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Once upon a time, during what felt like a huge crisis, I received some great advice.
Since then, I’ve remembered it by way of the phrase, “Not a ‘crisis’, but a ‘life task’”. I try never to respond while feeling panic, but rather to wait until the ‘crisis’ has passed. The outward circumstances may still be quite pressing and yet my own interior sense of tension has calmed. Then, I’m ready to decide what to do.
C – caution, fear
R – reaction
I – imagining the worst
S – speed
I – identifying an enemy
S – survival, self, strength, sight
In the CRISIS mode, I react out of fear – not boldly, with confidence, but with cautious hesitation – instead of being proactive after making a conscious decision about what to do. I immediately imagine the worst possibilities, and must remember the scriptural admonition to “cast down vain imaginings”. These are ‘vain’ because they can’t actually accomplish anything, and merely work up more fearfulness and confusion.
Speed is almost always a factor in any ‘crisis’. I feel the demand for hasty reaction, and I fail to let myself stop to quietly assess, evaluate, and make a free judgment about what to do. In the fearfulness and narrow vision of a ‘crisis’ moment, I am liable to identify someone as ‘the enemy’, and (usually to my regret) treat that person accordingly. The CRISIS mode is characterized by my focus on myself, my survival, using my own strength, and depending on what I can see. Scripture comes to the rescue again, reminding me to walk by faith, and not by sight; in God’s strength, and not my own.
L – let it be a lesson
I – inhibit reactivity
F – fear not, stay free
E – encourage equanimity
T – trust God
A – ask for the help you need
S – slow down, stop
K – keep your eyes open
If the ‘crisis’ can be seen not as provocation, but as an opportunity, I’ve already changed my mode of action. If nothing else, each such experience can teach me something more about myself, the dynamics of relationships, and ways to apply faith in concrete experience. As a lesson, even the worst experience builds my spiritual riches, so I can face it with courage.
I’ve got to inhibit that first reaction, the snap decision, the reflexive self-defense, if I’m to be fully present to reality in this moment. Naturally, if there is a physical danger, that reflex can be life-saving, but too many ‘crises’ are induced by panic, and not by true danger. St. Pope John Paul II seemed to have his finger on the modern pulse when he cautioned, over and over, “Fear not!” He realized that the person motivated by fear is a person who is not free, and so is contributing to his own degradation.
In a ‘crisis’, if I can ‘encourage equanimity’ in myself and in those around me, the heat of the moment can dissipate. I also try to remember to ‘edify everyone’ involved in a situation, so that no one becomes ‘the enemy’. Trust in God is practiced in situations that feel like crises. Without them, we’d never need to consciously cultivate deeper and deeper trust, and the relaxation into His trustworthiness made possible by these challenges.
How many times have I forgotten, in a moment of ‘crisis’, to ask for help! It seems ridiculous, but when you realize that the CRISIS mode is characterized by a narrowing of vision, it makes sense that we immediately believe the lie that we are alone, and must trust to our own resources to survive. I can’t say it too many times: the enemy of equanimity, of peace, of courage, is speed! If I’ve learned nothing else in life, it is that a moment of ‘crisis’ demands I STOP, not speed up, which was always my natural reaction.
Keeping my ‘eyes’ opened means more than just looking around. If fear is the narrowing of my field of vision to the pinpoint of whatever threatens me, then opening my eyes means growing aware of the many other factors in the situation that are also true, also real. Fr. Luigi Giussani’s definition of freedom – “Freedom is the correspondence to reality, in the totality of its factors.” – reminds me to open the eyes of my understanding to see supportive family and friends, the beauty that surrounds me in nature, the many reasons I have for gratitude, the constant faithfulness of God in my life, etc….
I hope this helps you convert your next ‘crisis’ into a ‘life task’!
Here’s a reminder you can clip and take….and two for friends.
Let me know your thoughts!