“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” — Victor Hugo
I have to say, there were more than a few times last week when I thought, “What is happening in our world?”
The way Jeff Bezos took on the National Enquirer made me gasp for all sorts of reasons. But I love what he said: if someone in his position can’t fight back against blackmail and extortion, then who can?
I also found myself shaking my head during the State of the Union. I was upset by the visible division in our country and how it was on full display in the room. You could have turned off the sound and still fully seen and understood how one half of the room felt about the other. (I must say, though, I was inspired by the guests in attendance. Their inspiring life stories give me hope.)
Then, don’t even get me started on Virginia. While the news coming out of that state is jaw-dropping and hurtful, I believe that it shows us just how much work we still have to do. It’s hard work. It’s work of reconciliation and understanding. It shows us that we must have a deeper conversation about race and not ignore what is sitting right below the surface for so many people.
This is the type of conversation that I don’t think many of us know how to have as a culture. I actually think we could take a page from Alcoholics Anonymous, which asks its participants to take an honest account of their lives, dig in, and then do the hard work of taking responsibility for their actions and making amends.
Healing always starts with individual inventory. Taking responsibility and asking for forgiveness (with the hope of salvation) is a deeply-rooted human desire. Over the course of my life, I’ve seen so many people’s lives transformed and saved through love and acceptance.
I know that’s hard, but I believe it is our only way forward. It is our only way forward not just when it comes to repairing Virginia, but when it comes to repairing our politics, our communities, our schools, and our own families as well.
This Thursday is Valentine’s Day, and on this day so many couples will proclaim their love for one another with cards, candies and over-priced dinners. Meanwhile, the families impacted by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, will wrestle with very different emotions as they remember the one-year anniversary of that horrific tragedy.
They’ll be grappling with feelings of grief, loss, pain, anger and disbelief. I’m sure those feelings have been strong and present ever since the day when they lost those they loved. The lack of action since then only makes it worse.
But, at the end of the day, those who are hurting will find that if they can dig in and find love for themselves and others, then it will be love that enables them to go on.
Only love, or the promise of it, makes it possible to move forward. Only love and compassion for oneself allows one to give love and compassion to another.
I would venture to say that many of us have spent a lot of our lives angry. We’ve been angry at certain people who have hurt us. We’ve been angry at different leaders who we’re sure don’t have a clue about what’s best for us. We’ve also been angry at the press, angry at our parents and angry at the world for the way it seems to be these days. The list goes on.
Look, I get it. I’ve felt all of those feelings myself at one point or another. And while I do believe that anger can be fueled into positive action and change, ultimately it is love that brings about true understanding and unity.
All great leaders have urged us to find love within us and lead from that place. That is why, today, I want to challenge myself to find love within. I want to challenge myself to have conversations that are hard to have. I want to challenge myself to take the time to listen to someone I didn’t care to hear from before. I want to challenge myself to take an inventory of my life and see if there are any reasons to make amends.
That is what it means to love. Love isn’t as easy as “roses are red and violets are blue.” True love is hard. It takes work. But by building it within ourselves and giving it to others, we just might start to heal our divisions.
Dear God, please let love shine through for me this week. Please help me to feel loved and also help me give that feeling of compassion to others. Amen.