stop using “LOVE” as the easy way out

Welcome to Tuesdays with Chel.

photo by Crimson Monkey
photo by Crimson Monkey

“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 (come say hi!) or posting new things in the gingerblue etsy shop.

7 thoughts on “stop using “LOVE” as the easy way out

  1. Karen B says:

    Great piece Chel! Having worked in the mental health sector a few years ago, I can attest to the need/benefit of ‘tough love’. As parents, it’s our job to bring our children up to be independent, responsible and valuable members of society – and sometimes tough love is what is needed to get them there. So on this one I’m with you all the way (although I don’t find it quite so easy with people outside my immediate family – and as for my Mother, well she’s a law unto herself)!

    • Thanks Karen! I know this can be a hot button issue, but I’m really all about energy and action. There’s always something that can be done, whether it’s asking a few questions to show you care to actually getting involved at a high level to just saying “no, this is unacceptable”. But the whole “I’m being silent and offering you love” thing doesn’t work for me. Love should be a *verb*, not just some flow-y state we step in and out of at will.

      • Karen B says:

        D’you know Chel, just reading your reply brought to my mind that this ‘tough love’ needs to aply to self love too. I’ve just realised that it’s easy to let yourself away with things in the name of ‘self love’ (love being that namby pamby thing that accets all sorts of nonsense), when in reality it can be much more beneficial to front up and tell oneself that ‘this is unacceptable’ and that by pandering to oneself, other people can suffer. I realise that the idea that I have to look after myself frst before I can look after others can easily be hijacked to mean that I have to indulge myself before I look after others. This realisation has given me something to think about today (because guess who is guilty of this)!!!

        • YES! I totally didn’t even think about that until you mentioned it. It’s so easy to come across a difficult emotion or tendency in ourself and say “poor thing, there there” instead of asking some questions, seeing what action can be taken, and then actually TAKING that action.

  2. This was something powerful to consider, Chel! I do happen to practice the operate from love school of thought. But I do see the value in the positive expression of emotion, and depending on the circumstance using more action and pure honesty to resolve a heated situation say, etc. As long as we’re operating from a place of personal integrity and honesty. This gave me much food for thought. I definitely think love should be a verb, and action–not just a happy place in the mind to retreat to or solely flow from. Great food for thought today!

    • Actually, I think my “snark” was more directed at those who use the expression “love” as an excuse NOT to act. It’s a way of saying “I’m getting out of doing anything about this situation or getting myself into a sticky place by telling you that I’m holding love for you”. I think people who do this know in their heart of hearts that what they are doing is avoiding action, and therefore, not being “loving” at all.

      I think love is a super powerful and complex emotion, and it’s a grave disservice to the whole *nature* of love to use the word as an excuse to do nothing. Do you know what I mean? Sometimes the loving response is silent compassion, but more often than not it’s something more than that. Support. Action. Feelings that inspire us to ask questions. A genuine concern for someone’s well being. Not just a neutral “good luck but I’m gonna coat it in words about love so it looks like I mean it!” kinda response.

      As for you, Tracy, your love IS action. It’s the way you live your life, the way you create, the way you share everything with people. Because you are genuine about it. You ask questions, you SHARE, you make sure people know that you are there for them by showing up and actually *living* love. That’s an example for all of us.

      I just want people to ACT “love” rather than just throw the word around and use it as a safe place to hide behind.

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