I was talking to someone in church – just making small talk. He asked how our daughter was doing in law school. I told him that she was doing some volunteer work. He asked what she was doing and I said “She’ll be helping refugees become legal citizens”. I could see his whole face change. He looked irritated. He said “Probably Mexican’s” and I said “I think they’re Somalian”. He said “Oh great. That’s even worse.” We were sitting in church. What’s wrong with this picture? And I’m sitting their thinking “Ooooh. I’m such a better person than he is. I didn’t say that out loud. He’s not very nice”. But, I had a little voice in the back of my head that agreed with him. It was saying “It will be bad if this country fills up with Somalians. We shouldn’t let them come in”. Then I got irritated with him. I got irritated with him. Why? Why did I get irritated? He just said out loud what I was thinking. Who am I to get irritated with him? I wanted to think I was this great, accepting person because I didn’t say that out loud. If anybody asked, I would say we need to treat all people kindly and with respect. And then there’s that little voice saying “Well, maybe except Somalians. And Middle Easterner’s. And maybe a few others. But, I ignore that voice and try to squish it down because I think it’s bad of me. Well, it is bad to think some people are better than other people. But it’s just as bad to ignore that little part of me that thinks that way. If I ignore that and squish it down, I’m not getting rid of that fear. I’m just giving it room to grow bigger. And keep in mind, I’m sitting in church. Crazy. Just crazy. I better do the Steps to Contentment. I sure need them.
So, first I have to admit that there’s a piece of me that agreed with him. It’s hard to admit that because I want to just shove it down and think “Good people don’t think like that. I’m a good person. So, I can’t think like that. I’ll ignore that”. Well guess what? There’s a piece of me that does think that way. There’s a piece of me that does think we need to keep Somalian’s out of our country. And Middle Easterner’s. And anyone who is waaaay different than me. I need to look at that. Boy do I have some work to do.
Step 1 – Own it.
I need to take responsibility for my feelings. It’s soooooo much easier to just shove my “bad” thoughts down. I don’t want to think that I’m prejudice against immigrants. I don’t want to think that I might have a piece of me that thinks I’m better than someone else. But I did have that thought. And I have to take responsibility for it. I have to own it. I may not have said it out loud like he did, but I still thought it. So in step one I have to say “I get irritated at the idea of people from certain countries immigrating to America, but I’m working to bring peace to my life.” I don’t seem to mind people from England or Ireland or France or other “American-like” countries coming here. Isn’t that weird? I just have an uneasy feeling about people from the Middle East or Africa or countries that are waaaay different than America. So, I just have to admit that. I have to say that out loud. I have to own it. I can’t squish it down and ignore it because I don’t like that I think that way. Own it.
Step 2 – Know it and let it go
Here comes the really hard step. I have to dig down to find out why I have prejudices against other people. Why? Because if I don’t face that fear and really look at it and understand it – it will just keep growing. If I ignore it – it will just keep growing. So to understand my fear, I have to get out the shovel and start digging down. I know that it’s a fear in me that got stirred up and I’m guessing it’s somehow related to my deep, down fear that I won’t be loved. But I can’t just jump right to that. Step 2 is all about the process. It’s connecting why I feel that way about immigrants to my fear of not being loved. So, here I go. Time to start asking the questions. “Why don’t you want certain immigrants to come to this country?” Because they are sooooo different from me. I don’t mind people coming if they’re like me. But, I’m scared of too many people coming here who are really different from me. Why are you scared of people coming to this country who are different? Because I’ve worked hard to make a safe and comfortable life for myself. I don’t want anything threatening that stability. Why does it scare you to have your world rocked? Why are you scared to have your comfortable life shaken up? Because if I lose my comfortable, safe world, I don’t’ know where I’ll fit in. Why are you afraid to not fit in? Because if I don’t fit in, than I’m an outsider. I’m all alone. Why are you afraid to live as an outsider, all alone? Because if I’m alone, then it’s because there’s something wrong with me and nobody wants me around. Why are you scared that nobody wants you around? Because then nobody loves me. Why are you afraid that nobody will love you? Because that will mean there’s something really, really, wrong with me and maybe God won’t love me. Maybe I’m unlovable. Bingo. There we go. We got to the bottom of it. That’s my deep, down, don’t tell anybody about it fear. It’s a whole process. I can’t just jump down to that fear. Even though I know that 99% of the time I’m bothered by something it’s because I have this fear monster of not being loved. I can’t just jump right down to that. I have to go through the process of asking the questions and really searching for the answers so I know how they’re connected. Now I know. It’s not that I don’t want certain immigrants to come here. It’s that I’m afraid things will change if they come here and I might not fit in to that change. And that scares me because if I don’t fit in, I might not be loved and I’ll be standing on the outside looking in. I’m telling you people, step 2 is hard. And humbling. It’s not easy to admit this stuff about yourself. But you have to, if you want to move closer to the Spirit of God that lives in your soul. And that’s exactly what I want to do. So I’m going to do the work. And, now that I know what fear monsters got stirred up, I get to let it go! I just have to say “I’m afraid that if certain immigrants move to this country, my life might change and that change might show people that there’s something wrong with me and that I’m unlovable. And I give this fear to you God.” That’s it. That’s the end of step 2. On to step 3. I love step 3.
