Our world today seems fraught with fear and anxiety. The media seems to peddle fear and pharmaceutical companies urge you to go ask your doctor about pills for depression and anxiety. If it isn’t ebola or shingles, it is weather catastrophies or falling debris from the latest rocket explosion or mid-air plane collision or some comet approaching Mars. If you watch the nightly news, you might also fear the Russians, the invasion of immigrants from Mexico and perhaps even lone wolves from Isis. Commercial ads are no better. They would like you to believe that your social life will be forever ruined if you have either urine leakage or acne or don’t drive just the right vehicle. Lawyer ads tell you to mistrust all the insurance carriers and insurers suggest your family will be left in ruin if you don’t buy their product.
All we really want is peace. We don’t necessarily even expect to ever see world peace; we just want personal, interior peace. Peace is simplicity of spirit, serenity of conscience, tranquility of the soul and the bond of love. Peace is order; it is the harmony in each one of us; it is a continual joy that is born in a clear conscience. It is the joy of a heart. This peace nobody can take from us.
Never let your heart be troubled, saddened, agitated or involved in anything that can cause it to lose its peace. Well that is certainly easier said than done! Disquietude is the most frequent reason why we lose our interior peace and with the constant bombardment from the media, that interior peace might seem to be an impossibility. You may never have heard this quote attributed to its author, Saint Teresa of Avila, but you have probably heard the quote, none-the-less. “Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing affright you. All things are passing.” For me, it brings to mind another phrase often heard in stories but that has generally fallen into disuse: “And it came to pass…” Things come and they pass. While you are in the midst of the fray or dealing with a problem or listening to the news or watching the commercials, however, it seems there is no end.
Yet there are people who seem imperturbable. Nothing seems to upset them. They remain calm in the storm. It is not that their lives are without problems or even heart-ache, but they seem always to be at peace. What do they have or what do they know that others don’t. I would suggest to you several things: Freedom, Detachment, Humility, Confidence, and Love.
Freedom consists in not being attached to anything. It isn’t that you can’t have anything, only that you are not attached to the things you have. If losing your things would cause you to lose your peace, you are not free. You are bound to that thing. It has a hold over you. That says you want this thing for your own sake. You will somehow be injured or less if you do not have this thing. Advertisers want you to buy into this thinking. It is a very frequent pitch! But that attachment makes us fearful of losing something, makes us cautious to safeguard it and disquiets us. The measure of our interior peace then will be that of our abandonment, of our detachment.
There is a second principle to detachment: Not only must we be careful to want and desire good things for their own sake and not our own, but also to want and desire them in a way that is good, to be attentive not only to what we want, but also to the way in which we want it. Our wanting must always be caring, peaceful, patient, and detached. As far as all our desires and our wishes are concerned, the sign that we are in accordance with this principle, is not only that the thing desired is good, but it is also that we are at peace. If any desire causes us to lose peace, even if the thing desired is excellent in itself, the desire is not good.
Peace is also born of humility and humility is the virtue of knowing ourselves well. Perhaps nothing troubles us as much as pride and the esteem that we have for ourselves. What does it tell us about ourselves if we experience some imperfection and then find ourselves surprised or troubled by it and impatient with ourselves? Without doubt, it is that we think ourselves to be something good, resolute and solid; and, when we see, effectively, that this is not entirely true, that we are mistaken, we feel troubled, offended and ill at ease. If we knew ourselves well, rather than being flabbergasted to find ourselves on the ground, we would wonder how we ever manage to remain standing. The trouble, sadness and discouragement that we feel regarding our failures and our faults are rarely pure. Our pain or discomfort is very often that of wounded pride! This pain is actually a sign that we have put our trust in ourselves – in our own strength, and it is disquieting to realize our strength has failed us. We want to be aware of our shortcomings, but with tranquility and peace, not in a way that makes us fretful and troubled. We want to have the patience to see our shortcomings and then to profit from them. Humility is honest self-knowledge and that engenders peace.
The next attribute is confidence. The heart does not awaken to confidence until it awakens to love, so these two attributes go together. Actually, confidence is a mixture of all the other attributes. A fundamental principle of confidence is the ability to truthfully say: “I will never become discouraged!” Discouragement causes us to give up; to feel powerless to accomplish any good. If we honestly know ourselves (humility), we know we are not powerless. Perhaps a more honest look at ourselves would suggest, “I am not capable of great things; so instead, I will do the small things!” Sometimes, because we are unable to do great things or the occasional heroic acts we see in others, we then neglect the things that are available to us daily and which are so fruitful for our progress and such a source of joy.
Sometimes our confidence is stunted by concern over potential failure or what others might think of us. Sometimes it is impacted by our own drive for perfection or excellence and unwillingness to accept anything less of ourselves. So detachment from that expectation or concern builds confidence. One of the principal obstacles one encounters on the way to confidence is the precipitous and impatient desire to progress and to possess those all virtues that we feel we don’t have. Be patient and calm and pacify these anxieties… Don’t allow yourself to become disheartened or discouraged if it appears that you are making no progress or if you should see that you are still subject to thoughts of pride and sad feelings. Perhaps your zeal was altogether good, but it had the defect of being a little harsh, a bit too urgent, a bit anxious and irritable. As long as you are busy with yourself, you will not make much progress. So to free yourself, simply strive to forget all these things. This is where love enters.
Love is a necessary condition for interior peace. In love there can be no fear; in fact, love casts out fear. So anyone who is afraid is still imperfect in love. A common reading at weddings is this definition of love. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
It is clear that love only resides in peace. Peace is not merely the absence of war. If we are impatient, unkind, resentful, or rude, that isn’t peaceful and that isn’t love. If we are irritable, or envious or happy about someone else’s misfortune, again that isn’t peaceful and that isn’t love. This applies whether we are talking about healthy self-love or love of another. These negative attributes arise from disordered attachments and self-interests.
True love is detached from concern over whether the love is returned. It is nice when that happens, but true love given is not dependent on the return of love. To give ourselves in this way, we must have a healthy and honest knowledge of ourselves and confidence in our goodness even if our love is rejected. This confidence brings freedom from fear and in this way, our hearts are at peace. So it is above all that our own hearts must change to bring peace.
Let Peace into Your Life.
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