Examine how we love
When the world was on the trajectory that it had been on, it is not hard to understand that we have encountered a world-changing type of tragedy that is reshaping our understanding of the way the world is, and what is good and what needs to be left behind.
America is divided, not united, so it seems. There is hope though. There is an opportunity to recognize the divides that have become second nature for our nation. Even in darkness, there is hope, or better said, hope shines brighter in the darkness.
We will find ourselves in a state of constant distress if all of our energy is focused on changing others. Though there is a part of our lives that needs to be dedicated to that change, we must be willing to recognize the change that needs to take place in our own lives.
I believe that we have an internal defense mechanism that protects us from self-loathing because we are all very aware of our shortcomings whether or not we are willing to admit them. The challenge is to allow ourselves the grace to dive into the dark parts of our souls and minds and find those areas desperate for change and accept that it is okay.
We need to challenge our view of love, or what that love looks like.
There is No Hate in Love
We need to recognize hate in our hearts, be it toward a person or group of people, and remove it. This hate may be cleverly disguised as an excuse to avoid places or bits of satisfaction at the distress of others. Love has a conscience, hate does not.
Love can bounce out of a debate once there is a true need. Love has the perspective to see the bigger picture and look beyond the issue being argued in front of our face. Address the hate in our life, because it destroys us; then fill that space with that which strengthens and builds us up.
“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image.” — Thomas Merton
Love Beyond Ourselves
The word beyond does not mean instead of. Beyond includes starting with the very thing itself, then working through it until we understand the greater meaning. Going beyond an idea does not exclude or circumvent the idea. Beyond goes through, it does not go around.
Start with loving yourself, and in that rooted love, spread it to others around you. Love of self is practice for how we should love others. We will experience how to respond to a full spectrum of issues within ourselves. I tend to rain guilt on myself, drown in regret, and walk about in unforgiveness. A foundation of guilt, regret, and unforgiveness of self does not create a solid foundation for loving others. Instead, it creates fragility and a shrunken perspective.
We cannot hate or abusive ourselves and expect to deliver true and honest love to those around us. Our perspective will stay small if we hold on to a small love. Therefore, loving beyond ourselves requires us to go through the gauntlet of loving all of ourselves.
For this idea I have to resort to one of the most popular quotes on self-love:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” — Jesus
Once we establish a foundation of self-love, that love spreads to those in our proximity. Our family, our friends, our coworkers; they all reap the benefits of the love we sow. In that idea of going beyond though, our love does not stop at who we can reach out and touch.
Beyond that proximity love, we take what we have learned from self-love and loving others to develop empathy for the world around us. We begin to feel the need to make the stranger feel less estranged. We find ourselves drawn into conversations on the street with a passer-by and to send support across the world. Any hostility we harbored begins to transform in hospitality.
“True Hospitality is welcoming the stranger on her own terms. This kind of hospitality can only be offered by those who’ve found the center of their lives in their own hearts.” — Henri Nouwen
What is the change that needs to take place? Love of self, love of others in our proximity, and love for the rest of the world. We must define the kind of person we wish to be. These are the inner workings of our mind kind of decisions, the state of our hearts.
Our actions should reflect our hearts, with our hearts as the compass. A compass only serves its purpose if it has a course set. So, are we headed on the course of our heart, or are we following the wind?
Go beyond in your day. Go beyond in your heart. Go beyond in your world.