As I observe my thoughts during this unprecedented time of division and an increasing sense of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ in the United States, I find myself experiencing a range of emotions. Are you?
Deep down, I refuse to feel disempowered or fearful of things that might happen in the future. But sometimes on the surface, I watch myself feel angry, sad, puzzled, dismayed, and yes, sometimes a bit fearful. I am 67 years old and my remaining decades aren’t as many as they were in my 30s. So, my justified anger and fear and sadness really isn’t for me, it’s for the children of this world.
When I pray, I repeatedly ask, “What is mine to do?” And the answer is always — “Love more and be more kind”.
For those of you who would like to love more, and I mean RADICALLY love more, I have decided to share Chapter 21, “Love Radically” in my Wellness Wisdom book. You’ll find 7 Steps to Choosing “Radical” Love Over Fear at the end of the chapter. Please let me know which step(s) will be most supportive for you.
Wellness Wisdom: 31 Ways to Nourish Your Mind, Body, & Spirit
2nd edition, 2011
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
~1 Corinthians 13:13
Years ago I gave my father a spice tin labeled “Love.” At the time, he was lovingly taking over all of the cooking responsibilities as he nourished my mother in her final year of life. Printed at the bottom of the tin was the net weight “immeasurable”—and the list of ingredients included: joy, kindness, patience, peace, trust, and goodness, among other loving qualities. The directions for use encouraged the cook to add a big pinch of Love to every recipe. I believe my dad was adding a big dose of “radical love” to my mom’s life in many sweet and tender ways. After my father passed away, I inherited this spice tin and use it frequently. It has a place of honor on my kitchen stove.
As you know, you don’t need a spice tin to add love to food or to life. When I put my attention toward love, I find that it fills and deeply nourishes my mind, body, and spirit. This attention doesn’t come from a place of seeking or longing, but rather it seems to be radically splashing out from me. As I splash, I have learned that love flows best when it flows freely, with no expectations attached. And in challenging situations when that flow feels blocked, I often ask, “What would love do now?”
The word radical means, “relating to or affecting the fundamental nature in something.” Its synonyms are: fundamental, essential, deep-seated, sweeping, thorough, far-reaching, and major. What great sentiments to think about when deepening your thoughts on love, or commitment, or marriage.
A few years ago I was having a great conversation with a man I had just met. He mentioned that he was still friends with his former wife, despite the fact that he had experienced a failed marriage. After commenting on how awesome it was to still be friends with his former wife, I found myself telling him, “I’ve had two successful marriages!” I went on to say, “I’ve been divorced twice but I refuse to think of them as ‘failed’ marriages.” I surprised myself, as it had taken me years to forgive myself for choosing to end the 25-year marriage to my high school sweetheart and a two-year marriage that followed some years later. Initially, I felt like I had a scarlet “D” on my forehead. I, Susan Tate, was Divorced. I was embarrassed and a bit ashamed that I couldn’t make a marriage work “till death do us part.” But as I healed my heart, I realized those two marriages were filled with love—radical love. I’m glad I was married.
And I wouldn’t trade a day. These experiences were successful in taking me to the next level of learning and loving. I learned so much and I treasure and respect both marriages. I personally believe I had a sacred soul agreement with each of these amazing men. Do I wish I could have been married and reveling in the happily-ever-after? Of course, but that’s not what life dealt and I don’t regret my decisions. Did everyone work as hard as they could to save the marriages? My response is an unequivocal, “Yes.” Now that’s fundamental, essential, deep-seated, sweeping, thorough, far-reaching, and major love!
Speaking of radical love, I must admit that prior to my first divorce, I would judge people who couldn’t stay married, couldn’t make their marriage “successful;” and I too thought people and marriages had failed. I am still learning lessons of humility and non-judging. I was standing next to a good friend in her kitchen when she spoke about a woman we both knew: “She’s on her third husband!” (A somewhat judgmental statement, just like I used to make.) She said it like that was some horrid damnable thing! “Bite your tongue!” I said to her. “I plan to be on my third husband some day!”
