OK, this may sound silly, but I got insight the other day from watching microwave breakfast pizza. You know the sort: little pies on a biscuit crust topped with sausage, egg, and cheese. You put them on a flimsy paper platform with a silver surface, a contraption always in danger of collapsing. Anyway, I was watching their progress through the window on the oven door, and noticed that one resembled a mountain being pushed up, with cheese lava flowing over the sides of the platform, while the other remained flat and bubbled only slightly. The same conditions, equal heat on the turntable, but they acted differently.

Isn’t that the way we are? Some of us blow up, reactively allowing circumstances to control our lives. Others under the same conditions are calm, seeking solutions, becoming proactive. The former are typically anxious, while the latter maintain what has been called a “non-anxious presence” or more recently, a “less-anxious presence,” recognizing that no one can be totally free from anxiety. Put another way, with the late family systems expert Ed Friedman, some of us are wired in series, so that we cannot separate ourselves and our actions from those of the fearful, dysfunctional folk around us. Others are wired in parallel, maintaining a measure of independence and acting with more wisdom and insight. If your neighbor’s lights go out, so to speak, you keep on shining like a beacon of peace and hope.

Too much of the rhetoric we hear in the church, media, and government these days is fear-driven, wired-in-series stuff, and the action that arises from it is like the bubbling mess of that pizza in my oven. Wouldn’t we rather have non-anxious leaders who do not let the anxieties of others control their talk and their deeds? Wouldn’t we like to see such serenity in our own lives?

Next time the heat is on, let those of us who are prone to panic take a lesson from the non-anxious pizza.

© 2012 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.

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