Of love and isolation

"Oh it's so typical, love leads to isolation. So you build that wall..." - Phil Collins
Ever been to a family gathering that was awkward? I've had the odd experience this week of both being part of these exchanges in my own family and of hearing others share their stories. (Mother's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all seem to be petri dishes for this phenomena.)

As the stories have swirled around in my head, I can't help but look for the commonalities, and this is what I've discovered.

Each person has an idea in their head of right and wrong.  To be sure, there are some things we all agree on—like maybe the 10 Commandments—but in areas of how people live day-to-day life, there is a great deal of variety in terms of what people think is rude, what is appropriate, how business should be done, lifestyle choices, politics, yada, yada.  We are infinite in variety and life experiences, so it makes sense that we would vary in this, yet because we have a singular point of view, each person operates as if their standard of "right/wrong" is THE standard.

Kathryn Schulz, author of "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error," has a brilliant illustration in her Ted Talk. She asks the audience how it feels to be wrong.  They shout out a few answers: embarrassed, failure, just feels bad, etc.  She pauses and says, "No. That's how it feels to find out you are wrong.   Being wrong feels exactly like being right."

Most of us are wrong about a great many things. But to us—unless it is staring us in the face—most of us walk around feeling like we are right. The problem occurs when we engage the people in our lives by making sure that they are right too.

Something profound happens when we let this go. When we begin to engage people from a place of acceptance rather than a place of correction. Love occurs.

And this is the thing. Love is what all of us are looking for. In that deep part of us. From our hearts. In fact, we are absolutely starving for it.

When someone offers us correction instead of acceptance, we build walls. Our hearts can't handle "I can only love you if you are this." 

There are many places in our lives where this is simply the way things are. At work, in school, even socially...our very being is judged and either accepted or rejected on a daily basis.  Most of us get up each day, don our emotional bullet-proof vests and operate at a fairly high level in this place.  But in our marriages, with our parents, and even with our closest friends, we have to be able to take those off.

This judgment challenge is even worse in our churches where people say, "The Bible is the standard" so that they create rules which are defended at the expense of love. Most don't realize that what really occurs is that their interpretation of the Bible becomes the defended standard—as evidenced by the infinite variety of denominations and interpretations in the Christian church alone.

It takes a great deal of humility to remove oneself as the standard of right/wrong and to offer ourselves as a gift of love to those around us. Thing is we have to do this openly and with a whole heart, because if we do it from a place of pride it becomes this sort of sick martyrdom that will mitigate the joy that is an essential characteristic of freely flowing love. (Not only that, but people can detect the lack of authenticity in a heartbeat.)

While most of us can identify the way others have forced us to create walls, we miss that to unlock it, we have to be willing to lay aside our own judgments of others and offer acceptance. This doesn't mean that any behavior is "okay." We still remain the arbitrators of how we allow other people to treat us. However, if we are honest, most often we don't limit our judgments to our own personhood and interactions. Instead we feel qualified to judge everything from a person's clothes to what they eat to their interactions with others. And even if we don't comment, just simply holding those views speaks volumes.

To be fair, some people will never be "safe" people to be around, and families are steeped in such patterns of behavior that it is often difficult to pave new roads. However, if we embrace love and acceptance as the power over "being right" it changes the game. And the Spirit of Love is there to offer help for the asking.

©Cathy Hutchison

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall