Choosing Love

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Scarlett Lewis Meeting the Dalai Lama

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Scarlett Lewis, whose six-year-old son Jesse was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December in Newtown, Connecticut. One might expect that Scarlett would talk about gun control and new legislation, but instead she spoke about love and forgiveness. Scarlett said that the enormity of the Sandy Hook tragedy began with an angry thought that Adam Lanza, the shooter, had as a child and that thought could have been changed to a loving one had he possessed the tools and ability to make another choice. She asks everyone to honor her son by taking one angry thought each day and turning it into a loving one. Scarlett believes that over time that one loving thought will change the world and it will become a better and safer place for our children.

Scarlett has also started the Jesse Lewis Foundation to create awareness in our children and communities so that all of us can choose love over anger, gratitude over entitlement and forgiveness and compassion over bitterness. Part of this initiative will be creating curricula in schools to give children the tools to choose love. Scarlett has also written a book entitled Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope & Forgiveness, which will be released by Hay House this week. Although the book has religious undertones and might not resonate with every reader, Scarlett’s choice in choosing love over anger is an astonishing lesson for us all.

So how can we apply this to our own lives? Can we really just wake up and say today I forgive my boss for being nasty and treating me unfairly or my husband for taking his bad mood out on me or my neighbor for being inconsiderate and loud? Can it be that easy? Maybe for some, but for most of us letting go of anger and choosing love is a process. This is how I’m doing it in my own life, and I hope it helps you.

First, I make the decision to choose love over anger. It is a purposeful decision. Sometimes it takes me a while to recognize I am angry and I must catch myself and think, “I choose love over anger.” Does the anger then go away immediately? Most of the time NO, but it creates an awareness of my anger and a mindfulness about the situation. It creates an avenue to let it go and that becomes an opening for me to move out of my anger and into love over time.

The second thing that I do is “cook” my anger. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a great book about this called Anger, in which he teaches the reader to breathe and stay with your anger until you can cool your mind and your heart of rage.  This becomes easier with mindfulness and although it can take up to twenty minutes, if you only have a minute or two it will still help. Other people use techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique, (you can read about it online) which I also find effective. It consists of tapping certain meridian points on the body while you are connecting with the emotion that is causing you pain.  After learning about this technique, I have definitely felt more calm and clear-minded in anger challenging moments. You can use this one or find another that works for you.

Third, once my mind is cleared, I’m able to start thinking about where the other person is coming from. Maybe they were struggling or suffering in that moment or something terrible happened to them in the past that made them act in the way that hurt me and made me angry. This doesn’t mean that they are not responsible for their behavior, but it nurtures compassion in me and the ability to keep anger from taking up more space in my head.

Sometimes I do all of the above things and the anger passes and other times I still feel the anger but it will be different. For me it becomes softer and not as all-encompassing. I may need to confront the person who made me angry but I am able to do it from a place of compassion and avoid generating more anger.  Other times, more space from the incident helps me let go of the anger that remains.

When I am successful in choosing love over anger and I can really process it, I feel more peaceful and joyful about life and all of my relationships. More and more I find that what I am angry about is not that big of a deal.  I teach these methods to my children and I hope they will carry it throughout their lives so their hearts can be free and filled with joy and not the darkness that anger breeds within.

And I stand with Scarlett Lewis; her choice to choose love over anger in the most heartbreaking circumstances should inspire us all to take one angry thought today and turn it into LOVE for all of us!