We have been meditating on how love overcomes fear and courage is born of a big heart, a loving heart. Loving something more than the fear of death—advice from MLK, Jr.—can mean loving something more than losing one’s job. This might serve as a fruitful meditation for all of us including politicians.
There may be times when issues arise that a good conscience has to vote on that may not be popular back home with one’s constituency. Being voted out of office for following one’s conscience is not the worst fate in the world. That’s called losing one’s job.
Years ago I was expelled from my community of 34 years for following my conscience as a theologian and remaining with the Institute of Creation Spirituality that I had founded and grown along with many wonderful and diverse faculty that was reaching many people and serving an important need in reinventing education and spirituality.
That mini-death was not the end of the world for me. It opened up other doors to a broader community of seekers and it led to our founding a more independent University of Creation Spirituality.
Pain is involved but one learns to move on. Life has its surprises, but as Eckhart put is, “God’s exit is her entrance.” Letting go can lead to new things.
Loving something more than the fear of death can also mean loving something more than losing one’s reputation; or just plain losing. It includes a willingness to let go. Courage includes expanding one’s heart (and mind) but also it means risking, and risking often requires a willingness to let go. Courage includes a willingness to risk.
Talking about courage and holiness means talking about fear. Fear in itself is a danger alarm that can save us. If one meets a bear in the forest and is not afraid, one may not engage the imagination and speed to have to solve the existential problem at hand. But fear has another side to it as well. Fear can choke us, close us down, paralyze us, and it can result in social hysteria including scapegoating, blaming, and hate.
Fear is very much in the air and on the air these days and promises big ratings and fat earnings for some media outlets.
True prayer, as Lakota teacher Buck Ghosthorse taught me, is standing up to fear by making the heart strong. Fear triumphs when our hearts shrink. To be continued.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 296ff.
To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner image: A display of remarkable courage. “U.S. marshals escorted Ruby Bridges to and from school” in New Orleans in 1960 as desegregation becomes the law of the land. Wikipedia, public domain.
Queries for Contemplation
Have you undergone Eckhart’s experience that “God’s exit is her entrance”? What did you learn from that?
Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society
Visionary theologian and best-selling author Matthew Fox offers a new theology of evil that fundamentally changes the traditional perception of good and evil and points the way to a more enlightened treatment of ourselves, one another, and all of nature. In comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them.
“A scholarly masterpiece embodying a better vision and depth of perception far beyond the grasp of any one single science. A breath-taking analysis.” — Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics
Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)
Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self
14 thoughts on “Love, Courage & Moving beyond Fear”
Brilliant meditation- this one resonated deeply with me. Once again, I thank Matthew for his perspective, from hard-won credibility. Bravery in the face of coercion and compliance is a heroic but everyday need. Some of my biggest growing has happened when I refused to take the ‘easy’ way. Thank you.
“When We Are Shut-Down, We Take Our Medicine as Prescribed”
We need our ‘life force’ working on ‘all cylinders’. We need to be open and engaging and not shut down. How do we unshut down? Serving, as Jesus asks us to serve, is with compassion and empathy, a welcome and open heart, with gratitude and joy, with faith and endurance. With that, ‘grace’ and a fortified Spirit ensues. Jesus is ‘the Healer’, ‘the Physician’ and His Way, His Word the medicine. The hard knocks are meant to ‘wake us’ and ask us to take the medicine that Jesus prescribes, despite how we feel, despite how bad ‘the world’ and everyone in it has treated us. We need to stop self-pity and start the work that builds up our ‘life-force’.
We need to be prepared to and actually carry our ‘Cross’ daily, knowing that ‘the Healer’ has not left us alone. Right now, Jesus is asking us to ‘rise up’ and walk again in a ‘new way’, being ‘the Way’ with Him. With other seekers of Christ and soul consciousness, there are many faiths and groups that we can join and participate in. Join one ‘group’ to start and then that becomes our ‘new start’. Yes, we belong, you belong, not in isolation but ‘one and all’ together in service to one another. There are no ‘free rides’, meaning no one else does it or can do it for us. We must get up and put ‘our heart’ into our ‘service’ and build up our ‘life force’ every day. — BB.
Full of encouragement for us to recognize the strength in our sense of belonging and community.
These days, having a community, something/someone to hold on to. Others with whom I can share my heart in a safe environment. Others who need me, to need them, offers me a sense of purpose. A reason to show up that distracts from the difficult realities of our day. I need to remind myself that I don’t have to do big things, I need to do little things with big love. I learned that from Mother Teresa.
