Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love for Life | On State Birthdays, Valentine's Day, & Lent

Hi Neighbors,

Today (2/14) in history:  Arizona became the 48th (1912) and Oregon became the 33rd (1859) state in the United States (!  So joyful lifeday to OR and AZ!  I love the Pacific Northwest, and I'm a co-located doctoral learner attending graduate school at GCU out of Phoenix.

As for Valentine's Day, I recognize the history of faith and politics interacting and power disparities at play, not to mention the different legends and commercialization of the holiday (HuffPost).  Practically, I like celebrating a day of love and friendship.  Certainly, affection, kindness, gratitude, and recognition matter daily.

Spiritually, I lean towards the message about God's love.  I appreciated the value of being whole by God's love.  Then I can live by love including my purpose here to develop my vocation.  That message transcends status including relationship, but for relationships I find that the basics matter, such as empathy, compassion, conversation, affection, hard work, conscientiousness, and a willingness to learn.  These basics in habit may reduce the likelihood of projecting guilt or shame-ridden maladaptive responses, such as derision, ambivalence, anger, blame, fears, or otherwise expecting people to define my identity.  Put positively, respond to your core hurts with conveying your core values with compassion.  This way we honor each person in the Love Trinity (see below). These basic resources tune success, and each starts with self- and collective contribution and love philosophy.

After all, healthy relationships, including marriage, need a dialogue toned to belonging, and not an embittered monologue that cues neglect.  In contrast, contempt from ambivalence, derision, or resentment ranks as the top predictor of divorce; contempt also reduces immune health. Better:  We love not to clone or defend ourselves, but for a shared connection that integrates differences.  Notice the conflict in those arenas!

Consider these imperatives:
  • "We love because God first loved us" (1 John 4:9).
  • "Perfect love casts out fear for fear deals with judgment" (1 John 4:18-19).
  • "S/He who abides in hate abides in death" (1 John 3:14).
  • "God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes will not perish, but know eternal life" (John 3:16).
And especially

"The greatest commandment? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul. Similarly, love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:36-40).

Notice the imperative "to love mercy," as in God wants soft hearts, not hard ones.  Anything that hardens heart, to me that means "sin," or the old archery term, i.e., missing the mark, of loving God-neighbor-self, as hard hearts reduce options and risk harming a person in that triad, or the Love Trinity of God-We-Me. For instance, resentment prevents the compassion needed to sustain a thriving relationship, and risks abuse. Breakthroughs need love willing to sacrifice self-interest for a common good.  Without affection, compassion, or empathy, love must choose to build capacity via one's core values and then lead by example, or to accept such loss, confront, commit, let go, or find a creative inroad.  I'm convinced that courteous, intimate, conscientious, empathetic, conversational, accepting, supportive, sharing, fun, and other compassionate behaviors build that inroad to compatibility.

To quote Dante Alighieri,

So this year, in keeping with my penchant for fusion and dialectics, I'm merging Lent with Valentine's Day.  I want to let go of unforgiveness, the few others' incorrect and hurtful conception of who I am, the fear of loss, unhealthy power disparities, and over-exerting myself when others fail to opt in to healthy ways of relating.  In any case, relationships require each one to participate and contribute.  Take care how we build, but continue building beyond the foundation.  Make each other the home. Gut and renovate as necessary. Move [on] if you must.

I like to believe, though, that in most cases it benefits to replace the loss with something good, wholly desirable, and relevant even if simply a lesson learned and a different experience.  Give it up so that I give forgiveness, find that compassionate inroad, request of others what I expect within ethos and hold them accountable, choose this day with confidence, and be satisfied to contribute legit me as I feel called so that I can receive each such gift in return.  Say yes to love.  Receive God's love, and love others, for a Christian love does not mean containing Jesus in my heart, or keeping him to myself, but letting him out.  If I fail to love others, then I fail to understand and show God's love.  The same holds true for forgiveness.

After all, relationships, contrary to Western thought, exist not in tidy compartments.  It's the messy yet meaningful stuff of intimacy, or connections, emotions, and bonds, that matters, and each bond must function not just in one frame or for one unit, but for each point on that triad I mentioned earlier.  So why do some relationship "solutions" or approaches talk around the heart of the matter?  The academic in me assumes that the more we teach philogyny/philandry, the less animosity.  The practitioner in me believes that if we teach kids early on about empathy and compassion, then the more love to experience.  Love can be chosen, learned, and felt, especially as we accept ourselves without judgment, reflect and grow, and show that grace and empathetic understanding to others.

