“Most of the problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstandings. Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the zone of love, language as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence.”
― Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love
What are the words, stereotypes, false narratives and boxes we put around love?
As if there should be rules and regulations, around one of the most fundamentally healing emotions of the human spirit. Love. It's ephemeral, and something that is hard to grasp. Sometimes (many times) it is misrepresented by desire and perverted by our other friend lust. Love doesn't look one way. There isn't a prescription for who or how to love.
With June being the month of Pride, we've been thinking about love as the symbol of acceptance and the answer to a bigger picture healing power. Going beyond this month, what can we do to show more love and acceptance to those around us?
The idea of radical love is not new, nor am I an expert in speaking about it. As I understand it, radical love extends to compassion, humanity, and a greater understanding of each other – more literally, it can also mean accepting love in different forms.
Now more than ever it feels like everywhere you turn, there is a source of divide. With social media connecting us more than ever, we've also grown apart. Algorithms and confirmation biases are constantly pushing us further into the boxes that we already live in. We are fed news we already believe. We are advertised things we already buy. We like things we already like. Is our exposure more or less broad? I really don't know the answer, but sometimes it feels like the latter. We're forced to have opinions about things we don't understand, and bullied into boxes we might not fit in. Where is the love?
The last year has fundamentally changed the world. While it might seem overly optimistic to believe that everything that has happened can change us for the better, I do believe that it can. We just have to recognize the urgency to love, accept others more freely, and resist the urge to divide.
To me, the practice of radical love, means to consciously practice compassion. To truly practice compassion. Starting with yourself and those closest to you and extending to all. We are not all wired to be the same empaths. What touches one person, might not touch another. What is acceptable to one might not be acceptable to others. With love and wonder, you can see things more clearly and you must be willing to practice forgiveness. The culture of cancelation is as toxic as it is oppressive and will serve no one in the end.
I'm by no means expecting everyone to agree. Nor am I implying that there aren't legitimate reasons to be angry or appalled in others’ behaviors. But I do believe that the opportunities for compassion outweigh those of pure anger. In order to grow, we have to ask ourselves and others why. Why do we do the things we do? Think the things we think? Life is a constant ebb and flow of learning and expression. There has to be room for questions, in order to experience growth and expansion.
Loving yourself is an important part of this expression. Too many people act out of fear, insecurity, and defense. This is not the way forward. To have compassion for others, you need to have compassion for yourself. So much of what is baked into our psyche is self-critique. Even self-improvement can be a mode of negative transfer. What is the inner dialogue you experience? If you aren't looking at yourself with love, it will be hard to look at others in that light.
It has been said that love is an action word. Love isn't just something you say, it is something that you do. Love isn't always hearts, and rainbows. It sometimes looks like tears and grief. Love looks hard, and it looks easy. It looks like it flows, and it looks like work. It looks pure, and it looks complex. And, above all, I believe that love looks like compassion.
Start with loving yourself, so that you can extend that love to others.