Love is the biggest idea on the planet. And the hardest to do well.
I had an interesting discussion today about how as people we search for and crave a happy ending all in the name of love. Even to the point of lowering or disregarding our own standards in our quest to be loved. It made me realise that Love is such a big idea. Such a bold declaration. Such a beautiful ideal. And a huge life and leadership challenge. But what really is Love?
Our world is awash with declarations of love, opinions on love, perspectives of love, commentary about love, and celebrations of being in love. It’s the most unifying ideal we can aspire to. Because love really IS love.
Because this is true then we have a perfect window to make love even more real because when it’s real it impacts people near and far and it makes tribes work better for a better world and a better world means a better future for every single one of us. Love makes us believe in a better world. Love invites us to count the cost for that better world.
Today I realised that Love has five profound dimensions. All radically transformative, deeply challenging, astonishingly costly. Equally though, these five dimensions have points of divergence that ironically can make us truly UNloving in our motives, our speech and our behaviour.
These dimensions are:
Loving our family or team.
Loving the tribe we belong to.
Loving the movement we believe in.
Loving the planet we both occupy, share and steward.
We are connected to each of these dimensions of love by a form of glue that is then in turn endangered by particular behaviours that invite us to practice an ‘opposite’ behaviour/attitude to make love better. At one level love is the most perfectly agreeable ideal. Until we don’t agree. Then what happens to love and how do we do it well under pressure or in the face of strong, emotional and often credible divergence? Love takes work. Work that has the humility to disagree and still love. To be angry and still love. To be wise in the application of love.
Love is the best ideal on our planet and by far the hardest to do consistently well. Love starts with self. You can only love to the extent you know you are loved and you accept you are loved. This deep truth transcends any worldview and impacts every worldview. Your ability to love others is a direct reflection of your ability to love your self. Practice self-acceptance, personal formation and cultivate a circle of people dedicated to your wholeness.
Criticism, misunderstanding and unforgiveness haven’t just caused relationships, teams and families to break down, they’ve caused war, famine, poverty and destruction on immeasurable scales. The Montagues and the Capulets may well have forgotten what they were divided over but divided they stayed until love divided them and united them even more deeply.
The best antidote for selfishness is service and sacrifice. In fact, love as sacrifice is our best motif. The servant leader, the caring teammate, the courageous soldier. Tribes with deeply embedded culture must work at the behaviours that foster connectedness, empowerment, service, championing one another, celebrating success and learning from loss. Protecting who you are in order to become who you must be.
Movements are most effective when it’s leaders practice the heart and hands of humility. Realising that we are not indispensable and our role is to be both a feet washer and a hand lifter. To guide, guard, govern and serve. To believe on the mission as passionately as we believe in the people who carry the mission forward. To remind ourselves of the why and protect against any exploitation of person or resource.
At this stage, we have one planet to occupy. One to steward. One to care for. It’s the human extremes and the human indifference that may cost us our future. Plastic filling our oceans. Poverty punishing our neighbours. War cutting short the life of children. Ego running countries. Species losing their habitats. Feeling paralysed about doing anything so we do nothing. Love begins with one. Love that starts small can stand tall and make a small difference to our big planet.
Leaders that love know both the beauty AND the cost of love. They know the gift and the dangers of love, they know the capacity for love to bring a convergence and connectedness that cannot be manufactured. They equally know the dangers, the differences, the very real cost of it going wrong. In the words resounding around the world right now and creating all sorts of loving and less than loving responses, Rev Michael Curry said this… “Imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine neighbourhoods where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love… sacrificial love is the way. Then no child would go to bed hungry ever again! Love is the way that poverty will become history.”
Leaders get love, even better, leaders get to do love and try as best to acknowledge the challenges of love as mere tolerance. We should aim higher than just mere tolerance.