In 25 years of life, I have learned that people are prone to conflict. We always seem to distinguish ourselves from others while at the same time forming allies with those we think are more like ourselves. This is the famous process of “us” versus “them.”
We all do this in our daily lives- surrounding ourselves with people we like while keeping at a distance those we find “strange,” to say the least.
Here is my message of love. One that looks past what horrid acts someone might have done and focuses only on the individual and their ability to accept love and return the same.
But why love? Isn’t it harmless to keep at a distance? Or why not hate?
Here’s why: hate only changes the individual that lugs it around in their soul. It consumes them, lighting a fire in them that ultimately leads to destruction- either their own or that of the person they despise. While keeping at a distance neither changes you nor the other person you don’t care much for.
But love? Love changes everyone. Every. Person.
It changes the person who loves, who suddenly catches themselves questioning simple things they thought for sure would never change. Suddenly, for example, you start going to church, or enjoying karaoke, or taking yoga classes. Loving someone expands your horizons, it enlarges your world such that suddenly you have new ideas on deeply rooted views you thought would never change. Loving someone adds another person’s opinions to your own. And even if you refuse to accept them, you’re still introduced to them and you still need to decide how to deal with them. Everybody knows someone who changed once they fell in love. This is nothing new.
But the extraordinary special thing about love is that the change occurs both ways. For in knowing you are loved, you realize your worth, your values, and in turn you find yourself.
I know it’s hard to think of love in a non-romantic way. But love is much more than what goes on between lovers. It is the ability to not harbor hatred for a mass-murderer, to look beyond his actions and to see the human being that’s underneath. To understand all of us have a past, baggage, history. We are all results of our upbringing and of the society around us. When you think of this, the fact that we are all affected by our surroundings, why would you choose a message of hate instead of love? Why would anyone choose to focus on the differences between us rather then the unifying characteristics? That we are all human, that we all want love, that we all need to feel like we matter, even if in some small gesture or “thank you” or flash of a half-smile when we are walking down the street.
I think about society today. I think about the many people that were raised with me and who had the same values instilled in them yet turned out the absolute contrary way than the message of love I write about today. If we could just stop separating ourselves, creating the “them” we have become so used to, and just try to love each other, regardless of preconceived notions we have on who and what they are, we all might just be happy together. If we could stop creating our own judgments of others based on their chosen lifestyle and just loved them, we would see a transformation in their lives. And we all might just have peace and experience a side of humanity not many people have gotten to see.
One word, four letters: Love.
It should not be just a verb selected for the special few in your life. Practice it, live it, every day, with every person you encounter. Smile at the clerk, the homeless person in the corner, say kind words to those who might not say them to you, and if someone stops you on the street, dont’ retract, don’t pull back, talk to them like you would with a close friend.
And maybe, just maybe, we’ll change society along the way.