Our struggles define us, but not just in the way most people think.
Most people use their struggles to tell a story about who they were, who they have become and what that means. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’ve heard some of my personal stories here, too. (Or take a look at Facebook: most of us have built incredibly complex narratives there.)
But the defining is not what’s important. The experiences of struggle are more important as teaching tools, because what we learn from them is what defines us.
I was granted the opportunity to learn through challenge immediately upon receiving the cards for my latest mission: the Know This Love project, in which I hand cards to strangers that simply say, “You are loved.”
The very first day I went out with them, I started feeling anxiety about it – you might even call it the fight-or-flight response. You see, I’ve come to a place where, for better or for worse, if I start believing any thought that is wrong, inharmonious or harmful to me in any way, the consequences – the feedback mechanism in my body – is swift and harsh.
This was no exception. As I was trying to do something loving, I felt sicker and sicker in the pit of my stomach. I tumbled quickly into a downward spiral that saw me revisiting the nastiest of my old insecurities and patterns.
The incredible irony of spiraling into self-hate because I wanted to spread self-love was not lost on me.
But of course, it wasn’t the actual action of passing out the cards that was the problem. It was how I conceived of it in my mind prior to the experience.
Before I passed out a single card, I had already begun worrying, on a subtle level, about being “rejected” for it. I was afraid of disapproval even in doing something that was meant to do nothing but spread love.
It took me a while (“Too long,” cried my ego) to unravel this, but when I did, I felt better.
When I sat down to write about it, the title showed itself immediately: Love heals all things. Because in seeking to “spread love,” I had unwittingly unearthed parts of myself that were not yet existing in love – that were, in fact, rooted in hate and fear and rage.
And I smiled at myself the way I do when I look back and see how my insanity served my growth. And I was grateful. So freaking grateful.
Matthew Stensland-Bos explores consciousness, love, healing, and grounded spirituality in Know This Love, a weekly SFBay opinion column. You can find him on his website, www.wordswithmatthew.com.