By Bridget Fonger
In these divided political times, these days of devastatingly frequent mass shootings and natural disasters, we are being called to love each other in spite of ourselves, in spite of our righteous positions, in spite of all the external and internal crazy going on. Hearts are tender, wounded, and exhausted. Let’s see how we can help take care of each other’s hearts this holiday season.
Recently, I had the pleasure of producing an event called Love Forward Talks and the theme was “Thanks+Love+Giving.” We contemplated how we can insert more love into the upcoming holiday season and into our daily lives. Six inspirational thought-leaders came together to share how they steer themselves toward love in spite of the unresolved resentment, fear, and sadness that we all carry to some degree:
- Transgender artist Chick McClure encouraged us to give a wide berth to each other to grow into. Chick gave plenty of space to his previously intolerant, conservative father to transform himself as his daughter transitioned to being his son.
- Author Jennifer Pastiloff told us that one of the most loving things we can do for each other is bear witness to the pain of those we love and just be, unflinchingly, with each other’s truth – even if that truth is that a mother has just lost her full term baby.
- Comedian and Podcaster Ted Lyde talked about how love and fear cannot both be driving the car of your life. He was once full of rage for his beloved wife who had contracted life-threatening MRSA. It was his extreme fear of being left behind with two young kids that steered his car into that ditch.
- Spiritual coach Jan Casebolt talked about how being healed of life-threatening sarcoidosis led her to the deep forgiveness of her mom who committed suicide and left her when she was just twelve years old.
- Author and Shaman Carol Woodliff talked about her quest to express love to a mom who could never show her own love for anyone, and how her generous work of pouring love into her mom’s heart had healing effects on not only her mom, but previous and future generations of her family too.
- Thought leader and author Debra Poneman showed us that leaving a top-of-her-game career to raise two kids opened her heart and taught her like no teacher ever had. People thought she was crazy to drop her kick ass career. She followed her own professional advice, followed her heart and grew it even more as a result.
All the speakers at the event had one thing in common: They pointed out the little doors we can all walk through, where we can choose to infuse love into any situation or relationship. We can’t know the way to touch everyone’s heart, but this holiday season, maybe we can try one new thing to help insert some LOVE into our oft-divided landscape. Here are seven ideas to get us started:
1. A Wide Berth – We sometimes have to allow people to step into their greatness. We can lock people into tiny boxes with our beliefs about them. If we clear away our own emotional clutter – judgments, righteousness, fear of rejection – they can step into the cleared space and possibly surprise you in who they become.
2. I Love You – One common theme of the day was how healing these three words can be. Sometimes we fall into saying “Love you!” and we don’t own it as much as when we insert the “I.” I didn’t notice how much I was dropping the “I” myself until Sunday. It’s a little more vulnerable when you own it fully, it feels all the more powerful.
3. Bust a Move – Sometimes one seemingly small gesture will move the needle in a relationship toward love. The smallest of gifts or a card in the mail can melt away differences and increase a sense of togetherness, no matter what distance or differences may separate you.
4. Love v. Fear – In spite of everything going on in the world, in spite of all your own insecurities, anger or sadness, in spite of what’s happening in the chaotic holiday kitchen, in spite of what your brother said last year, or what your aunt said last night – in spite of it all – actively choose love like you are grabbing onto a vine in the jungle. And, hold on, because the wild fears lurking in the jungle will take swipes at that vine. Choose love over fear and hang on!
5. Bear Witness – The holidays can heighten our already intense emotional states. If people are sad, afraid, or angry, particularly during group events, we so often want to just make it go away, make it better, or solve it. Sometimes the greatest love we can give to someone is just witnessing their pain and staying with them through it. Try offering to speak privately if you see someone in pain, and be there to really hear them.
6. Ask – We often expect people to know how we want our love delivered. So asking one good question can get the ball rolling toward helping a loved one have a happier heart: What would make you feel loved and appreciated? It could be as simple as asking “How are you doing?”
7. Offer – Sometimes I don’t offer things because I’m afraid that my offering (and therefore me!) will be rejected. Offering and giving is just as vulnerable as asking, but the rewards of a tiny offer can be enormous. People can be overwhelmed during the holidays by internal turmoil coupled with external chaos. These magical four words have put a salve on my heart many times when uttered by dear ones: “How can I help?” or “I’d like to help…”
Try one – or all – of these ways to choose love this season. One single gentle touch of someone’s heart can make an everlasting difference for them; it will very likely make your heart feel bigger and better too.
Imagine this: What if we all walked away from our holiday gatherings feeling more loved than before?
Bridget Fonger is a longtime health, lifestyle, and relationship writer, having authored a regular column for Huffington Post, co-authored the book The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Just About Everything, and blogs at superherooflove.blogspot.com.