While we’re on the topic of love, marriage, and commitment, I ecstatically recommend Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage.” She presents a history of marriage that is enlightening, captivating, and sometimes startling. Her personal navigation through her own belief system may prompt an expanded awareness of your own beliefs.
Marriage is sacred to me and I honor and value it. And sometimes marriages end, and it’s healthier that way for everyone. And it hurts like hell (and by the way, no, I don’t think I’m going there!) So, if your marriage or commitment to a life partner has ended, consider (in time) calling it a success. Love yourself. Love the other. Now, that’s radical love, don’t you think?
In other circumstances, it’s quite easy to love. The words, “I love you” flow easily in my daily prayers as I send loving thoughts to my children, grandchildren, family, and friends. That’s easy love. But for me, loving radically sometimes means loving people when they might not appear very loveable. It means sending love to terrorists and people I don’t really like. It means sending love to the person at the post office who was wearing a hat to cover her hair loss from radiation treatments. It means loving myself as I am now, as I was before, and as the person I am becoming.
Radical love can also mean choosing love over fear. Do you have a steady hum of fear running through your mind? How would it feel to shift your fearful thinking to “love-full” thinking?
Cellular biologist Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., writes an attention-grabbing statement in his powerful work, The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles. He states, “The simple truth is, when you’re frightened you’re dumber.” Now I am not one to label someone’s intelligence, but after reading his biological explanation of how our cells respond so unfavorably to a steady diet of fear, I believe I personally make healthier, smarter choices when choosing love rather than fear.
Dr. Lipton’s statement doesn’t refer to the instant rush of adrenaline or cortisol that floods our bloodstream when the “fight or flight” response kicks into gear as our body or mind perceives a fear-filled threat. This response is actually a built-in source of genetic wisdom that supports our quick reactions and decision-making that will hopefully keep us safe. In these instances, fear is a good thing, and the chemical reactions in the body are designed to support us in making smarter decisions.
Instead, Lipton’s statement refers to a steady diet of fight/flight, over-activated by a build-up of excessive stress. That constant drain actually challenges our decision-making process and can lead to choices that probably aren’t as smart as decisions we’d choose through the lens of love.
Overall, when we make decisions based on love rather than fear, our choices will be healthier, as well as smarter. When I view this concept through a political lens, it makes me respect our leaders who draw from the energy of love rather than fear. When I tune in to my business decisions, I want to be sure I am making grounded, intelligent, and loving choices for the good of all involved. In relationships, I want to speak from the chambers of my heart where I know love (radical love) and truth reside. In financial decision-making, I want to choose with intelligence and without the six-o’clock news scaring me with a constant forecast of economic or global gloom and doom.
Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith expresses a powerful view of love in his words: “Love. You are not meant to search for it. You are not meant to wait for it. You are meant to generate it.” Hmm, that could be my new definition of radical love.
Here are a seven action steps aimed at directing your thinking more toward radical love. Feel free to add more.
Seven Steps for Choosing (Radical) Love Over Fear
- Lovingly observe when you enter the emotional realm of fearful thinking. You might say to yourself, “Ah, this is an opportunity for me to choose either fear or love. I choose love.”
- Take three deep, calming breaths when you notice stressful, physical sensations in your gut, the pit in your stomach, your rapidly beating heart, or the tightness in your neck or back.
- Practice mindfulness meditation.
- Move your body. Walk, run, swim, dance, bike, do Nia, yoga or Pilates. Physical exercise produces endorphins (providing a morphine-like high) right from your body’s own personal pharmacy.
- Pray, meditate, chant or sing. Marianne Williamson wisely suggests that we place our fears and concerns “on the altar to be altered.” I love that concept!
- Extend love often and be the place where love shows up.
- Generate and choose radical love every chance you get.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross said, “Make your decisions based on love, not fear.” It is our choice. I want to love radically. Do you?
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©2000 – 2017 Susan Tate