This is the first part of a two-part post, part 2 of this post can be found here.
Poets and singers have been writing and singing about it, painters have been painting it, and human beings all over the world are making it, 24-hours a day… but what is ‘love’ to you?
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what it means to you to give love? To be loved, as an adult?
Many of us have a long, laundry-list of what love is not, but how long is your list of what love IS?
I don’t know about you, but it’s much easier for me to be something, than to not be something. It’s easier to be kind, than to not be mean. It’s easier to be calm than not to panic. It’s easier to be more understanding than to not be frustrated, to think about what makes me happy, rather than not think about what’s making me angry. Which is a long-winded way of saying:
It is easier to coast toward the things you want than to pull away from the things that you don’t want.
It’s easier to become more loving than to avoid hurting others… and if/when I run into a ‘loving glitch’, it is much easier to be understanding when people around me get upset.
If I live life with the goal of being more loving, rather than ‘not hurting others’, I immediately illeminate (or nearly so) my ego from the conflict. Suddenly, it’s easy to see how my comment was hurtful, even though that wasn’t my intent. I no longer have to fight my ego, the part of myself that cries out, “I try my best not to hurt anyone’s feelings, ever! How could they accuse ME of being mean?! I’m probably the nicest person they’ve ever met in their lives!”
Maybe it’s just me, but the semantics of it… even though, technically, they’re both the same thing… I know what love feels like. I know what it feels like in my body, I know what it feels like in my heart, I know what it sounds like coming out of my mouth, and if I say something to someone and their feelings are hurt as a result, it can only be for one of three reasons:
1) … I was not, in fact, truly being loving during my interaction with that person, therefore, I broke my own rule, to be more loving, and I owe them an apology, and my gratitude, for their kindness in showing me where I had strayed from my own desired path of love and kindness, and I know it’s true, because I know what love feels like, and I know was not feeling love during my dealings with them. Or…
2) … I was being totally loving, but somehow there had been a break down in communication, somewhere. I had been completely loving, but I hadn’t ensured my words/actions were received in the same love with which they were intended. I didn’t make sure that my love wasn’t lost somewhere in translation. I would apologize, and again, be grateful for being made aware of a break down in communication that I’d had no idea had occurred! Or…
3) … I thought I was being loving, but in hindsight, there was some unloving aspect I missed, in which case, I would owe you an apology for my error in judgment. If there had been malice in my heart, it would have fallen under #1, but if my intentions were pure but my judgement was poor, then that’s a different reason, but from what I can see, in choosing to Be More Loving, all reasons lead to the same outcome.
Any way I look at it, I owe that person an apology for my unloving and/or oblivious behavior. Either way, I can give that person the apology they crave, without fuss or argument. And I can love myself for it. And I can love them for letting me know. And I can feel a little bad or guilty about it, and love myself for feeling bad.
Pretty nice, right? So what makes Being More Loving so different from some other life ‘philosophy’ that sounds just as good on the surface? Something like ‘not hurting others’?
Because you can’t know, for sure, whether you hurt someone else. You don’t know whether your words scraped some emotional wound in another person. Their outward reactions are your only clue, and we all know how much of the iceberg of ‘who we are’ remains hidden beneath the surface. It is impossible to truly know if we have wounded another, especially if the wound is an emotional one.
Not Hurting Others is great in theory, but impossible to quantify, without 100% accurate feedback from others… and no one is that honest, and expecting everyone to be 100% honest? I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.
But when my life philosiphies revolve around what I should be doing/being/thinking/feeling, I always know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, whether I was doing/being/thinking/feeling the thing in question.
When my life ‘rules’ and philosiphies begin and end with me, other’s opinions cease to be an issue. I no longer have to convince anyone that I’m ‘right’, because what are arguments, other than two or more perspectives doing their best to not be wrong? When I center the rules I live by, my ‘moral code’ if you will, around my own feelings, and really learn what my feelings feel like within my mind and body, I will always know if I was being true to myself or not, because I know what that feels like. There is no one to convince, because I cannot help but know the answer.
An argument about whether something was ‘hurtful’ or not could continue all day. Decades. Generations. It can grow to include entire families. Neighborhoods. Races. Nations.
Who is there to argue with, if my first rule is to Be More Loving? Myself? I guess I could, but I wouldn’t, because it would be breaking Rule #1. If John said I hurt his feelings, I’m not going to argue with him about whether I did or didn’t hurt his feelings, or if I did, why it was or wasn’t necessary. I’m going to look inside myself to discover whether I owe him an apology for not making my meaning clearer, or for being unloving… because I’ve created a rule I can live by, a rule that there’s no law against anywhere; not in a religious text, not in a book of laws for any country, state or province.
If nations began to make the first rule of all talks, peaceful or otherwise, to Be More Loving, then when a nation asks for aid, every nation who can, helps. When one nation says to another, “you have offended our nation and its people”… the other nation would not scramble to put the right ‘spin’ on the story before the truth leaks to the press, they wouldn’t be playing the ‘cover our ass’ game, they’d be playing the ‘how can we help our fellow man?’ game.
When I decided to Be More Loving, you would think I’d be giving fewer apologies, but what I found, at least so far in the beginning, is that I am actually giving more apologies. But it makes sense, if you think about it. I am breaking a lifelong habit of ‘not hurting others’. I’m in transition. A time of awakening. I have begun to become aware of the truth of my surroundings, the truth of who I am, of what I want and need, and how to play ‘offense’ instead of ‘defense’.
