Ever since the Oslo attacks my heart has started racing a little faster every time I board the U-Bahn in the morning. It races even faster when I disembark and make the 10-minute walk through the incredibly tourist-dense section of Berlin where I work. Pushing past Gypsies, I scan German, American, and British tourists’ faces checking out the remains of the Berlin Wall and can’t help but wonder, could something like that ever happen here? Oslo is such a sleepy European city; surely Berlin has to be an even bigger target. Quite frankly, it scares me.
I try to quiet my racing thoughts when they start circling irrationally. I hate that when I am afraid I feel like I am letting the terrorists win.
Whenever confronted with any kind of negativity, I search for someone that has it worse than me. When I was feeling really rejected while applying for jobs I would watch the Dixie Chicks’ documentary about how they watched their careers fall into a downward spiral after one badly thought out comment. When I struggled through bruised ribs in rugby I thought of athletes who had much more devastating injuries that they could never recover from.
So when faced with this uneasiness, I immediately thought of Mariane Pearl, the incredibly inspiring widow of Daniel Pearl and the subject of Angelina Jolie’s 2007 movie, “A Mighty Heart.”
Pakistani terrorists kidnapped, tortured, and killed her late husband. She had every right to be afraid, angry, demoralized, devastated. But she was none of these things. She publicly said she refused to live in fear, to allow the terrorists the victory of silencing the messages of tolerance and awareness that she and her husband had worked so hard to spread. After Daniel’s death, she committed herself to spreading a global message of hope, writing her memoir, and creating a Global Diary column in Glamour Magazine about women who are making the world a better place to live. She spun such an intense and personal tragedy into something beautiful and uplifting.
‘There is no fear in love’
As further proof that God is always looking out for us, a good friend randomly Skype messaged me a Bible verse after the attacks in Norway. The verse is from 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”
I’m not someone who typically quotes Bible passages but this one really got to me. The idea that love, something the world likes to see as weak or passive, could have such a powerful impact struck me as incredibly comforting. Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and other peaceful leaders of revolution changed the world with love. Who are we to say that we can’t do the same?
I think that lots of people underestimate the power of love. They see other people who build their successes on foundations of greed, anger, and hatred. All you have to do is open a newspaper to read about corrupt banks and bloody wars. It seems crazy that love could ever overcome such strong opponents.
But I think we can really draw inspiration and strength from the leaders of love that have come before us. I don’t know the name of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassin, but I can remember at least four of King’s speeches. The message of love prevails. People tried to silence these powerful individual voices but could never quiet the force behind them.
I thought of this message a lot on a personal level too. I wondered how many times I let fear get in the way of something that I wanted to do. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of coming up short.
I think that it is really love that will overcome those fears. Love of yourself that makes you confident enough to try something you might not otherwise. Love of another person that makes you selfless enough to put yourself out there. A love of God that lets you know it’s ok to come up short, that God will love you no matter what.
So with all of that in mind I tried to open my heart and let love do its thing. Let it make me a better, more open-minded person. Allow it to help me forgive the attacker and move on, not let him occupy my headspace anymore.
I’ll walk down Friderichstrasse tomorrow with my head held high, knowing that I am loved.