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Practicing Love

Beneath every conflict is a desire to connect. — Danaan Perry

Political scientists say there are four levels of power (from lowest to highest): the power of fear—used by police, armies, bullies, angry parents; the power of authority—elected offices, titles, credentials touted; the power of competence—abilities applied versus credentials that can only be rested upon; and finally, the power of love—think Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most of us think we have no power.  In fact, if we look at that list, we all can see where we have some form of power, regardless of whether we exercise it or not.    

But all of us, from our first hour to our last, have within us the greatest power-the power of love.  That mystics and political scientists are in agreement on this point should give us great pause. But with those first three levels of power so much more visible in our daily lives, it is hard to believe, much less know how we can individually and effectively exercise this highest power of love.

In the not-so-distant past I was exploring for myself the idea that the answer to all that ails my world, my nation, my community, my family and my self is love. That the solution to any problem or conundrum I ever encounter is to love the other person or creature (bugs and dogs included) fully and authentically and unconditionally.  That, faced with any angry or hateful or hurtful or frightful encounter with any person (or dog), I should offer the most radically unconditionally loving response I can think of, regardless of whether I think it will be accepted or appreciated.  I am to offer a loving response without conditions.

One day, I found myself sitting at a high school football game.  Behind me sat a parent I did not know who spent the entire first three quarters yelling angrily, hatefully (and counter-productively since our team was losing 21-0) at the referees, the coaches and the players.  It was becoming physically painful to sit in front of this man, with him literally screaming in my ear.  

So I gave some thought to what the most radically loving thing was that I could do for this man.  I figured he felt unheard, unnoticed-after all, he had been yelling all this “helpful advice” and no one had acknowledged him or acted on any of his “suggestions.”  I figured, at core, he was lonely and frustrated and probably thought winning was more important than playing and so if “his” team didn’t win, his whole afternoon would all be for naught.

The better part of me was sad for him, but he was so obnoxious that I could not act on that empathetic thought-I could not turn around and say, “Hi, I’m Martha.  My son is Tom on special teams.  I don’t think we’ve ever met.”  So I told God that I was sorry, but I was going to just sit there and let this man scream in my ear and I would suffer that pain more gladly than offer this man a piece of my heart.

Halfway through the fourth quarter, I was literally shocked to find myself standing up, ringing my official football-mom cowbell, screaming as loudly as I could, over and over, to the players and coaches (and the refs), “We believe…we believe…we believe,” borrowing the Red Sox fans’ chant of the 2004 season.  I then realized that four or five other moms had joined the chant and the angry dad was quiet.  To my further amazement, our team was suddenly on a roll, quickly scoring 14 points and shutting down the opponent.  

The game ended that way-“we” “lost” 21 to 14-but it seemed to me that love scored a huge victory.  Love yelled from the stands seemed to turn our boys’ energies from self-defeating to impassioned play.  Love yelled down to the field calmed the voices of anger and frustration that were in the stands.  Love yelled from the stands even made me unaware that my hand was cut and bleeding by my gripping and ringing of that cowbell.

But the most amazing part of this story for me was that I did not do a thing, except pray to love this man.  Finding no response to offer from my own understanding, I simply chose to remain empty of not only a solution but, more importantly I think, any anger for this man.  And, in that emptiness, the Spirit must have taken hold of me and love flowed through me and out of me anyway.

Maybe that is contemplation leading to action-with the action coming not from or by me at all but Spirit acting through me.

Searching beneath anxiety, one will find fear.  And beneath fear hurt will be discovered.  Beneath the hurt will be guilt.  Beneath the guilt lie rage and hatred.  But do not stop with this, for beneath the rage lies frustrated desire.  Finally, beneath and beyond desire, is love.  In every feeling, look deeply.  Explore without ceasing.  At bottom, love is. — Gerald May

Love is the answer. Of this, I am very sure.


January 01, 2009 by Martha Sherman
Categories: Uncategorized. Formats: Article and eNews Article.

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