The first three decades of my life, fear dogged me constantly because I was always trying to be what I imagined some one else wanted me to be.  Or the converse; rebelling against the expectations of others.  The love I sought felt conditional so my behavior was always a reaction to some one.  Letting others define us, or determine our thoughts or behavior in any situation, never results in a life free of fear.  Unfortunately, this had become my well practiced habit from childhood on, but in 1971, while teaching a writing class at the University of Minnesota, I read a book by John Powell: WHY AM I AFRAID TO TELL YOU WHO I AM, that gently planted a seed for a very different perception, one I knew had the ring of truth to it.

Powell spoke of his friendship with Sidney Harris, a New York journalist, and their frequent early morning strolls down the busy streets of the city.  They often stopped to buy a paper from a vender, generally the same one every morning.  While Harris was always friendly to the man, tipping him without fail, the man was gruff and ungrateful, morning after morning.  Powell finally asked, “Why are you kind to some one who is so rude?”  Harris‘ answer definitely got my attention.  “Why should I let him decide what kind of day I am going to have?”  I realized at that very moment that I had a lifetime of experiences where I had allowed my behavior to be controlled by others and not one experience that I could recall where it reflected who I wanted to be.

It wasn’t until I had been in twelve step meetings for some time that I developed the capacity to be the woman I actually wanted to be and, I believe, was meant to be.  I had to commit to a daily practice of turning my life and my will over to the God of my understanding and I also had to practice the simple, but ever so wise, principles for living a life uncluttered and unaffected by the myriad opinions of the others I walked among.  Finally, I was able to adopt the words of Sidney Harris as a guideline I could live comfortably with.  Finally.

It’s with great relief that I can say to others that their journey need not be as bumpy as mine was.  From my own experiences I have discerned many tiny shortcuts that are certain to open the door to peaceful, fearless relationships.  There is no earthly reason for others to struggle when they might benefit from what I learned.  That’s been the purpose for most of what I have written over the years.  What follows are a few simple suggestions that I know, if applied, will change every relationship you have.

Be kind in every instance no matter what.

Give up trying to change another person.  Simply honor them.

Do no harm.

Before speaking, ask yourself if what you are about to say improves upon the silence.

Remember that every person in one’s life is there for a reason.

No disagreement requires resolution.

Recognize the fear behind all attacks.  Respond to them all with love.

Pray daily.  Even when you’d rather not.

Every lesson we are here to learn is offered within a relationship.

Judging others keeps us stuck and fearful.

There is so much each one of us can do for the betterment of all humankind.  I hope that you are inspired to choose one of these suggestions as a place to begin changing your life.  As we change, so do those who look to us.