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There are so many serious problems in our community and the world. Watching the news about puts me over the edge. The world is falling apart and I feel constant stress about it. It feels like the whole world is going down the drain. Why do all these bad things have to happen? How can I process all this and not let it affect me?
There are problems in the world, but you need to turn off the news and look at the larger picture. Statistics show the world is getting better, less violent, more healthy and more humane all the time. There are still more good people than bad and those good people are making a significant difference.
Don’t believe me?
I also want you to understand what really causes stress and fear. It is not the facts, the situations or the state of the world. It is not your bank account balance, your bills or your marriage problems. Stress and fear are not caused by external factors at all.
Stress and fear are caused by how you are thinking about all those factors and situations. They are internally created.
This is good news, because if you created them, you also have the power to change them. Here are a couple ways to start changing your thinking.
1. Understand your negativity bias. This refers to the fact that things of a negative nature (unpleasant thoughts, emotions, harmful or traumatic events) have a greater effect on your psychological state than do positive things. You basically enlarge the negative in your mind and discount the positive. We all do it.
Michel de Montaigne said this 500 years ago, “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”
Most of what you fear isn’t real or isn’t as big as you think it is. Most of your suffering is unnecessary and self-inflicted.
A powerful way to counter this is gratitude. Count your blessings and what’s right in your life (every day). This will remind you that the good always outweighs what’s wrong. Statistics even prove it. Studies have shown 85 percent of what you worry about won’t happen, and the 15 percent that does happen, you will handle better than expected and will teach you amazing lessons.
You might need to remind yourself of these facts daily.
2. Use the haunted house analogy to get accurate. In a haunted house, things (or people) who look scary are always jumping out in front of you. These things may initially scare you, but then you remind yourself it isn’t real and you calm right down. Most of the things you fear and stress about in your life right now aren’t going to be a problem either. You are just living in a haunted house.
It helps to remember who built this house you’re traveling through. God, in whose hands you safely lay all the time, built it. He built this house as your classroom and as such, it must provide some scary experiences, but the more you learn to trust the builder, the less fear you experience.
One of my favorite quotes from "The Course in Miracles" says, “No nightmare can defeat a child of God in his purpose.” Remember life was meant to look scary, but it is mostly a nightmare. Nothing God created can do anything but bless you at best and educate you at worst. The universe is literally conspiring to serve you.
3. Remember the real point and purpose for being here is to learn. Life is a classroom and every terrible experience comes with a lesson or a positive aspect. God is teaching us about both the light and the darkness. Bad experiences and horrific tragedies give each of us a chance to decide who we are going to be. When terrible things happen, there is usually an interesting increase of love in the world.
This week I’ve discovered a new depth of love for people in Paris and Beirut (people I don’t even know), and that love is deeper than I realized. We ache for those people, and it is a beautiful thing to feel the depth of our love for our fellow human beings. The reality of terrorism gives the opportunity to embrace the principles of peace in our religions and make a commitment to be tolerant of others.
You asked me why horrible things have to happen in this classroom.
My answer is, there is a reason, but most of the time, we aren’t supposed to know what it is.
We are better off not knowing. Right now you are truly, deeply bothered by these horrible events in the world, as you should be. If you understood the reason why this had to happen, if the mystery was solved and you got the answer, you might make peace with the horror of the situation. You might not be so appalled by it — and that would be even worse than what you are experiencing now.
Watching evil and not being moved by the horror of it, not questioning and feeling pain, would take away what makes you human.
Aron Moss wrote a wonderful article on this topic in which he explains, “Worse than innocent people suffering is others watching their suffering unmoved. And that's exactly what would happen if we were to understand why innocents suffer. We would no longer be bothered by their cry, we would no longer feel their pain, because we would understand why it is happening. When you have an explanation, the pain doesn't seem so bad anymore. We can tolerate suffering when we know why it is happening."
We are not meant to tolerate suffering and evil.
So the question isn’t why do bad things happen; it’s what do we do when horrific bad things happen?
We choose trust and love.
Trust God and the universe. They know what they’re doing. Choose to believe that even the things you can’t understand serve us somehow. Trust there are still more good people than bad, who are using all their creative powers to change things. Trusting brings peace.
Then, let these events make you a better, kinder and more loving person. Be one of the good people and use your creative energy to do good in the world. Instead of trying to answer unanswerable questions, turn your grief into a force for good in your home and community.
Speak out against injustice and cruelty more often. Love people more passionately and take action to alleviate suffering wherever you can.
Moss said, ”We don't really want answers, we don't want explanations, and we don't want closure. … We want an end to suffering ... but we [shouldn't] leave it up to God to alleviate suffering. … He is waiting for us to do it. That's what we are here for.”
You can do this.
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM
Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.