Radiate love by recognizing love
It was a Sunday afternoon, and the clouds brought a soft stillness to the day, though the day had been anything but still. I had been in a place of emotional turmoil as of late, and that day in particular brought an extra dose of struggle. I stepped out for some coffee and conversation downtown, not to talk about my struggles or grand ideas, just hoping to connect easily; but conversations are like the sea, they are unpredictable, and waves can come crashing down just as quickly as the waters calm.
I had been in a place of identity definition, not an identity crisis, but needed clarity around what I stand for and how that plays out practically in my life. Topics of faith, mental health, equality, equity, race, sexuality, gender identification, creative expression, and parenting, along with many other nuances of living, had been circling through my head. I needed clarity, a way to filter through this mind clutter that had built a nest in my brain, though I had become used to this emotional distress in my life. This familiarity with the pain body, as Eckhart Tolle defines it, had turned to a twisted comfortability.
The intention of ignoring the thoughts inside was instead met with the reality of working through the questions.
The time with my friend began in a comfortable state as we shared food, laughs, and the coolness of the afternoon. I even bought the most expensive fancy coffee I’ve ever paid for. The hours were then met with less comfortability as we challenged each other’s views on ideas of faith, politics, and mental health. The conversation sprung from the idea that self-love is necessary to battle self-loathing, as someone very dear to me was in a dark place; and I wanted desperately to save them from that pain if I had any power to do so. The first question that arose was “what is love”?
Descriptions and definitions are the first steps on the path of understanding. So what is love? I thought first of the passage from the Bible that one would hear at most American weddings:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”-1 Corinthians 13:4-7, The Bible
We are imperfect people, so we will inevitably fall short of this definition of love at times. In this imperfection is where my friend and I found ourselves discussing forgiveness, and more specifically, self-forgiveness. This is where another definition comes into play; self-forgiveness is:
“A willingness to abandon self–resentment in the face of one’s own acknowledged objective wrong, while fostering compassion, generosity, and love toward oneself”
Neither definition is passive. We must be intentional in our decisions to love and forgive. Forgiveness is encompassed in love, and love is needed to forgive. To live in love is a narrative we must choose, and we cannot fully love others well unless we love ourselves. To love your neighbor as yourself is another commonly referenced scripture (Matthew 22:39, The Bible). These five words from Jesus cut to the heart of it all. Love is key to life, and we cannot hate ourselves and expect to love others well.
The Active Pursuit of Love
Definitions are just the end of the waves that touch our toes on the shore, and diving into the sea is the way we find out what love is. Can we love and forgive ourselves? We can be intentional about the stories we tell ourselves and make efforts to give ourselves a break once in a while, yet this pursuit inevitably intertwines with the pursuit to love and forgive others. Likewise, seeking forgiveness from others is on that path of healthy self-love.
“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.”-Brené Brown
What is the next step of this journey? Are we loving others from the overflow of our heart, or are we trying to love from emptiness? We must seek the overflow, for that is where we can love others best. There is a great source of love out there that can fuel us, helping us be grateful for who we are, and helping us remember that we were wonderfully made.
How can you actively pursue love and forgiveness today? In that pursuit, know that you are loved. In that pursuit, know that you are being written into the story of this world, and the author of that story loves you deeply.