People are so afraid to love these days. You can see it everywhere; dating culture, politics, cinema. It’s the age of Netflix and chill, and do you know what’s not chill? Telling someone you miss them or how much you love spending time with them. Politics has always been a harsh, tough-skin arena, but today’s political environment elicits more rage and hate and divide than we’ve seen in recent times. Even the most religious among us, who can be counted on to love thy neighbor, opt out of love when the neighbor is Muslim, Jewish, or watches Harry Potter.
Love seems weak to a world full of haters. Love is misunderstood. It’s either equated with the reckless abandon of the free love movement, or it’s treated like a rare commodity that must be rationed out in small, judicious doses, as if there’s only so much you can love before it’s all gone. Love seems exclusionary, reserved only for those who see eye-to-eye with our superior ideals. Love is confusing. Human beings hurt the ones they love most of all; marriages dissolve, family excommunicates family, and abuse is inflicted by those we trust.
Fear spreads like a pandemic virus, infecting the good hearts of so many. Fear suppresses love, inhibiting our otherwise unlimited capacity to embrace life unconditionally. The only way to cure fear and stop spreading it around is to love harder. Fear leads to hate, and people hate with conviction. While love is subtle, released in soft whispers only on occasions when we feel safe, hate is firmly expressed, justified, and shouted across social media, TV screens, and Thanksgiving dinners. It’s time to love with the same forceful conviction behind hate.
The New York Times headline that recently popped up on my phone notifications, announcing Marianne Williamson was dropping out of the 2020 race, was severely disappointing. You might say it was inevitable, that she never stood a chance, or that she didn’t even qualify having had no political background. Yet, those are the exact reasons why I thought her hunger to win the 2020 Democratic candidacy would help break her through the sea of politicians vying for the spot, just like Trump did in 2016.
Marianne based her political platform on love. To some, she sounded like a self-help spiritual kook. To me, she sounded fearless, genuine, and committed to truth and humanity. She was starting a political revolution based on love with unwavering conviction. I found myself impassioned by her message, but hesitant to publicly get behind it. I was wavering, unsteady in my conviction to love, giving in to the fear of being ridiculed for standing up for love in politics. The haters’ voices are so loud! Even inside our own heads.
Becoming aware of my embarrassment to commit to love as a political force hit me hard. We are so sick as a society, that love in politics is a joke. Hate in a variety of forms is perfectly acceptable, but love is laughed at and dismissed as naive kookiness, even when empowered by a visionary, like Williamson, with concrete plans to restore the broken spirit of our society. Her calls to action reflected those of Ghandi, Dwight Eisenhower, and Martin Luther King Jr. Yet her voice was ridiculed as naive and out-there. This realization forced me to love harder and truly practice loving with conviction.
Sounds fantastic, I know. So, how do we practice love with conviction? First, to have conviction means you stand up for a belief you hold firmly. Conviction is convincing because you exemplify what you stand for, rather than preach it. This takes work and is trickier than it sounds. Loving with conviction doesn’t mean accepting bad behavior or lying down to an injustice against ourselves or humanity.
Here are some pointers, with a disclaimer that we can only strive to do our best and our best will fluctuate. Sometimes loving with conviction means going against our own human nature to be selfish or defensive. This isn’t easy, but I am allowed to be human and so are you. So, love yourself in all the same ways you love outside of yourself, because conviction demands you live like you mean it.
Get Clear on Why You Stand Up for Love
Whether it’s because you realize we are all the same under the pink of our skin or that we all started off as stardust, get clear on why you practice loving with conviction. The reasons why will serve as the foundation of your practice. Maybe you want to overcome darkness with light or champion human rights or live a heart-centered life and become a better version of yourself. Articulate the individual reasons that drive you to love fearlessly. Then behave that way in all areas of your life: business, dating, relationships, family, or politics.
Love Means Authenticity
It can be scary to vocalize our position, especially when we don’t know how it will be received or when we’re certain of a disagreement. It isn’t healthy to avoid discussions because they make us uncomfortable. That’s just lacking conviction. We must be authentic in our conviction, meaning we don’t hide our thoughts and feelings to avoid conflict or embarrassment. Your responsibility isn’t to make others comfortable; it’s to stand up for love. Be kind, but speak up, when your conservative family attacks your liberal views or vice versa.
Disagreements are natural and ultimately useful in fueling progress. However, many people take disagreements personally and react defensively when a difference of opinion arises. It’s important to listen without judgment or reactivity. It’s equally important to share without making anyone right or wrong, good or bad. We are allowed to be different and still love each other sincerely.
What’s important is that we come from an authentic place when confronting someone, creating a genuine interplay. If your date is squeamish about discussing the future of your relationship, but you want answers, then ask anyway. Honor yourself and own your thirst for connection. If he/she doesn’t reciprocate, don’t finger point, place blame, or compromise. Stay open to all information. Be respectful. Ask questions. Stay true to your convictions. Difficult conversations are transformative! We gain nothing from only speaking to those with whom we agree.
Don’t Be Condescending
When practicing love with conviction, avoid being condescending by simply conducting yourself honorably without telling anyone about it. You don’t have to announce that you prayed for everyone before the status meeting. You have no reason to reveal that you are holding a loving space for someone who is arguing with you. Especially don’t claim that your loving nature puts you above another person’s level of understanding, because you are far advanced in your practice.
Practice but don’t preach! When you place yourself above others or approach others as though they aren’t as far along as you in this practice, then you are engaged in elitism and separateness, which only serves to divide further and is the opposite function of love.
Remember that Fear Blocks Love
When you find yourself taking things personally or confronted by negativity, remember that defensive reactions and judgments stem from fear. Fear is hard to overcome, so be gentle with yourself and others when fear hinders love. Forgive often! Keep going.
“A lot more people love than hate. But people who hate, hate with conviction. We need to display as much conviction behind our love as some do behind hate. Conviction is a force multiplier. Take a stand for love, with power and with passion...and love will prevail.” - Marianne Williamson
Marianne Williamson and me in Atlanta, August 31, 2019.