I have experienced what it is like to stand alone, to speak truth to power for the benefit of the elders in need of justice, compassion, mercy and love. To face one’s fears and doing so, standing on what is of true meaning, purpose and value, with integrity does take courage… the courage of risking being betrayed, abandoned, criticized, judged, condemned and crucified. It’s a painful process to go through, just as Jeshua taught. Mother Teresa of Calcutta stated, “In the end… everything that happens when you choose to do so, is actually between you and God, not you and them.”
When I choose to exit the particular institution in which this unfolded, after eight years of continously advocating for not only the elders under my care, but also for the working rights of my coworkers… yes, the Holy Spirit of “She Whom Is Unto Herself” entered more deeply into my sense of Self. She not only comforted and consoled me through healing the pain and suffering that I experienced, but She also surprised me! The very next day after my exit, I was offered a new position, within a different elder community; which was so much more than what I had lost. She also created a new and much needed balance to my life… an opportunity to rediscover lost parts of myself… as well as opening doorways into other interests to pursue, outside of my work life.
Thanks for sharing your story. Hearing your experience is uplifting.
Moving beyond fear would seem to be the best path for resisting evil? Both are found in Divine LOVE.
I learned a long time ago that all of life is a journey from fear to love.
Henri Nouwen,(The Inner Voice of Love) says something much like your comment. He taught “the the only hope for fearful people is their movement from the house of fear into the house of love.”
My early adult years of feeling lost, lonely, and suffering searching for meaning/faith/hope was my ‘dark night of the soul’ part of my spiritual journey. Even though I did not feel God’s Presence (I was not brought up religiously), looking back at those painful years of searching, I realized gradually as I developed my faith that God’s Loving Presence has always been within me, even in the ongoing grace of my continued thirst and hunger for a deeper conscious intimate relationship within our Creator’s Loving Diverse Oneness/Eternal Presence in All of co-Creation~Evolution, including our sacred and mysterious multidimensional-multiverse Cosmos…. Cosmic Christ Consciousness….
Damian, Thank you for sharing your personal journey.
Yep, “God’s Loving Presence has always been within me”
my experience also: ALWAYS
Matthew’s description of his approach to fear sounds similar to the Welcoming Prayer, and I would only add that it helps me also to feel it in my body and pay attention to where it is there, if that makes sense. Years ago, I lost promotions due to staying on the picket line with the people I supervised when they went out on strike. I was not fired but I did quit as there was no future and also no enjoyment of the job, as there had been before. And then found out I was pregnant, and everything changed.
I so much admire Matthew’s courage in taking on the church, and the church was the loser when he was forced out. There are so few truly heroic and courageous people in public life that I wish someone would write a book, “Profiles in Cowardice”. Maybe Liz Cheney could write it.
Thank you for sharing your personal journey. Great example of “God’s exit is her entrance.”
Curious – are you referring to the Welcoming Prayer from Father Thomas Keating?
Yes it is. He popularized it, but spiritual teacher Mary Mrozowski composed and first taught it: https://crossministrygroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/R-Group-Process-Welcoming-Prayer.pdf
My traditional Lutheran upbringing told me that girls COULDN’T be preachers or theologians, that God was male and males were more godly. I was a shy, compliant girl who deeply felt the pain of this rejection but wouldn’t have dared to challenge its teachings or study theology. Instead, I drifted away from a deeply disappointing religion. But God apparently decided to change the equation by gifting me with a spontaneous mystical experience.
But there was another, unusual and radically subversive gift given to me: my lack of knowledge, my complete ignorance of mysticism. My lack was turned into a positive when God gave me hints of clues and then gave me room to explore for myself, when I was ready, all the diverse forms, interpretations, and histories of this amazing type of mystical encounter. Through that exploring, I learned more about spirituality, theology, the major religions, and the history of mysticism, than I ever would have learned as an obediently docile, indoctrinated female, or even if I were a male trained in only one tradition. I found my mysticism in multiple religions and tracing back into the very foundations of Judeo-Christianity.
By giving me the open space to do my own exploration, God gave me an invitation for discovery and self-transformation, rather than imposing obedient, enforced belief.
God stepped back to invite me to dance with Him.
Melinda, Thank you for sharing your story. Best part: You decided to DANCE!