Love is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot.
We use it to tell someone how we feel about them and to indicate we deeply enjoy an experience. We say that only love can heal, that all we need is love*, and we believe that certain kinds of love are more desirable or superior to others (say, valuing romantic love above platonic love).
And lately, there have been a lot of people calling for love as the antidote to the hatred, violence, and ignorance that's been getting so much (long long long overdue) attention in the media.
We often see love as soft, patient, gentle. When we talk about loving the world, it's often from a place of wanting people to simply get along.
But that kind of love isn't love at all. In fact, to call that kind of platitude love is an insult to the power that actually is love.
Love is fierce.
Love is strength.
Love is righteous anger.
Love is boundaries and accountability, even when it is uncomfortable. Love is difficult conversations no matter how scared you are because the outcome matters.
Love is justice.**
Love is not weakness, or turning away, or ignoring the problem. Love is not patting things into place and hoping for the best.
This is true of our personal relationships as much as it is about our community & our nation.
It took me a long time to understand that love, real love, is fiercely unapologetic about boundaries, respect, vulnerability, and discomfort. I'm still unraveling all of the fucked up messages I received as a young person about how little my boundaries mattered.
Because they do - matter, that is. Boundaries - both the yes and the no, what we want and what we will not tolerate - are entirely based in love.
To say, "this is what I deserve" and "this is not OK," is to say I matter. My body matters. My safety (but not comfort) matters.
To say, "please meet me here" and "please do better," is to say you matter to me enough that I'm not giving up and walking away.
Boundaries are ultimately about connection and how we exist in the world.
But this is not about comfort. Love is not comfortable. Love is action and attention. It is showing up, even if you get it wrong.
And that's where I think so many of us stumble. We don't mean to. We try so hard, so much of the time. And it makes sense that we mess up & mistake niceness or comfort or consistency for love because we don't have very many role models in the world for love in action, especially when things get ugly.
Love, at its core, is about assuming someone is doing their best, and then offering yourself & what you need so that they can meet you there.
To love someone is to say, "Ouch. That hurt."
To love someone is to say, "Wow. I didn't know. I wasn't listening. I'm sorry. I'll do better. Please tell me more."
To love someone is to say, "This isn't OK. Something needs to change."
This is also what loving yourself looks like.
The world does need love right now. But it needs the kind of love that acknowledges things haven't been right for a very long time (if ever). The kind of love that shows up, even when we are ashamed and afraid and unsure, to keep doing our best even if it's wildly uncomfortable, because it matters. And anything that matters requires attention & action.
You choose love. Always. It's a choice. As soon as you're no longer choosing, it becomes passive. That is not love.
Your life needs love right now. The kind of love that sees you, opens to you, holds you accountable all while nurturing you tenderly through the ups and downs - because there will be ups and downs if you're doing it right.
Because it's time for all of us to level up. Even if it hurts. Even if it's scary. Even if it violates every story you've ever told yourself about the world and how it works.
It's time for all of us*** to step into righteous love, however uncomfortable it may be.
Start showing up in the relationships that matter to you. Confront the places where you're being critical or condescending, where you're being defensive or shutting someone down. It's on you to see where you need to do the work, to make the requests that re-build connection and a sense of on-going action.
Start showing up for the people in your community, in your neighborhood who are suffering at the hands of oppression. Have the tough conversations with the people you have influence with. Put your dollars into the hands of people on the ground doing the work.
Love is ferocious in the ways it can heal, but only if we are willing to get uncomfortable, to get vulnerable, to untell our stuck stories and to rewrite them in a way that lifts ALL of us up - be it globally or at the most intimate levels.
*Shout out to The Beatles for this one.
**I can't say "love" and "justice" without graciously thanking Kelly Diels.
***By all of us, I mean especially, particularly, specifically those of us who are white, who are non-fat, who are cis, who are employed, who are able-bodied, who are men, who are privileged to take over this burden of injustice.