One Thing You Can Do to Make the World a Better Place
Got problems? The world certainly seems to have lots of problems. It seems overwhelming – how can we get ourselves out of the mess we are in? So much fear, war, anger, hate, deceit, self-serving behaviors and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. And don't even get me started on the divisiveness and polarization. The solutions to these problems that we face on a global level are not clear.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein
Most of us believe that we really can’t make a difference – we feel so small in the shadow of the enormous, daunting, and frightening realities that we face. The solution I propose is not the ONLY thing that needs to be done. It is, however, something that each and every one of us can do.
This solution is simple (anyone can do it), empowering (makes us feel like we are making a difference individually and collectively) and positive (puts the right kind of energy out there).
And, it’s within each of us, available for each and every one of us to tap into.
THE ANSWER IS LOVE.
So you think - eh, that's so pollyanna-ish. Our problems are beyond just "love one another" and "kumbaya". I hear you and I know what you mean. But I ask that you bear with me here...
Love is the energy that makes life worth living and makes relationships yummy. Love is like fuel. Remember when you were infatuated and you knew you could accomplish anything and you felt euphoric? You can re-gain those feeling when you love unconditionally, deeply, and soulfully.
“The only lasting cure for hate is love, and unconditional love means opening our hearts to people ‘as they are’ rather than condemning them as evil or writing them off as hopelessly ignorant.” Scott Noelle, The Daily Groove
I'm not talking about the kind of love that's most familiar to many of us, that is transactional or conditional love….”love me just the way I want to be loved or it’s not right” love or “I’ll love you if you love me first” love. I'm talking about the kind of love where you take risks, get vulnerable, speak from the heart, genuinely want to know each other, allow for messiness, love first with no expectations, and most of all, deeply love yourself.
Yes, I know this is a POWERFUL way to heal the world!
The context of this blog post goes way beyond “romantic partnership” love. Friendships and family. People you don’t even know. People you disagree with. People you think you dislike.
Yes, you can love people you don’t know. I was a skeptic, but I've experienced it and it’s pretty damn amazing. Sometimes we are given the impression that loving “just anyone” is not normal or ok. Not true. And yes, we also can come to love those we disagree with and even those we think we dislike.
Love is contagious. The more you can open your heart to strangers and love them, the more they can do the same.
“Have compassion for everyone you meet, even when they don’t want it. What seems conceit, bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.” Miller Williams
Those who are the most difficult to love often need love the most. And everyone is worthy of love. Everyone. Sadly, our minds aren’t so sure about that.
Most of us love with our minds, but when we do that, we start keeping track of who did what for whom, remembering all of the times when he left his underwear on the floor or she didn’t appreciate that you emptied the dishwasher.
Our minds are guided by fear
Our minds think they're doing right by us because they're protecting and guarding us against potential hurt. Sadly, this is a false sense of security. It's what prevents us from having deep lasting love with those in our lives. When we're guided by fear, rather than love, we never truly give everything to a person. We hold back just enough to mentally protect ourselves from being vulnerable, open to being hurt. Unfortunately, we cannot achieve true happiness and fulfillment if we are holding back and scared. When we love with our minds, we're concerned mostly with how well we think we are BEING loved rather than paying attention to receiving the beautiful love that's actually being showered upon us and how well we love others.
Do listen closely to how you're asking to be loved, however. This provides great clues as to what is missing in our lives. If you're asking to be listened to and nurtured, you have uncovered unmet needs – the need to be heard and the need to be nurtured. Everyone has needs and unfortunately many of them are unmet. It’s necessary to admit and to communicate what your needs are. Most people look to others to meet their needs. Here’s a radical concept – can you find ways to give what you need to yourself? What does it mean to be nurtured? Can you nurture yourself? What does it mean to be listened to? Are you actually listening to yourself? Or do you ignore your deepest desires?
To love openly and deeply, we must learn to love with our hearts
Within our hearts, there are no tally marks, only open and unrestricted kindness and compassion. Loving with your heart means that you're free to love unconditionally – you don’t expect anything in return and you allow others to love you in their own way, with no expectations of what that love needs to look like to call it love.
