BayNVC, the organization I co-founded, has as its vision a world where everyone’s needs matter and people have the skills for making peace. I often think about what it would take to get there. Like others, I am essentially clueless, we all are. Still, I have a deep intuitive sense that a certain amount of love is necessary to create the shift. And so I wonder about what is this love, and what we can do to cultivate it.
To make sense of what I am trying to grapple with, it helps me to think about what it takes to transform an individual relationship. It’s clear to me that when both people are committed to honoring both their needs within a relationship, and have the skills for translating their commitment into practical steps, then it takes half the skill and half the love from each of them. I tend to believe that almost all of us are born with sufficient automatic inner resources to participate in this game if everybody else were to participate in it. Almost all of us have enough love and enough skill under such circumstances. By extension, then, I would imagine that almost all of us could care about our own and others’ needs if others did, too.
If, however, only one party to a relationship is committed to the vision of everyone’s needs mattering, it takes double the love and double the skill because they have to compensate for the fact that the other person is not bringing that much love and skill into it. It’s not undoable; it’s just that much harder. You would have to do the loving for both of you. You would have to do the skills for both of you. And that requires more love and more skill than if it were mutual because you would have to bring in additional love to support the other person’s mistrust. Most of us don’t have it.
And that is, in sweeping generalizations, the situation into which almost all of us were born. We came into a world where most people are not framing the conflicts between them as dilemmas they are holding together. In those conditions it takes exceptional skill and capacity and love and resilience to try to live the love and the skill in a world that doesn’t.
This is for me the dilemma of world transformation: can we find and cultivate enough love and skill to do the work, to do the loving towards and on behalf of those who don’t have access to their love? Can a sufficient number of us develop enough capacity and resilience and skills to stand tall in the midst of mistrust, judgment, and even violence from others and maintain our stance of love?
I have faith in that. It’s definitely tough. I still have faith.
I see more and more people drawn to becoming agents of love in the world without any sense of fairness, without any sense of what’s right and what’s wrong, without expectations. Instead, our love can be motivated by a sense of being so privileged and blessed to have been given the gift of consciousness, and by wanting to share the gift with others, to fill in the holes and the voids of love until other people can do it for themselves – and all this without giving up on ourselves.
That last point is key to me. A love that is at the expense of ourselves is not true love. When we open up to a love so big we can be tempted to give up on others. We can think: “This other person can’t hold the love, and this means I’m just going to give them what they want.” We can get into an endless cycle of empathizing with others, hearing them, attending to their needs, and becoming depleted and resentful. I don’t see that as true love. For me true love includes respecting the other person sufficiently to trust that somewhere in them is the capacity to love back, and inviting that love in our direction when the moment is right, no matter how far gone the other person is. Inviting other people to open up, to hear us, to rise to the occasion is every bit as important as hearing them and supporting them. Every time we give up on another person and say they can’t do it we compromise the love because in the loving, I want to love the person into their best being.
I know that I’m making a really tall order. I just don’t want to compromise on the vision of what’s possible. I want us to be completely tender and self-accepting for wherever we are in terms of our own skill and capacity without thereby thinking that nothing can be done more than what I am able to do now. I want to accept myself where I am, and keep my heart and longing open to grow more and more towards taking on more and more of the loving. Until there is enough to turn things around.