build a good life, and that there is a price to pay for inattention and carelessness. They have learned through experience what it takes to live well and in harmony; they have made mistakes and learned from them. In short, they are of the ‘measure twice, cut once’ variety.

I believe it takes years to fully develop into the people we are meant to be. It takes making mistakes and living with the consequences to learn what to do and what not to do. With hope, we will retain that knowledge and keep growing in the direction we need to take. We can’t berate ourselves for not being perfect every second of every day, either. But we must keep our eyes on the who and the what we want to be.

Sometimes we are in a position where we can’t yet put our needs and desires first; perhaps we have children to raise or elderly parents to care for or other circumstances that keep us from moving ahead–for the time being. But there is great nobility and grace in doing the right thing at the right time; we temporarily shelve our own desires to help someone else first. Our own time will come, and putting others first for the time being can actually make us better suited to what we want to do when our responsibilities are lighter.

There is a lot to be said for things happening at the right time, too. I keep catching myself saying things such as, ‘oh, if I had only done this 20 years ago,’ or ‘why didn’t I think more about the future when I was younger,’ and so on. Here’s the thing: 20 years ago was probably the worst time to do this, that or the other thing. It takes time, thought and experience to get us to the place where we are ready and responsive to the next step in our lives. I have learned to say to myself, ‘THIS is exactly the right time. I couldn’t have done this any earlier than now.’

I think of Grandma Moses, whose folk art paintings are masterful snapshots of a bygone time and are cherished by so many. The woman did not even pick up a paint brush until she was in her 70s! The great success of her work speaks for itself. If that doesn’t send a positive message of doing things at the right time, I don’t know what does.

So, message to you and to me; let’s give ourselves a break and not keep “shoulding” on ourselves. If our circumstances dictate that we need to care for a loved one in our home, or take an extra job to make ends meet; anything that may keep our dreams temporarily on hold–it is only that–TEMPORARY. By the time we have the time to do what we want, it will be the perfect time. Believe it.





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