On Being a Non-Anxious Presence
Ultimately all you really have to give to another person is yourself. And that is enough. Presence is the most powerful force in the universe, humanly speaking. When I go to hospitals to visit sick and scared people, they already know I can’t fix them and they don’t expect me to. What they really need is someone who refuses to succumb to fear. They and their family are likely lost in anxiety. Often their minds are darting everywhere, looking at every possibility, begging and bargaining with God, unable to get away from frightening possibilities at every turn.
If I walk into a hospital room and I am full of anxiety over how I will be perceived, or full of fear over looking incompetent or foolish or stupid, my anxiety will just add to the family’s anxiety, and the overall effect of my presence will be null, or even negative. But if in the middle of this sea of pain and anxiety and fear I walk in with peace, with a quiet and still heart, then that is enough.
And that is enough for you as well. You don’t need to fix your friends or family. You don’t need to solve all the problems that confront you. If you can simply learn to not be controlled by fear — your own or that of others — you will be a non-anxious presence in the lives of others, and there is nothing they need more. So how do you do this? By confronting your own anxieties and fears head-on. An anxious person cannot be a non-anxious presence, obviously. The world is full of people wanting to solve all the problems of the world. But the world would profit much more if people would first confront their own anxieties and the things that cause them 1) to have to fill every silence with meaningless chatter, 2) to stay constantly busy, and 3) to do anything to avoid being still.
People desperately need a non-anxious presence, someone who has learned how to work, think, act, speak, and BE from a place of basic peace. Become this kind of person, and your effect on other people will be greater than you can imagine.