“You don’t have to be understood to be loved.”
That’s what my therapist said today, and it struck me that this is exactly what we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks without even knowing it.
Love, you see, isn’t exactly what we’ve believed it to be. Love, in my opinion, is a classic two parter.
The first part is all about the decision. Love is first and foremost an act of the will. It isn’t a feeling. It isn’t even more than a feeling regardless of what Boston says. All those feelings – the warm and fuzzy, the hot and tingly – those are something else ranging from genuine affection to white hot lust. But love…..well, love is a choice. Love is a determination. Love is an act of will. Once you’ve decided to love someone, you can keep on doing it when the feelings are long gone or when the brain is telling you to give up. You can love when they don’t deserve it, haven’t earned it and aren’t returning it. Love is a force to be reckoned with.
The second part of love is 100% verb. I think it’s the hardest part, but I could be wrong about that. Love, the verb, is when it goes from thinking to action. When you choose to give grace, when you choose to forgive, when you choose to hang on and not let go, when you choose to let go while the tears are raining down…….this part of love looks like a million different things. It’s the great chameleon. It’s silence and a cup of cocoa. It’s the strong words of a friend that rub us raw. It’s a light in the darkness. It’s an always open door. It’s the boundaries that teach us respect.
It’s the space we honor for those we dislike, don’t agree with and are even occasionally repulsed by. Love is the mercy we rarely deserve.
There are all kinds of things we say and sing about love, but most of them widely miss the mark. Most of them fail to understand that of all the things love is, the one thing it is not is capricious. It stands the test of time, of space, of distance, of death. If it gives up, it was never really love to begin with.
I Corinthians says that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
The call to love isn’t for the weak-willed.
Let’s face it. We’re big fans of love. We’d bask in its light all day every day if only we could, but we so often turn that light out for others. Does love really win?
Why do I feel that everyone should be allowed space in the public square to say what they think? Why do I want to give a platform to even the most repulsive points of view?
Because the most basic human right is the right to be wrong.
Because I like to see the crazy coming and not let it catch me by surprise.
Because I think nearly all human beings are redeemable and that change is possible.
Because I’ve been shunned and silenced for not holding the “right” opinions.
Because love should win.
Love makes room for us when we’re wrong. Love may push back, love may have boundaries, but love still holds space for us.
It’s not hard to love those we find pleasant, appealing, attractive or….loveable. It’s not so easy to choose to love the smelly, the awkward, the different, the broken, the breakers or the intolerant.
That, my friends, is more than a feeling. That’s an act of will.
It’s an act of will to look at the reprehensible and to try to find one thing you can like about them and then to hold on to that one thing while you continue to be kind, to be respectful, to love and to listen. It’s not easy. It doesn’t stroke our egos or feed our feelings. It’s one of the freaking hardest things you will ever do. Love can be a white-knuckled test of endurance. It can also be the most amazing thing you’ll ever experience.
Humans are capable of change, but change is ridiculously hard. Change your habits. Change your diet. Change your mind. Change your life. It’s soooooo hard. But it’s even more challenging when the world around you does everything it can and tells you in every word it knows that you can never, ever change. When the world tells you that you’re irredeemable, you’ll believe it because it’s easier than rising up, fighting back and growing. Our behavior tells others whether or not they are intrinsically valuable enough to believe in or hope for. We can literally curse others to a life of never evolving. I do not want to do that. Do you?
I don’t have to agree with you to love you.
I don’t have to understand you to love you.
I don’t even have to like you to love you.
I just have to decide to love you.
I’m just one person, but what if we were an army of love? What if we loved the unloveable together? Would that change the world?
Love wins: live like you mean it.