When we love with expectations we're fraught with disappointment and a lot of waiting to be loved “just right.” When we love others by guessing how they want to be loved, we're left feeling depleted and disappointed when we don’t get it right. That's loving with the mind (which is seeking to be safe and often reacting to our inner wounding and unmet attachment needs).
When you love with your heart, you love authentically in your own unique and special way. When you feel that you're allowed to do that, you will begin to allow others to love you in their own special ways. It really is much easier this way.
Many of us struggle with the act of receiving love. That has certainly been hard for me. We protect ourselves with a shield that doesn't allow people’s gestures of love to fully penetrate to our souls. We sometimes take their gestures in on the surface and feel thankful, but never let it touch us deeply. This could be because we don’t feel worthy, or it feels too risky. It’s different for everyone.
What is it for you?
I often need to stop after someone does something loving and remind myself to feel it in my heart – this person is showing me that they love me – THEY-LOVE-ME! Wow! It feels pretty darn good to feel deeply loved. Work hard to allow yourself to be loved. If you want to honor the people you love, let them love you. Try to pay attention to where people are loving you and you have not really acknowledged it as an act of love towards you. Take it in.
A few steps toward living a more loving life:
- Forgive. Forgiveness is not about saying that what someone did is ok, it’s about allowing YOU to let go of the resentment and anger in order to free up that energy and to move on. And don't forget to forgive yourself!
- Practice gratitude. It’s been proven that people who take time each day to express gratitude are happier. Before you go to sleep at night, say out loud (to your partner would be great) or write in a journal 3-5 five things that you are grateful for. For more fun, try not to have any repeats over the course of one week. It feels pretty terrific to go to sleep feeling grateful.
- Expand your heart. When you walk into a room and you notice all of the things your partner did “wrong,” you may feel let down and unloved – pause. Choose the path of love and expansion. It’s a habit that quickly begins to feel good and rewards you for your choice. Reach out and express love for your partner (or child or friend or other) instead of criticism. Likewise, when your partner talks to you, listen with a heart that trusts that it is loved, rather than one that feels judged and criticized. Consider a child – if a child listens with judgment when mom says “put your jacket on,” he will hear “you are not responsible enough to take care of yourself.” If the child listens with love, he will hear “I love you so much that I don’t want you to be cold.” Try that with your partner. Allow yourself to be loved and trust that you are.
- Cut yourself and others slack. When you feel like you want to jump and react to someone when you disagree - ask yourself...do you want to be right or happy? Do you want to argue or connect? When you notice yourself being tough on yourself, can you cut yourself some slack? Talk to yourself like you're a good friend? When we prioritize love and connection, so much else ceases to matter as much.
Now, the question is - how the heck does this change the world? How does this make the world a better place or solve problems?
For one, when we stop thinking everything is a fight or a battle (in our hearts or with others), we begin to bring a softer and more gentle heart to the world. Remember, we are the microcosm of the macrocosm, so the world reflects our individual lives and smaller communities. When we bring more love to ourselves and our loved ones, it has a ripple effect in the world.
Also, when we bring more love to the world, we literally vibrate at a higher energetic frequency. People feel it. It increases their vibe. People feel better and more supported. More loved.
Each person we touch matters. When we go out there and "do activism" from the place of fear, hatred, anger and disgust, we have the potential to do more harm than good. And often, we come home depleted and frustrated and bring that energy to all of those around us.
When we are capable of listening to another without reacting, understanding another with curiosity and seeing the whole person in front of us rather than only pieces and parts - that is the beginning of a true revolution. When people feel seen, heard and understood - they heal. Love heals.
Change starts within the smallest circles. Within you, in our families and your tight communities. That's truly where you can have the greatest impact. The ripple effect is real.
It's okay to start with yourself and your family. I promise you - it matters. Love really does matter.
Each one of us matters.
Go forth and spread your love!