The world seems like a dark place at times doesn’t it? And, in light of the recent Connecticut school shooting tragedy I would be amiss not to address the idea that evil and darkness are present in the world. At the same time, the world is full of kindness, love, and generosity. When darkness starts to strike, even the smallest light will illuminate a glimmer of hope. By increasing the light we can overcome the darkness. This post is not a political or social declaration though. This post is about applying these ideas to ourselves and becoming a person on the path toward that distant light house. I believe we all have a dark or “shadow” side and will have to deal with our own moments of darkness amongst any social unrest. How we deal with our own darkness reflects on everyone around us. So, to battle darkness in the world we must first take it upon ourselves to create light within. We all have a choice each day to approach life with fear or courage, hope or despair, good or evil. Here are four areas to slay the dragon of darkness in your life so you can generate greater light.
Overcome fear and worry
“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson When we are afraid, we become stuck. We make choices from a place of weakness instead of strength. Strength is what courage is all about. It is deciding to act despite fear. The courageous don’t let their fear and worries defeat them. Do something you are uncomfortable with today to tame the fear that has been clouding your heart and mind. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
Overcome failure and discouragement
“Fall down seven times, get up eight.” – Japanese Proverb Staying confident and patient that things will get better is not always easy. The key is knowing that we WILL fall at times, but that we can handle it. Each time you bounce back you are able to build more strength and resiliency for the next trial you face. Look discouragement in the eyes as a challenge to rise to. Be bold and steadfast as you work through your struggles. “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
Overcome guilt and shame
“Sin, guilt, neurosis; they are one and the same, the fruit of the tree of knowledge.” – Henry Miller I believe it’s natural to make decisions that lead us to question our character and morality. This is how we grow in character and gain wisdom. Unfortunately one of the greatest thief’s of joy and inner-peace is guilt and shame. When we are unable to recognize the difference between making a mistake and learning from it, versus being a bad and broken person for what we’ve done, we will struggle with toxic shame and guilt. Condemning our personal shadow only makes it stronger. Don’t fall into the trap of sulking in your darkness. Be true to yourself and appreciate your idiosyncrasies. Recognize darkness is a part of the human psyche and have compassion for your faults. “Guilt is anger directed at ourselves – at what we did or did not do. Resentment is anger directed at others – at what they did or did not do.” – Peter McWilliams
Overcome anger and resentment
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – Buddha Anger in and of itself is not problematic. However, our reaction to anger and the darkness that comes out of it is. When anger and resentment pervade in our lives we end up full of bitterness and hate. This is when people begin to speak and act from a place of evil. Having a forgiving and tender heart is the remedy to anger. An angry response only stirs up more anger. “Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.” – James Thurber
4 Pillars of Peace and Joy
The four pillars are forgiveness, presence, acceptance, and hope. Joy and peace come from healing our past, engaging fully in the now, and believing in a bright future. Forgiveness – We all have baggage but it’s what we do with the baggage that matters. We can learn to forgive others and ourselves so we can live with greater joy and peace. Presence – This is the remedy to worry and resentment. Living in the moment allows us to experience the joy around us, instead of focusing on what is to come or what has passed. Acceptance – Despite that there are many things out of our control we can learn to focus on what we can change.When we accept our weaknesses we are able to change them. I love the quote by Carl Rogers that goes,”The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” We can’t change or heal what we don’t acknowledge. Hope – Hope allows us to take the next step even when it’s unknown territory. Knowing that the good within us will prevail through our trials is part of a successful state of mind. Visualize the future you desire and begin taking steps to make it a reality. When tragedy happens in the world or our own lives, it is natural to respond from a place of fear, anger, and doubt. However, for our own good and the good of all those we care about, responding with forgiveness, courage, and hope will always be a better choice.