Commitment #7: Loving No Matter What:
Even when my needs are seriously unmet, I want to keep my heart open. If I find myself becoming judgmental, angry, or otherwise triggered, I want to seek support in transforming my judgments and meeting others with love.
How can we love “no matter what?” Who really loves in this uncompromising way? This is how I understand Jesus. No consequence was too much to risk for love. No pain an insurmountable obstacle. No action beyond the pale.
In daily living, this kind of uncompromising love is the willingness to act from the integrity of caring when our hearts are closed, determined to prioritize connection, dialogue, and generosity. It’s caring that leaves no one behind, wishing for the other person’s well-being even when we have suffered at their hands, even when we take action to prevent further harm from happening.
Love, ultimately, doesn’t depend on enjoying the other person, only on the choice to open to and behold their radical humanity, the awesome wonder of their existence. When we are irritated, impatient, or upset with their choices, when we have an aversion to their smell or choice of clothes, or even when their actions horrify us, we can aim to love.
Beyond well-wishing, love is also about entrusting our vulnerability to another. This can take the form of the emotional risk of choosing to share our unprotected self with another and trust their heart’s response. To use a physical image, it’s showing our soft belly in the hopes that the other person would remember their own and our humanity, making it less likely they will harm us.
Unsurprisingly, both Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. placed love, intimately linked with courage, as the very foundation of nonviolence. It is the reason that overcoming fear is so significant for practicing nonviolence. The ongoing choice to unprotect ourselves, combined with increasing our capacity to be relaxed in the face of intense emotions, allows us in the most literal sense to relax the physiological contraction that prevents us from opening our hearts. In so doing, even when afraid, we find more space to make choices and take fierce and loving action.
The Buddhist practice of metta meditation is one way of cultivating love. It consists, generally, of offering metta, or loving-kindness and well-wishes, in a specific and ritualized form, to yourself, then a loved one, a neutral person, and expanding outward repeatedly, ideally ending with offering it to all beings. Along the way, the offering is extended to people you are challenged to love. You may want to choose one person in this category to work with more deeply. You can imagine this person as a small child, or visualize them from within, a human being like you, with needs and wishes, joys and sorrows. Remember that the more love someone receives, the less likely they are to inflict harm on others.
About the author:
Miki Kashtan is a co-founder of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication (BayNVC). She is inspired by the role of visionary leadership in shaping a livable future, and works toward that vision by sharing the principles and practices of Nonviolent Communication through mediation, meeting facilitation, consulting, and training for organizations and for committed individuals. Miki blogs at the Fearless Heart. Her articles have appeared in Tikkun magazine (e.g.Wanting Fully Without Attachment), Waging Nonviolence (e.g. Pushing the powerful into a moral corner at India’s Barefoot College), Shareable, and elsewhere.
New to this blog? Read Miki’s Introduction to this series ‘All -in: fully committing to a life of nonviolence’