Turns out the heart does more than pump blood.  As a sensory organ, the heart emits, in amplitude, 60Xs an electromagnetic field greater than the brain, or the largest electromagnetic field of the entire body.  "Guard your heart for it holds the wellspring of life" comes to mind (Prov. 4:23).  Choose life.  If it's true that love favors life, then that means choose a loving way of being in the world.  Who's loving you?  Important to be true to, care for, and conscientious of, our hearts.

We're connected, but each person must foster those connections.  As Grandma used to say, each person must give 100-100%.

Rough year so far?  Stuck in a rut?  Need to pick up the ball again, or put it down for awhile?  Celebrate with me today as a love for life.  Isn't that the root of compassion anyway?  Our shared effort to live amid our shared mortality.

Really, if I've any closing word on the topic of Love:

Love starts with a conversation.

Keep the conversation going.  Stay with that person whose conversation, affection, and intimacy you enjoy, and who accepts you and your disclosure with grace, empathy, and compassion.  Be that person so you like your own company.  Lead by example as in be that virtue you expect of others.  Develop yourself.  Stay true to your purpose, calling, identity, or vocation.  Buckle in and take notes to learn from adversity.  Share the wisdom you learn with others.  Care for yourself as a professional conduct.  Reflect, renew, and exercise meaningful action, such as service.  Throughout, we give ourselves.  So be golden, and value yourself that way.  Generally speaking, success in life comes not just by sheer willpower or hard work, but influencing and being influenced by people.  So show grace, and learn those social skills that benefit you.  As with any day, and partial to my background, the social matters.

Listen to your emotions versus resist them because they provide a first line cue as in Feel-Think-Act. Exercise prudence and restraint, and resolve to make time for developing physical, emotional, and cognitive intimacy, e.g., decision-making and paradigm-sharing.  Accept yourself, change that which you want to improve or remove, and be gracious and accepting of others so that you and your others can belong.  Let people opt out, and know when to invite people in.

Make every effort for peace, only be advised:  The peace pendulum swings to the rhythm of confession, repentance or change, atonement, and forgiveness.  Exhibit at least one of these behaviors even if out of sequence.  Do in sequence, and wait for the healing and refreshing.  To mix metaphors,  relationships volley:  Toss the ball, I catch it, and then throw it back.  So play hard, and be/do fun together.  Sometimes the hurt remains regardless, but choose the grief that benefits healing.  There's more than one way to "be unfaithful" to a relationship.  Neglect through ambivalence, bitterness, or judgment, even though understandable, only hurt you and harm what you could redeem together.  At least try for the latter.

People seek advice for many other things; reject stigmas.  Know when to fold and walk away, but, to be fair, first exercise due diligence and process.  Reveal your terms and expectations, provide or procure the resources to meet those standards, develop yourself, and work hard to better conditions.  Celebrate each other's successes.  Go easy on yourselves for contextual or external factors or mitigating stressors.  Time-bound these efforts and appeal to a sense of urgency and mutual benefit for needed and effective change.  Define and differentiate what makes your relationship unique.  Healthy marriages, for instance, need a special kind of intimacy via affection, physical, emotional, and decision-making.

Note that family systems start with you and your other(s), so parenting preparation means investing in yourself and your relationship first, and then learn parenting skills second.  Prepare for parenting transitions:  Research, inquire, and learn healthy ways of relating so that you can work out the hard stuff, and pass down a tradition of a supportive family system where people feel known, understood, loved, and that they belong and can in turn demonstrate these behaviors to others.  Perform as a team, with your support system, co-parent, partner, self, and/or child.  Relationships benefit from cognitive intelligence, conversational and social skills, empathetic understandingcompassion, and a degree of difference that makes life interesting.  Live vocationally.  Whatever the case, do what benefits.

What does all this mean for our holiday of threes?  Embrace today as a day to celebrate life.  Treat yourself, be it with wine, cards, an act of service, a meal out, a movie in, or a walk at the park.  Check out my Pinterest relationship links.  Invest in life by loving someone, including yourself, in a compassionate gesture large or small.  Consider what it might mean not only for a love life, but for love for life, that God is love, and loves each creature.

For the Love of Life,
Love to you,

Cheers to healthy hearts,
(and maybe less sermonizing next time),