Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about an old friend of mine. His name is Lenny*. Lenny’s daughter and my son used to be in a play group together. Lenny was a stay at home dad at the time, and a group of parents from my neighborhood would get together once a week for playdates. Our kids shared toys, germs, and many ‘firsts’ (walking, stomach flu, you name it ;)).
Our children started kindergarten last week. A milestone for both kiddos and parents. As I have the privilege of being next to my son (literally) as he steps into this new phase of his life, Lenny does not. Lenny was shot and killed two years ago in a road rage incident. A fearful young woman took his life after a minor fender bender one February morning.
Before I go on, I should say that this post is not about gun violence or the second amendment. I do not intend to spark more fire into those already heated debates. Instead, this post is about taking action fueled by fear. The consequences of such actions and the ever lasting ripple effect.
Somewhere, years ago, a gun was made. It made it’s way to sale and was purchased. How it ended up in the hands of the young woman who killed my friend, I don’t know, but I have a gut feeling that she owned this gun out of fear. Somewhere along the story of her life, she convinced herself (or experienced such events that lead her to believe) she was in danger. She believed she needed a weapon to keep herself safe. Somewhere along the story of her life her heart closed so much that she started making choices based on fear. The outcome of which ended the life of an innocent father and left her with a prison sentence of more than 20 years.
I’m lucky. The fear based decisions I’ve made in life have not claimed the life of another person. But I have made them. I’ve said rotten things to other people and I’ve made decisions that have brought pain unto another person. I’ve spent a lot of time cleaning up messes I’ve made (or attempting to) all because I too have allowed fear to color my actions. My fear based actions were 100% a result of closing off my heart space to another person. Of isolating. Of deeming my livelihood as more important than theirs. In some cases I knew exactly what I was doing and wanted to bring ‘pain’ to another person (it’s awful, but true). In other cases, my actions were indirect but hurtful all the same.
I could give you countless reasons ‘why’ I chose fear based actions- (so and so did this to me, I witnessed ______, my feelings were hurt by_____)- but the ‘why’ of it all is absolutely irrelevant. I made choices, plain and simple. I decided I was more important than someone else. And the messes began.
In the last decade of my life I have devoted immeasurable time and energy to self study. Through this work I have come to realize two very important things: 1.) my best choices are made when my heart space is clear. 2.) my actions are never ending.
If I make a decision or take action with a closed/angry/fearful heart I am undoubtedly going to have a mess to clean up. An apology to make. A relationship to mend. In contrast, if my heart space is open and willing then I know I am operating at my best and giving that to everyone in my life.
The actions I make are never over. What I say, think, do, and react to will ripple and affect life forever. Think back to Lenny. Somewhere a gun was made (action 1), purchased (action 2), used in a fearful capacity (action 3), a life was taken (action 4), a daughter is left without a father, a mother without a son, friends without their friend….. it keeps going. In the same way, perhaps an apology can be made, a forgiveness can be given, hope can be restored, and clear heart space can be the foundation for making better and better actions.
This example is extreme, I get that. We’re not all running around taking lives. But I would also suggest that maybe we’re taking parts of them. I know I’ve done it. When our actions come from fear, anger, or a closed heart we isolate ourselves, we deem ourselves more important than another, and the mess begins all over again.
So I leave you with this, a call to action of sorts. Can you watch fear move into you? Can you feel for those moments when your heart races, and your body begins to heat up? And in those moments can you pause and soften and allow for your heart space to get clearer? It might not happen immediately, and if it doesn’t, DO NO HARM. Just wait to react rather than move forward. Then, once your body calms and your heart space begins to clear, choose the action that will promote life rather than take it. Choose the action you want to ripple on and on as part of your legacy.
*Names have been changed out of respect for the family and nature of the topic.