This Winter of Kindness has given us a few themes…empowerment, acting with intent and mindfulness. We also discussed identity. Our identity is defined by what we value, and what fulfills us. For it to be healthy, it should not be based on physical characteristics or ideologies. For example, if you identify yourself by physical appearance, you may have a crisis when you become old. Or if you identify yourself by an ideology, like a strict conservative or liberal political view, you may be unwilling to accept an opposing view.
The things that happen to us also influence our identity…both good and bad. If we are blessed with comfort and ease it may be easier s to be positive. Or if we are stricken with strife and hardship, it may be harder to be so. When we are faced with these gifts or obstacles, it is our natural curiosity that gives them a name…its own identity, as it influences our own. When someone is abundantly kind to us we want to know who he or she is, so we can respond to our benefactor. And when someone is cruel, we want to do the same for our enemy.
We want to know who helps us. These are our guardian angels. These are our guides who bring us good fortune…when we discussed finding partners to love they look for things on our “love list” and use sage judgment to find our match. But it’s more than that. Sometimes our guardian angels look for the things we are unaware we want, and introduce them into our lives when we need them most. They are also protectors…our safeguards when we use poor judgment or lack awareness to the calamity around the corner. Their existence is meant for us to find fulfillment…and our destiny. This concept has been in literature for thousands of years. Homer wrote of it in the Odyssey, during the literary Age of Heroes, when Athena, the god of wisdom, visited the protagonist, Odysseus, to guide him to his fate. I am not asking you to believe in a robed man or woman with wings, invisible to the eye, seeking out your next act of benevolence. It is a metaphor to help us believe the world is not a random chaos, with no reason for the goodwill or heartache we face, but a paradise, for us to claim our fulfillment if we are bold enough to do so.
But we also want to know who hurts us. These are our inner demons. When we do not let go of the hurt that wronged us…be it from a physical or emotional scar, “the pain starts to develop an identity, an association with the person who caused cruelty. And when something has an identity, and has burrowed deep into our minds, it is much harder to kill.” When we let our minds wonder, and we start to have anxiety about the past, or doubt about the future…it is our inner demons that gnaws at our identity. It is a nameless, faceless beast with talons and fangs and an unbearable roar. When we become its prey, it commands our fears and seizes our bodies into paralysis. Our inner demon knows our greatest weaknesses…our cracking point in the wall that holds back the worst of us. It scratches at our emotions to question the truths we believe, force us to suspect the motives of friends who never gave us reason to, and transfers the cruelty of people who have hurt us onto people who never would. Our confidence is our shield when combating our inner demons, and with every blow we endure its hardened metal can become cracked and broken. And what is our sword to slay this fiend? We have none. For the only way to vanquish this atrocity is to wish it away. Our inner demons do not exist, for it is an invention of the worst versions of us.
Know your angels and demons. They will be your guide to the best and worst of you.