Love in the Real World: Contributions, Tools, Resources
For hopefully much of our walk, life will breathe in joy and fulfillment. Love is obviously a key element in that journey. But what of the challenges? Daily, we can be faced with personal limitations, challenges, mistakes. Daily, we confront challenges from external sources. Daily, we hear of injustice, suffering, killing, famine, disease, war, hatred, discrimination.
Where is love in all of this? Is it something that we can truly practice in our daily walk? Is it a reliable resource in both the good and the bad? If love is a vibrant and vital source, why do so many bad things happen? Is it something we and others can rely upon?
Love does not prevent the world. It is not a tyrant.
Instead it influences, guides and supports. Consider the primary Love mantras.
Love provides resources: Self, Others, Faith. Comfort. Hope. Resilience. Support. Sharing. Caring. It provides security, trust, and the quiet of prayer and meditation.
Love suggests tools in its teachings. Consider the ABC’S of love:
(1) Assess, Appreciate, Apply inner goods.
(2) Build, Learn, Grow—always.
(3) Care: of Self, of Others.
(4) Sharing. Outreach.
How may they apply and help? What tools might they suggest? Love is a life skill. The ABC’S can serve as a handy shorthand guide.
Love can prevent, avoid or mitigate some of the bad, but its role is broader, and encompasses responses, adaptations and outreach in this thing we call existence. In response to the question of whether to what extent love has an effect, a partial response is that it has as much effect as we allow.
That may not be a total answer. There may not be a final answer, at least one that we can fully accept or understand. But, there are approaches. It is to those which we now turn. Each person may develop their own approaches and insights. That is very good. The following is only the beginning of the journey.
Love at the Personal Level: Our Guide in Action; Our Guide in Reaction.
The Greatest Commandment is elegant in its simplicity, difficult in practice. Try for a single day to walk unerringly in its path. If you succeed, you are either a saint or, more likely, blind.
Fortunately, love is forgiving, encouraging. We are not perfect. Love nevertheless teaches those willing to learn, and is buoyed by any efforts on its behalf. Love does not judge. Love does not criticize. Love does not enable destructive behaviors. It does not demand perfection or browbeat failings. That would be antithetical to its nature. Instead, it encourages, teaches, supports and guides—if we are willing to listen. And, it provides tools.
In our daily walk, we can test our thoughts and actions in the first instance with the love mantras: (1) Is it born of love? (2) Does it increase love? (3) Does it reflect Love of Self, Love of Others, Love of God? The first role of love is to guide in our choices, actions, thoughts: preventative care; a thoughtful pause and prudence.
But love does not stop there. It also guides in reaction as well as action, and does so with at least four types of resources.
First, it honors and nurtures a strong Grounded Self. Are we intelligent, resourceful, strong, resilient, creative? If so, if we believe in ourselves, we do not become panic-stricken, angry, depressed, or consumed by hopelessness. We review our resources. We meet difficulties as challenges and opportunities: to test, learn, adapt, grow. As we move successfully from one event to another, confidence grows in our resilience. With a base of self-worth and confidence, we step forward, not down.
We may not have certainty over what may come our way. We can only be certain of our ability to respond and adapt. A Grounded Self is what love intends, builds and provides to us. “We” are love’s rocks against the waves. “We” are the first resource guiding our reaction to challenges. “We” react with strength, confidence and resilience. A grounded self promotes grounded reactions, grounded interactions.
Secondly, the practices of love builds a network of persons who support one another. We are there for them. They are there for us (even those we have never met before).
Thirdly, faith, prayer, meditation and related traditions can be invaluable in daily living: comfort, peace, hope. A quiet in the storm. Sometimes, we just need something to bolster us along the way.
Finally, love suggests tools for daily living in the real world. The ABC’S of love can be a useful shorthand guide as well as some of the practices suggested earlier.
Of the many tools available to us consider detachment and refocusing since it has many applications. Pause, breathe the mantras as applicable, and then consider, employ or adapt resources or practices suited to the situation—or, create new ones. We are intelligent and resourceful! We are not powerless martyrs or victims.
Detachment does not mean ignoring a matter, but rather stepping aside from the immediacy of an event and/or emotions to gain some level of objectivity, perspective and calm.
Refocusing changes viewpoint from negative emotional/mental clutter to options, resources and opportunities. It is by its nature constructive and forward-moving. In response to an event, and with our intelligence, resilience, creativity and strength, what can we learn? How best to approach? In what manner can the situation and our response grow us? Can we share our experience to help others? Can some good come of this? Better yet: How can I make some good come out of this? Does the situation suggest the need for a different route, change, option?
A quick reminder phrase in our arsenal might be: “React or Respond?”
Certainly, other tools exist. Many of the cognitive behavioral techniques are embraced in caring for self and others. Whatever works to build, maintain and preserve! Love is pragmatic.
Different approaches work for different people, depending upon histories, personality, gender and the myriad of other factors that make us unique individuals. The point is simply to embrace, honor and practice whatever approach or mixed approach best resonates.
Again, we may not have control over an event. But, we can control our actions and reactions. With the grounding of self, we can have confidence in our strength, goodness, and resilience in responding to events. The pause of Love’s mantras provides a sheltering quiet as we look to and assess our resources, tools and options. Problems do not crush, but rather enable our creativity in resolution and response, even as love provides continuing support.
Love: our guide in action; our guide in reaction.
Given the foregoing, the following sections will address situations in which the tools, approaches and resources of Love may play a role. Love does not supplant approaches from other disciplines but is frequently mirrored in them and can act in tandem as a support and guide.