Step 3 – Gratitude
Now I get to think about all the things that I’m grateful for. But, I really need to include things about this particular situation that I can be grateful for. So…… I’m grateful for the fact that I got to go to church. I’m grateful that I had some of my fears stirred up so that I can take some whacks out of my enormous fear monster. I’m grateful that I live in a country that’s so wonderful other people dream of coming here. I’m grateful that we have so much, we can offer it to others. I’m grateful that I can chip away at my prejudices so that I can make more room for peace. I’m grateful that I’m getting better at admitting my faults instead of pretending that I don’t have them. I’m grateful that my family loves me. I’m grateful that my husband and kids think I’m pretty terrific, faults and all. I’m grateful that my friends don’t go running and screaming away when they read these blogs. I’m so grateful.
Step 4 – Energy out is Energy in
With step 4 I really need to remember that God is truly and actually inside of me (He’s not just symbolically in there – He’s actually in there). And He’s truly inside of everybody else in the world. So, I’m connected to every person on this planet. I’m connected to them. I’m connected to people living in Somalia. What happens to them affects me. If their world is full of negative energy and they’re trying to flee, then that negative energy is going to ripple all around the world. So, I need to do a couple of things. I need to be sure to send out lots of positive energy so that my energy will help to balance that negative out. I need to send thoughts of love and peace to all people. All people. And here’s the thing, I have to really mean it or I might as well not do it. I have to really and truly feel love and peace for them and not just use pretty words. Then I have to act on that. When someone says something negative about immigrants I need to try to visualize my soul connecting with their soul and I need to really and truly feel love and peace for them. I need to send them as much peace as I can. I don’t need to make them feel bad by telling them they’re moving away from the Spirit of God that lives in their soul. They may not be ready to hear that. And even if they were, it’s not my job to point that out. I don’t need to judge them. I don’t need to be mean to them or say anything to them. I just need to let God work His magic and all I have to do is truly wish them peace and love. I have to remember that they aren’t bad people for saying things like that just like I’m not a bad person for thinking it (whether I said it or not). We’re good people. We’re just scared. Their fear monster got stirred up when I said my daughter was going to work with refugees. We’re a world full of scared people. We don’t need to be mad or judgmental of each other. We just need to send truly loving and peaceful thoughts to each other and let God works His magic.
Step 5 – Make room for God
Now it’s time for the fun step. I get to hang out with God. I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to own up to anything or dig down to anything. I just have to BE. If you aren’t familiar with just how to hang out with God, go to my home page and click on the meditation tab in the menu bar. It’s easy. It’s fun. And it’s free. You don’t have to be good at it. You don’t have to worry about thoughts sneaking into your head. You just gently push them out and go back to hanging out with God. It’s a really great way to relax and get centered in your life. The best times of my day are when I hang out with God. It’s fun and you can do it all day long. Whenever you have 5 minutes to spare, hang out with God. It’s amazing what will happen in your life when you do this.
So, you notice I didn’t really do anything to fix the refugee problems in my steps to contentment. I didn’t tell the man I was talking to that he was wrong for saying that. He was just voicing his fear. I didn’t ignore my little fear peaking out that said I agreed with him. I wanted to. I sure don’t want to admit that I have those thoughts. I want to be a good person. And good people don’t think like that. Right? I don’t like the words “good people” or “bad people”. We’re all just people. We all have thoughts that take us a step away from God, we just have to own it and do the work to move back towards Him. It doesn’t make me bad just like loving thoughts don’t make me good. They just make me human. The trick is to recognize and own all of my thoughts and feelings. I needed to figure out why I had my prejudice thoughts, give it God, remember that I’m truly connected to all people and then hang out with God. If everyone on the planet did that, this world would change overnight! I doubt everyone on the planet will do this, so it could take a little longer than overnight. But, if you do this, you’ll be amazed at how things will change in your life. It’s miraculous. It’s really, really cool. Try it. See what happens. Next time you feel that little prickle in the back of your mind that says you’re having an unkind thought about someone, do these steps. See what happens. What can it hurt? You might like it! Your life might be more peaceful. Who doesn’t want that?
I wish you all the peace in the world,