Why Love Takes More Guts Than Hate

"Learning to love better in this world has been - and continues to be - the most hard core, demanding, courageous thing I have ever attempted."

"Learning to love better in this world has been - and continues to be - the most hard core, demanding, courageous thing I have ever attempted."

During the past few months, I have explained this Love Better thing to countless people who asked, “What are you doing now?” And every time I have explained it, I have felt an underlying defensiveness or fear.

Scott sensed it and finally asked me about it.  He knows me so well, and he could detect the apologetic tone in my voice as I talked about why we believe loving better is so important to the world. I tried to just put my big girl pants on and press on through these nebulous feelings, assuming the resistance I felt was simply the normal fear anyone experiences when starting something new.

But pushing through didn’t work.  After fighting writer’s block like I’ve never experienced before, and after digging and digging, my proverbial shovel has finally clinked on the big rock that was hiding underground.

I have feared the perception that loving better is about being shallow, not talking about hard things, or not being genuine. Trust me, I don't expect all people of the world to suddenly hold hands and hum “We Are The World” when there is so much difficult work to be done in our relationships at home, in our communities and around the world.

Here’s the thing.  Learning to love better in this world has been – and continues to be - the most hard core, demanding, courageous thing I have ever attempted.  It takes a whole boatload of grit to have uncomfortable conversations, to admit when I have been selfish or thoughtless, and to talk about the parts of my stories that I would rather stuff down out of sight.  It is terrifying to try to love someone well and get nothing back. I get it!

It is impossible to describe the level of authenticity that comes with knowing the dark parts of our own hearts, to own our failures and admit our fears. And it takes just as much to fully embrace others' failures and fears.

If I excuse my unkind behaviors as ’being authentic’ or ‘speaking truth’ without looking at my motives and seeking forgiveness, what I am really saying is, ‘I am unwilling to look at the depths of my own depravity, so let’s focus on yours.’

The one thing every human has in common is that we are ALL “works in progress.” How can we not give each other the space to continually grow into better versions of ourselves?  I'm not going to lie, It takes a lion’s share of strength to adjust our expectations of each other and let go of the temptation to withhold kindness and affection when the people around us aren’t seeing things the way we want them to.

Deciding to be a loving person means that we understand and embrace our strength with so much depth that we no longer have to "stick it" to someone who hurts us.  It is about seeing each other's problems and weaknesses, and being true to each other anyway.  It takes a big person not to be petty.

Choosing love means becoming confident enough in our identity as humans that we stop projecting our own disappointments and anger onto others – or ourselves – and accept what is true even when it is not perfect.

Criticism, hatred, judgment, anger, snobbery, self-righteousness and all the symptoms thereof, are copouts. I’ve learned that the hard way and I’m not proud of it.  If I excuse my unkind behaviors as “being authentic” or “speaking truth” without looking at my motives and seeking forgiveness, what I am really saying is, “I am unwilling to look at the depths of my own depravity, so let's focus on yours.”

For those of us who have the guts to do it, let's ask ourselves how we can be more open, more courageous, more generous advocates for each other.

For those of us who have the guts to do it, let's ask ourselves how we can be more open, more courageous, more generous advocates for each other.

I believe we can do better than that by having conversations that challenge us to love with equal parts gritty determination and humility. Love isn’t for whiners. Love is for the strongest of strong.  It means having the power to hurt someone, but choosing not to hurt them.  It means looking into each other’s eyes knowing all the storms brewing under the surface, and still saying, “We are in this together.”

I’m not talking about accepting evil.  I’m talking about offering a healing balm that asks, “What are you afraid of?” instead of “Why are you such a jerk?”  I’m talking about understanding our own capacity for wrong-doing, and still believing that we can find common ground. The world-changing kind of love means being bigger than our broken places.  

Before now, I have feared that loving better might be perceived (by some) as pie-in-the-sky idealism.  But you need to know that I am a realist, if nothing else.  (Just ask my sister. I used to drive her nuts when we were kids because I could never play “pretend” games. I couldn’t step out of reality long enough to fake like I was someone else.) If love is nothing but shallow, uninformed flakiness, I wouldn’t be here right now risking everything for a message that is bigger than I will ever be.

I believe love is highly misunderstood. I believe it takes badassery to look each other in the eye, be our true selves, and accept each other as we are.  It doesn't take any strength of character at all to talk behind each other’s backs, play the victim, and make self-protective excuses for being mean. (Was that harsh?  It was meant to be.)

Love takes way more guts than hate; yet only love fosters deep, sincere connection through which we can dare to hope for a future that is better than the past.

We all have every reason to be mad at the world on any given day.  But only a fraction of us are brave enough to let go of all anger, fear, control and pride to see how our little corner of the world might be transformed through our humble acceptance of what is and what could be.

Ironically, people of faith get this wrong a lot.  That's really embarrassing, since the biggest message of Jesus’s 32 years on this earth was, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s messy. Yes, it forces us to admit we have been wrong as often as we have been right.  But that’s the thing!  If love wasn’t so hard, the world wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.

I make no apology for calling myself, my family, my community and this world to a greater level of accountability for the way we treat each other (both face-to-face and behind each other's backs). We need each other more than we know. We need to step out from our armor and be brave enough to be seen. And, as risky as that may seem, the alternative is terrifying. 

For those of us who have the guts to do it, let's ask ourselves how we can be more open, more courageous, more generous advocates for each other. Love takes way more guts than hate; yet only love fosters deep, sincere connection through which we can dare to hope for a future that is better than the past.

Emily SutherlandComment