It’s Time to Choose Love Over Fear

by Renée Peterson Trudeau

As most great spiritual teachers tell us, we only ever have two choices in how we approach our lives and day-to-day interactions: from fear or from love.

When we come from our hearts, and relationships are viewed through the eyes of love, we

  • trust - and allow those we love to follow their unique path (even if we don't agree);
  •  practice acceptance and let go (of homework struggles with our kids, of who's right, and so on);
  • listen from our hearts in our interactions and respond in the moment;
  • communicate openly and are more receptive and flexible;
  • come from a prosperity mindset and see that there is always enough time, attention, space and resources;
  • see everyone's true essence, who they really are, not how they're acting in the moment; and
  • slow down and experience gratitude for all that happiness.

When relationships are viewed through the eyes of fear, we

  • try to control, manipulate, and micromanage people and situations, thinking we always know best;
  • think things are good only when they're going our way;
  • operate from our heads all the time - over-thinking and over-managing;
  • become reactive and become easily triggered;
  • react negatively and see problems first, instead of acknowledging what's good;
  • come from a poverty mindset and feel there is never enough; and
  • punish, judge and close ourselves off from others

Reading these lists, who wouldn't want to choose love over fear? We prefer to expand and open rather than contracting, shutting ourselves off from one another and from feeling good. Learning to do so, however, involves cultivating awareness and consciously choosing to come from love moment to moment. This takes time, and for most of us, lots of practice.

Recently, I was challenged to step outside my own habitual reactive behavior. My husband asked me to coach him as he prepared for his upcoming performance review. This is something I used to get paid big bucks to do, so I helped him create a document outlining his accomplishments and major contributions, which he would submit to his boss before their meeting. Then, one night while we were brushing our teeth before bed, he casually mentioned that he had gotten the date wrong and missed the deadline for submitting support materials for his review. My jaw dropped, and an army of accusatory thoughts lined up in my mind; I barely managed to stop myself from unleashing a rapid-fire interrogation.

Then the next day I experienced a series of stressful setbacks - a schedule glitch, a miscommunication, a technical malfunction, a lost check, a plan that fell to pieces - and suddenly everything felt like it was going from bad to worse. I was trying to wrap up an intense week filled with lots of deadlines before leaving town on a family beach vacation, yet my swirling negative thoughts were preparing to morph from a small dust devil into a powerful full-scale tornado that would ruin the family getaway for everyone.

But something surprising happened. After stewing for a few minutes on all that had gone wrong, I paused, which has been one of the many benefits I've received from a regular morning meditation practice. Within that pause, I recognized this familiar emotional terrain - how my body was now constricting and tightening. I asked myself, Do you really want to succumb to this downward spiral of negative thoughts? Is this really where you want to go and who you want to be? Of course, it wasn't. I wanted to be open, loving and compassionate. What I really wanted was to just let go of all my negative reactions. And so I did.

Actor Larry Eisenberg reminds us For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe.

Not every situation ends this successfully. Sometimes the allure of a good argument takes me down an old worn path. But increasingly, I'm learning to pause, check in with myself, and make sure I like the destination this particular terrain is headed. If I don't, I wave it on, let it keep going, and consciously choose to return to my river of well-being within.

Excerpted from the excellent new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family, ©2013 Renée Peterson Trudeau. Printed here with the permission of the publisher, New World Library.