The Tao of Love
On Love: Love is actually an action word — one acts lovingly. I cannot ‘think’ love, I can only be loving. Now, as we noted two sections ago, love is not a manipulative tool — “if you love me you’ll obey me.” Nor is it a bargaining chip — “I’ll do that, if you do this.” Love is not the hormonal rush of feeling that comes to new couples, and love (as I wrote extensively in This Endless Moment, is emphatically not connected to sex.)
So, what is a loving action? Loving action and compassion are intertwined. Loving is knowing who another person is, and acting compassionately and in a caring way, despite what you know or react to.
As you read what I write, I would hope that you notice that I believe that people are capable of pretty much anything. I see a lot of really weird behaviour and shake my head a bit. And I also see people step up to the plate and tackle huge issues, turning them around. The latter people are not special people. They are simply people who do what they say they will do.
I am at my most loving, with Darbella, for example, when I encourage her wholeness. Notice that word — encourage. It means “to give courage to.” Now, I cannot give Dar courage, like I might give her a pork chop. What I can do is remind her, in my words and actions, that I believe her to be strong, capable, wonderful, and able to make powerful and clear choices.
It is also and perhaps more important that we lovingly question each other. When I see someone I care about beating up on themselves and berating themselves, I will ask them why they are making that choice. Usually, being reminded that the negative behaviour is optional is enough.
My intention is not to tell them what to do. I do not know what they should do. My intention is to suggest that they do something, and that the something be different from what got them into the mess in the first place. In other words, loving is about encouraging what works and suggesting changing what does not.
Loving has a lot to do with integrity. I remember being at a Come Alive in 2005, and a guy asked me to join him for a meal. He had told the large group that he had a history of lying to women in order to get them to have sex with him. Then, he’d dump the woman, and feel both ashamed and proud of his conquest.
He said that, for a decade, he’d tried to change. He said he wanted to be a good and honourable man. He asked me where he was missing the boat. I said, “You lack integrity, and the best you can ever be is a man of integrity.”
He asked me to define integrity.
“Integrity means that my actions match my words. If I say I will do something, I do it, no excuses. If I say I am something (honest, loving, wise, etc.) then anyone will see this in how is act. Words mean nothing. Actions mean everything.”
Now, this statement, and in my “integrity” statement, was spoken with honesty and without judgement. I did not say, “Yes, you are a bad man.” I have no clue if he is good or bad, and I have no wish to be the moral arbiter of anyone. I privately think that having sex when you want to have sex is a good thing, and there never seems to be a shortage of willing volunteers. The problem comes in lying to get it.His idea of being honest with women doesn’t match with lying to get sex.
Loving is not judgmental, and it is honest. He asked, and I told him what I thought. I did not claim to be right, nor did I try to get him to agree with me. I just answered his question, and challenged him to live up to his words. The rest is up to him.
Being loving is a personal behaviour, based on integrity, which has everything to do with being honest, forthright, compassionate and non-judging. It cannot lack any of those features and be loving.
If you are not honest, you are out of integrity, and therefore are loving neither yourself nor the other.
If you are not forthright, you are playing manipulative word games. We lie to ourselves, telling ourselves to drop hints or to be indirect, for fear of “hurting” the other person. In truth, people can choose to hurt themselves with anything we say. The real reason we do this is we’re afraid the other person will get mad at us or not like us. We need to grow up about this one, and be forthright and accurate in our communication.
Compassion is all about stating our understanding without attempting to wound the other person. I watch endless couples fight, and they do so by saying things in a deliberately hurtful, non-helpful way, all the while lying by saying, “I’m just trying to help.” Compassion is accepting others as they are while encouraging them to be all they can be.
Being non-judgmental is difficult, and being non-judging is essential. I am separating the two, as the first is an internal state and the latter is an external action.
I still consider myself to be one of the most judgemental people I know. But remember what we are talking about here. What I think does not matter. What I do (in this case, say,) does matter.
Now, some will say, “Isn’t that lying?” Of course not. My “integrity-point” about this is that I do not judge myself for thinking what I think, and I do not fling invective at others out of some sense of entitlement or self-righteousness. I have my internal judgements, and I own them. I say what will be helpful and true, without making the other person wrong, or bad, or dysfunctional.
This is difficult because we all want our views to be validated — to be declared “right.” Loving action, however, is not about validation, winning, or being right. It is about encouraging another to claim, own and live their wholeness.
Living lovingly is a discipline I encourage you to adopt. It requires focus and commitment on your own integrity and on the other person’s wholeness. Anything else is just a game.