Beliefnet
Your Morning Cup of Inspiration

Why are we so affected by the events that we see on the news? For many of us, the massacre in Nice took place across the ocean.  Yet we felt grief when we learned of the tragedy.  The same holds true for 9/11.  I was living in New York City at the time.  As a result, I felt the tragedy of that day very immediately and personally.  Yet, I know people who were nowhere near the Pentagon or the World Trade Centers who likewise were shaken up by that day.

Of course, the 24-hour news media’s style of reporting contributes to our emotional response to such events. But it is more than that.  When we see events, like those in Nice or Paris or Istanbul, we think, “That easily could have been me.”  And we, in turn, are overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness.

The reality is that one person, especially one mentally ill person with delusions of religious righteousness, can destroy many lives singlehandedly. The person’s target can be a public space, an abortion clinic, an airport – any place that he feels inspired to do evil.  For instance, right now I am having a cup of tea at a bookstore.  There is nothing stopping a disgruntled individual from walking in and shooting me and all the other patrons, a bunch of innocent people who just love books.

Does one person’s ability to inflict tragic harm render the rest of us helpless? Yes.  And no.  The reality is that we are vulnerable every time we walk out the front door.  Unless you are going to lock yourself up in your house and never leave, you are vulnerable.  We are helpless to control our circumstances.

However, our power doesn’t come from our circumstances.  Our circumstances are dictated by luck.  Sometimes we have good luck.  And sometimes we have bad luck.  Being born with good looks or intelligence is good luck.  Being born into a family who has money is good luck.  Having dysfunctional parents is bad luck.  Being raised in the inner city is bad luck.  Marrying a man who turns out to be an abuser is bad luck.  Being in the wrong place at the wrong time during a terrorist attack is bad luck.  Our circumstances are based on purely on luck and have nothing to do with who we are or where our power comes from.

Our power comes from the decisions that we make and the actions that we take in our circumstances. So the powerful woman is the one who leaves her abusive husband.  The powerful child is the one who tells his teacher that he is being bullied.  The powerful man is the one who acts morally, even when all his peers are compromising their values.

You are powerful if you suffer a tragedy and still find a way to move forward and do something beautiful with your life. I know a couple whose daughter died in a car accident when she was nineteen.  She was their only child.  I don’t know how you get through a tragedy like that.  Yet, they have not withdrawn from the world.  They have carried on.  They have a strong marriage and are such good people.  They bless every person they come in contact with, and I am blessed just to know them.

You are powerful when you fail at something, and instead of giving up, you try again. One of our most respected presidents, Abraham Lincoln, experienced countless failures and tragedies.  Yet he kept trying and achieved great things for our country.  His decision to never give up was one of his most powerful attributes.

We are helpless to control our circumstances, but we are powerful in our ability to control ourselves. Our power lies in our every action and every decision.  Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we choose to exercise our power to make the world a better place.  Yes, one person can wreak some havoc.  But the sick and evil individuals of this world are no match for the rest of us when we decide each day to do the right thing no matter what.  In the end, our goodness will prevail.

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