Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fight Flight Freeze

What happens when you come face to face with something that wants to eat you?

We have all heard that we have three choices when faced with a threat: we can fight, we can run away, or we can stand very still and hope the problem goes away. If the threat persists, we sometimes try all three choices in sequence.

This fall feels threatening. As the days get shorter and cloudier, the economic forecasts also get gloomier. National elections never bring out the best: leadership in a campaign consists of getting your version of the world's woes placed squarely in front of every voter. Vote for me, they say, or face certain doom.

One of my very favourite stories is told in a children's book called "Everybody knows what a dragon looks like" (by Jay Williams). When faced by threats on all sides, the leaders of a village decide - systematically - that they cannot fight or escape, and that hiding is unlikely to be effective. So they pray for help. And then they hide.

When help arrives in response to their prayer - and it does arrive - the leaders cannot accept it because it does not look the way they expected it to look.

That's always the case. We pray for difference - and when we get something that is truly different, we try to send it back. We respond to hope the same way we respond to threat - fight, flight, freeze.

In the story, a little boy welcomes hope when it arrives. He does not believe in it and he does not recognize it. He just welcomes it and responds to what it asks of him.

In the face of threat, the little boy persists in being himself. He does what he would do on any other day.

Integrity does not create hope and it does not always recognize hope. It does treat hope - even new and different hope - with the respect it needs to do its work.

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