Is believing in love unrealistic?
I have believed in the power of love since I was very young. But if I am honest, I have had the above worry quite a few times over the last decade.
I have especially experienced it quite a bit in the last few years. This is especially the case as I have witnessed an escalation of prejudice, racism, misogyny, and greed.
When I get especially upset over things in the world, I sometimes think that I will have to rename my blog and call it something like,
I Thought Love was Stronger, but I was Wrong.
Stupidity and Cruelty are Actually Stronger. Oops.
Love is Stronger: But Only in Fairy Tales
In case you are worried: I’m not going to change my blog title. And I still believe that the power of love is stronger than anything. But it is often hard to believe this, and it is often more difficult to practice it.
I need a periodic reminder of why love is stronger, and I need periodic inspiration about how to practice love. Perhaps you might need these things, too.
That’s what this post is for: for both you and me, to help us continue to walk in the path of love.
What is Love?
Love is the power we express when we act with respect, kindness, and compassion, to ourselves and others.
When we show respect, we recognize the light in all of us. That light is the light of God in us (if you are religious). Or you can think of it as the light of our Highest Selves or our humanity (if you are not religious).
When we show kindness, we nurture and encourage the light in ourselves and others.
When we show compassion, we recognize and lament that life can be difficult, violent, and tragic. And this can make It hard for our light to grow and flourish. So, we stand up for ourselves and others when people attempt to crush our spirits.
Love nurtures the good in ourselves and others and heals what is wounded, diseased, and dying.
But What About the Bad People in the World?
The difficult thing about love is that there are indeed bad people in the world (or people who act frequently in bad ways). And they can make it near impossible and even dangerous to show love.
There are people who do not respect us or our boundaries or other people’s boundaries
And there are arrogant people who are convinced that their way of thinking is the right way. So, they are not willing to listen to anyone else.
There are people would like to use and manipulate us or others for their benefit.
And there are people who do not care about our flourishing or our moral projects or the good we bring into the world.
There are people who love to inflict emotional and physical pain on others.
How is Love Possible in These Situations?
I could go on. But we all know that there are people who act consistently or frequently in destructive ways. I will refer to this type of person as a Destroyer and the habit of acting in this way Destroyer Mode. If you are anything like me, you have met and such people and have been hurt by them before.
Destroyers lack almost all respect, kindness, and compassion. And they are motivated primarily to use people for their own benefit through manipulation, cruelty, and domination.
Most of us, at some point or another, exhibit tendencies towards Destroyer Mode. And in fact, most of our personalities carry a mixture of destroying and healing-creating drives. One of the ways we become more moral, whole people is to learn to embrace and operate from our healing-creating drives.
It is especially easy for us to fall into Destroyer Mode when we feel unlovable or bereft of love from others. We also fall into this mode when we feel like we lack a clear purpose.
If we are not able to love ourselves or we feel like those around us do not love us, this creates a gnawing emptiness inside of us. We want to feel something or have some purpose. So, if we cannot figure out a healing and creative purpose, we often fall into Destroyer Mode.
Some people respond to emptiness and lack of purpose through self-destruction. Other people respond to it by destroying others in small and large ways.
The question is how love could possibly help us, given that there are so many Destroyers in the world.
Love Awakens Us to Ourselves
The most powerful things love does is awaken us to our own unconditional value and worth as human beings.
When we become awakened to this, we start to understand how to nurture the good in us. And we also heal the wounded part of us: the gnawing emptiness that catalyzes Destroyer Mode.
And we learn to treat ourselves with respect, kindness, and compassion. In doing so, we soon realize that we have the right to nurture ourselves. We also realize that we have the right to stand up to others who are trying to destroy us (intentionally and unintentionally).
Furthermore, we begin to see our purpose more clearly and to stop acting in Destroying Mode to ourselves.
Love Awakens Us to Others
When we understand our own unconditional value, we also become awakened to the unconditional value and worth in other people. And we stop trying to destroy them.
We realize that the primary purpose of other people is not to get us something. Rather, people are valuable in their own right. And our job is to help each other discover and live our purpose together.
What Happens Next?
The opposite of Destroying Mode is Healing-Creating Mode.
When we act in love towards ourselves in others, this heals the patterns that lead to Destroyer Mode. And we have the courage, trust, and desire to begin connecting with others.
When we connect with others and operate in Healing-Creating Mode, we start building beautiful things together. These are things such as authentic, meaningful relationships; institutions and programs that show love to people; and creative projects that reflect the truth about the world that exists now and the world we want to build together.
But What About the Destroyers?
The good news is that we can always stop acting in Destroying Mode. And we can learn to live in Healing-Creating Mode.
The bad news, is that there are still a lot of people stuck in Destroying Mode. And folks in this mode often do not respond well to love. They either take advantage of it, or it disgusts them, or it makes them angry.
When people are stuck in this mode, there are usually four ways to respond to them:
Speak the Truth: If it is safe, and we feel strong, we can speak truthfully and confidently to people about destructive behavior. And we can tell them they must stop. This is more applicable in interpersonal relationships and some social situations. Sometimes Destroyers (this is more those destroyers with a lower case “d”) do not realize what they are doing. So, hearing the truth awakens them.
Walk Away: When it is not safe or we do not feel strong, we can avoid Destroyers or cut off contact from them all together. This is applicable when people continually violate our boundaries and treat us cruelly. For instance, sometimes we must cut off friendships because we realize that a person doesn’t care about us at all but is just using us.
Resist: People in Healing-Creating Mode can stand together and resist Destroyers. This happened in instances like the women’s rights movement; Ghandi’s resistance in India; and the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., especially the parts of it led by MLK.
Fight: Sometimes Destroyers become so aggressive, that we have to respond in self-defense. And this sometimes entails violence. One of the clearest examples of this, I believe, was the allied resistance to Hitler’s regime. Another example of fighting is when someone tries to dominate us physically, and we must respond violently in self-defense.
There is a difference in fighting motivated by love and fighting motivated by Destroyer Mode. The former uses fighting as a last resort. They desire to use the least amount of violence necessary for self-defense. The latter destroys with delight. They destroy as much as they can get away with.
Where is Love in All of This?
On a related note, it is importance to remember that love is not niceness. Niceness desires to maintain social mores, to not ruffle any feathers, and to avoid potentially embarrassing situations.
On the other hand, love calls us first to respect and protect ourselves (because we are the closest to ourselves).
And then it calls us to respect and protect others.
Because of this, love often calls us to reject social mores. It also calls us to ruffle feathers and to create situations that sometimes embarrass. Love does this, not to hurt people, but to show respect, kindness, and compassion.
After all, it is not only individuals who get caught up in Destroying Mode. Societies can get stuck in this mode, too. And acting in love most certainly calls us to reject the social mores of these societies. This will usually ruffle quite a few feathers and embarrass some folks.
Will Love Ever Win Over the Destroyers?
I can’t answer this question with certainty. I can, say, however, that Love is Stronger than all of us. And it has quite a few tricks up its sleeve. I can also say that even though things look bad now, this is not the end of the story.
Note: While many of the terms in this post like Destroying Mode and Healing and Creating Mode are my own original terms, ideas in Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Eric Fromm’s Escape from Freedom have influenced these ideas.
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