“You’re alive. Do something. The directive in life, the moral imperative, is so uncomplicated. It could be expressed in single words, not complete sentences. It sounds like this: Look. Listen. Choose. Act.”
– Barbara Hall
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
– Maya Angelou
One thing I have been noticing lately in the positive psychology/well-being/spiritual community is the way the phrase “respond with love” is the new catch-all to anything and everything. Your kid has a tantrum? “Respond with love.” Your sister is getting a divorce? “Respond with love.” Some guy cut in front of you in the hour-long line at the post office? “Respond with love.”
But what does that even mean?
From where I sit, I believe that “respond with love” is becoming the easy way out- the way to avoid sticky situations, the way to avoid making hard decisions, the way to be involved on the surface but not TRULY be of any use to the situation.
Don’t get me wrong- love is a powerful thing. It’s one of those things that can change the course of a single life. Many lives.
But when we start believing that loving someone means not being truthful with them, at the expense of their feelings or keeping the peace, bad things happen. When we stop being honest and just offering hugs or prayers or tell ourselves we’re just “holding space” instead of stepping into the murk and helping out in the best way we can, we’re not practicing love at all. We’re practicing FEAR.
Sometimes people need a good talking to. Sometimes they need to hear exactly what is on your mind. Sometimes the people we love the most need someone the trust and respect to tell it like it is, help them see the light.
I’m not saying your opinion is necessary in every single interaction you have with every person on this planet. And there is a tremendous amount of time when opinion is absolutely NOT necessary.
For instance, if your best friend has chosen not to go the same route you did with the education of her children, your opinion is not necessary (unless it’s asked for.) I mean, a discussion is great, but saying “you’re an idiot for putting Junior in that private school when our school system is so great!” is not a really loving thing to do. It’s you needing to put your opinion in the mix. It’s you needing to reassure yourself that you are making the right decision, being the better parent. I say this because it’s something that *I* find myself doing quite often and I’m working on it.
Unless your friend is locking her child up in a tiny wood crate and playing “sensory videos” at full volume 24/7, then the “loving response” to the difference of approaches would be to ask questions, find our more information, inform your OWN opinion. Seek the truth.
However, if your best friend is being abused by someone close to her (and there’s no possible way of misreading the situation) the “loving response” would be to help her become aware of the truth and help her get out of the situation. The “loving response” is not enabling her and offering space.
And you need to be okay with that. You need to go into it knowing that your LOVE for this person you care about could create some issues between the two of you.
So what am I getting at? Stop making LOVE the easy way out. Cause it’s not.
Loving someone, and doing the “loving” thing is asking questions, educating yourself as much as possible before forming an opinion, and figuring out if your two cents is beneficial.
If the person that you care about needs assistance, the responsibility of LOVE is to step in and get dirty. Loving someone is being a positive presence in their life, not just offering just a lukewarm hug and well-wishes and a shoulder to cry on. We’re human beings- a marvelous collection of cells and tissue and spirit and emotion and the capability to do more than just exist. We have an obligation to do more than just tepidly “hold space” if it is possible to do more.
Make a difference. Sometimes it’s just about educating yourself for the sake of understanding another person’s perspectives, and sometimes it’s about saying “enough is enough!” and getting into the muck along with the person you care about.
The best way to love another person is to carefully and honestly choose your response and follow through.
Chel Micheline is a mixed-media artist, curator, writer, and avid gardener/reader/swimmer who lives in Southwest Florida with her husband and daughter. When Chel’s not making art or pondering the Bliss Habits, she’s blogging at gingerblue.com (come say hi!) or posting new things in the gingerblue etsy shop.