Are we more afraid of life than death?
All animals owe their survival to the instinctual drives to flee, fight, feed, and reproduce (sometimes called the “Four F’s”). These primal drives have great impact on our lives. Humanity’s instinct to flee from danger has become today a search for security. We have a desire to feel safe at home, in the workplace, and in society. We want to know we are secure now and will continue to be in the future. Yet, such a search is an impossible dream. After all, the nature of life is change and uncertainty. So, those seeking stability are doomed to be frustrated. An awareness of the uncertainty of life leads to immobilization. We grow immobilized by fear. We become more frightened to live than to die. The American Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz describes the feelings many of us experience: “Men are afraid to rock the boat in which they hope to drift safely through life’s currents, when, actually, the boat is stuck on a sandbar. They would be better off to rock the boat and try to shake it loose, or, better still, jump in the water and swim for the shore.”
Not knowing how to cope with this misguided quest for security leads to a dull pervasive pain. It robs us of happiness. Sometimes we seek to numb the pain with addictions such as drinking, overeating, gambling, casual sex, taking drugs, or spending endless hours before the TV. Though these addictions offer temporary relief from the gnawing pain of uncertainty, they cause more chaos, more pain, and less happiness in our lives. Because of this, it is important to understand the true nature of security.
What is true security? It is not piles of money or guaranteed employment, but the inner strength to face, cope with, and adapt to any challenge that arises. True security is the understanding that life is insecure and the willingness to deal with whatever happens. Security depends less on how much we have and more on how much we can do without. Anthony Robbins describes it this way, “Most people never feel secure because they are always worried that they will lose their job, lose the money they already have, lose their spouse, lose their health, and so on. The only true security in life comes from knowing that every single day you are improving yourself in some way, that you are increasing the caliber of who you are and that you are valuable to your company, your friends, and your family.”
How do we develop a sense of security? Begin by accepting the nature of life, which is constant change and uncertainty. Next, don’t take shelter, but rejoice in the bombardment of chaos. Life is like white water rafting, chaotic, but exhilarating! It is exactly as Winston Churchill said: “Without a measureless and perpetual uncertainty, the drama of human life would be destroyed.” The secret, then, is not to seek security, but to seek growth, adventure, and joy. We need insecurity to spur us on to bigger and better things. And we have no reason to complain, for as Helen Keller said, “God himself is not secure, having given man dominion over his work.”
Since we cannot stabilize the world, it is necessary to stabilize ourselves. That’s the only way to achieve security. We do this by developing the right habits. The nineteenth-century English physicist, John Tyndall, explains, “The formation of right habits is essential to your permanent security. They diminish your chance of falling when assaulted, and they augment your chance of recovery when overthrown.” Those right habits are a willingness to embrace change and a joy in sharing with the universe endless evolution.
As security is equated with adaptability to change, it makes much sense to constantly stretch ourselves. We need to step out of our comfort zone and start doing all of those things we would like to do, but don’t because they make us uncomfortable. We need to stand up, face our fears, and laugh at them. Ha! Ha! Ha! Fear and security are incompatible, and the time to cultivate courage is now, before we need it.
When we stop viewing uncertainty as a threat and start recognizing it for the opportunity it is, everything changes. For as Brian Tracy wrote, “The more you seek security, the less of it you have. But the more you seek opportunity, the more likely it is that you will achieve the security that you desire.” That is the paradox to remember and apply to our lives.
The followers of the ancient Tao Te Ching understand the nature of the world. By bending like the reed in the weed, they adapt to its changes, experiencing true security and serenity. They heed the words of Lao Tzu:
“Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
That is the only path to serenity.”
True security is based on the ability to cope with turmoil. But how do we gain that ability? By looking within. We can rely on our own inner strength. Within us dwells a Divine Spark. We can turn to It for comfort and share in Its Wisdom and Power. Although It cannot eliminate the uncertainty of life, It can bestow on us the confidence and faith to carry on.
Let’s not forget about the insecurities of others. For example, Princess of Wales Diana said, “I don’t want expensive gifts; I don’t want to be bought. I have everything I want. I just want someone to be there for me, to make me feel safe and secure.” There are many people in your life that want to feel safe and secure, too. Your spouse, children, friends, coworkers, and strangers you meet on the street. Remember, no one you meet has a sense of security so strong that it cannot be improved by a few words from you. Be encouraging, accepting, understanding, and compassionate. Be a source of strength for others. Doesn’t the world grow more secure as we make others feel more so?
Let’s also use the winds of change that swirl around us as reminders to savor the present moment. For how do we know if we’ll be alive tomorrow? Because life is uncertain, the time to enjoy it, and the time to help others feel secure is NOW.