In all honesty, even though I’m apologizing more, I’m likely not being any more ‘offensive’ to others as I normally am (if you actually do this… come back and re-read this part, you’re going to be absolutely horrified!). Take a moment and really let it sink in.
This exercise will change your life… but it will show you exactly who you really are before it gets better. Every lie and bullshit story you’ve convinced yourself is ‘true’ is going to get peeled back, revealing the hot mess we’ve all been trying to hide, even from ourselves.
But don’t let that scare you.
When you decide to Be More Loving, that doesn’t just apply to other people. It applies to you, too.
‘Don’t hurt others’ leaves the door wide open for me to treat myself any way I might have been taught to love myself in the past. There’s a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way to talk to myself, to look at myself, to be looked at by others, to think about myself… it leaves the door open for any feeling to be applied to myself, and it be ‘legal’. Be More Loving takes every ugly, mean, unloving thought, comment and look that I’ve always thrown at myself off of the table.
You may find you’re apologizing to yourself a lot in the beginning, too. At least, I have been, and you probably will (or should) be, also. Again… that’s okay. I think that’s what’s supposed to happen.
I’m learning to speak a new language. To myself, and to everyone around me. It’s to be understood that I might ‘revert’ back to my ‘comfort zone’ if I become unsure, or forget for a little while that I changed the rules. But that’s okay. The instant I remember that I changed the rules, I will remember to Be More Loving, and that includes toward myself, for forgetting.
Sound like so much garbage? Think I’m pulling your leg? Here’s a real-life example. In fact, it happened to me today (the day this post was written).
I got pulled over for speeding today. I was doing 42 in a 25. 😮 (I know… I know… but believe it or not, I rarely drive more than 5 over the speed limit!) Anyway, between hormones and some life stuff this past week, I immediately burst into tears. Long story short, I left the encounter with a yellow slip of paper and a court date, and he left one speeding ticket closer to making his monthly quota. Because I had been practicing being present and aware, even through my upset, I was loving toward this officer (sgt?) that had just ruined my otherwise normal day… because I was able to clearly see that it was I, in fact, who had ruined my otherwise normal day. Not this guy. I must have been pretty loving, because by the end of it, he ended up being the one listing all the reasons why it was easy to speed on that particular road, and he told me how to keep the ticket off of my record.
I was loving toward him, because he was just doing his job. He was loving toward me in return, and seemed to genuinely regret having to be a source of distress in my life. He never once made me feel bad for speeding, because I didn’t try to make him feel bad for pulling me over.
I had thought to skip it, because it seemed irrelevant, but this part of the tale now fits perfectly…
When he first walked up to my window and began his spiel, I was already in tears. I noticed his tone was blatantly brisque, after I said I hadn’t seen the signs, as he replied, “you passed one… two… three… you passed three speed limit signs, you’re telling me that you didn’t-”
I hurried to cut him off before he finished speaking out loud what I knew he was thinking, to assure him that I wasn’t refuting his claim, that I believed him about the signs, the speed limit, my speed, everything. I was just on a road I’d never driven before, rushed, distracted… and only crying because I am upset with myself and nervous. He immediately relaxed, because I’d assured him that I wasn’t trying to make him feel bad, by my words OR by my tears, for pulling me over… I was just having an emotional reaction to getting pulled over by the police. And the instant he realized that I wasn’t trying to ‘convince’ him I hadn’t done anything wrong (when we both knew I had) and that my tears were not for the benefit of his heartstrings, his entire demeanor changed, and he turned the conversation toward the things I described above.
If I had still been wrapped up in my ‘rules’ of ‘don’t harm others’, my ego would have immediately been clamoring about how the speed limit being only 25 on that road is stupid, and I hadn’t hurt anybody.
That’s why ‘do no harm’ is tricky. It’s maleable. My slippery little (BIG) ego can manipulate it and find the loopholes, sometimes effortlessly. So effortlessly, I don’t even realize it’s happening. Because who can say it caused harm, I mean… my ego might slyly whisper, “it would harm Judy’s emotional state (embarass her) if I tell her she has food in her teeth.” Well, I guess that’s possible, she might feel a moment’s pang of awkwardness… but is that really less harmful than telling her?
Believe it or not, this has been an actual moral dilemma for me in the past (but ‘Judy’ is completely fictional). You might ask yourself why someone might induce a mild anxiety attack in themselves over telling someone that they have food stuck in their teeth. I would experience the anxiety, then I would turn around and not tell someone if they had food in their teeth. I’d chicken out, because I get overwhelmed by embarassment for that person. I would experience the same rush of embarassment within myself, telling someone they had food stuck in their teeth, as I would feel if someone had told me that I was the one that had food between my teeth. Or lipstick on my teeth. Or toilet paper on my shoe. Then there’s a scale, of how embarrassed I think a person will be by the knowledge, and I have to decide whether I wish to be responsible for unleashing this feeling inside another person. To my way of thinking, I had to experience the feeling myself, before I could do or say something to someone else, in order to ‘experience’ the amount of ‘harm’ that might be done to another. But in choosing to Be More Loving, there’s no dilemma, no ‘check system’, because as long as I am always responding to others and the world at large with love, I’m not trying to avoid anything. Nothing outside of me has to change at all.
Please leave your thoughts or reactions in the comment section below! I love our little chats!
Click here to continue to Part 2 of ‘Stop Fighting, Start Loving’