On the Risk of Living

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face."
Eleanor Roosevelt
Life is not safe. You knew that when you squeezed through the birth canal and took your first gasping breath. Bad things happen to people. You knew that when you learned to walk, but fell down and hurt yourself. Illness comes unwanted. You knew that with your first fever and stomach ache. You can be a marvelous person, and still you suffer the pains of accident, illness, and loss.

You have some choices to make about this. You can indulge your fears and live an anxious life trying to protect yourself from danger. You can compensate for your fears by living a risky, thrill filled life. You can avoid awareness of risk through self delusion or the use of intoxicants. You may also embrace life with all its risks, accept the danger, and move along.

How does one live a full life knowing that bad things happen to us all? Here are some things that may help:

  • Courage
  • Courage is not about not being afraid. It is about managing your fear and doing what needs to be done in spite of it.
  • Wisdom
  • The wise reduce risk by being aware of circumstances, knowing their own capacities, thinking clearly, and acting judiciously.
  • Joy
  • Life is meant to be enjoyed. Appreciate the gift of life and be thankful for the little things and the big. Notice life's pleasures. Acknowledge beauty where it exists. Create it where it doesn't. Joy is meant to be shared.
  • Love
  • There is no wisdom without love. There is no joy without love.
  • Fun
  • Don't take life too seriously. Play nice.
  • Equanimity
  • The Serenity Prayer sums it up: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
  • Mindfulness
  • Mindfulness is an antidote to accidents of carelessness. When we are aware of ourselves and our circumstances, and when we act with care, we are less likely to slip on life's banana peals. Mindfulness brings life into focus. It allows us to learn from our mistakes. It enables us to live conscious of the things that bring joy.
  • Faith and Hope
  • Grow faith that in all events there is a possibility of good arising. Some things that happen seem unassailably bad. Yet, the existence of pain and loss does not preclude the opportunity for growth and gain.
    Know that in a life fully lived some hurt will come. Pray for wisdom. It is only through wisdom that we can live the good life. It is only through love that we can live in wisdom. Love and life go together. A life without love is no life at all. It is mere existence. Open your heart to the lovable and the less lovable. Foster your ability to see the good in all things and all people. Grow faith that in all events there is a possibility of good arising.

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    © 2003 Tom Barrett