Loving Response

The desire for connection is woven into our existence as human beings. On one hand, the need for love at the foundation of human existence can be understood from our evolution as a species- our reliance on each other has quite simply kept us alive. As such, it’s made good sense for love to lead us to one another, rather than aloneness. On the other hand, beyond principles of evolution and the drive to survive, the mysterious power of such an intangible force as love has made it a ceaseless source of contemplation, creativity, and change in the world. Love permeates our lives through the wisdom carried forth from contemplatives, prophets and poets, stories of the soul, song lyrics, writers and artists, and most importantly, in our unsung day-to-day existence.

Given how deeply inherent our need for love is, it can show up in ways we might not fully understand or recognize in our lives- which are, by definition, interpersonal. While our need for love can be our greatest source of joy, we can overlook the ways that it is also painfully expressed in relationships. Misguided and misplaced pain of any size and manifestation directed toward us from another person is- at a fundamental level- an expression of the very concept of the need for love at the foundation of our human existence. Externalizations of pain inflicted onto others are reactions driven by fear of not having access to the very love that we all know- at a deep primal level- we need to live and thrive. Understanding this truth can bring us a source of refuge in the midst of hurt when we’ve been harmed by another person. When we tune into the understanding that inflictions of pain onto others are a direct expression of a deep unconscious fear of separation from love, it becomes easier to see through harmful behaviour, words, and actions of others and ourselves to the deeper core of a vulnerable human-being. With this greater seeing, things become much less personal.

As things become less personal, we become better equipped to stay aligned with a loving response to the externalized pain of others, rather than fuelling the cycle of suffering with reactions of our own. Responding consciously allows us to step out of our conditioned reactions. An unconditioned response can be an uncomfortable one- fortunately, the wisdom that we access when we are aligned with love harnesses greater power to direct us in right action than our discomfort does.

Alignment with love is not meant to suggest that there is one pseudo-saintly right action in our interpersonal exchanges, but rather that we can be directed by a creative mind instead of a conditioned mind in how we respond to others- particularly to others reacting unwisely out of pain. Alignment with love is not a forced acceptance, passivity, or complacency with how things are when others are creating harm and destruction. Contrary to powerlessness in the face of harm, alignment with the wisdom of loving response reveals how much choice we really do have. A loving response certainly may be the prioritization of self-protection in the form of firm self-assertion or expression. It may look like a conscious effort to engage in truthful conversation with someone amidst their suffering. At other times, it could be an offering of space apart that acquaints a person with their capacity to be with and tolerate their own emotional and internal worlds. None of us can be a life raft for another in that endeavour because we too are swimming. Certainly, alignment with love may direct us to offering a radical kindness and support for someone lashing out. And perhaps, it prevents us from lashing out ourselves. Likely, a loving response is a mixture of these, and more, across the ever-changing contexts and dynamics of our inherently interpersonal and interdependent lives.

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