Many of you already are incredibly loving, and for your grace, caring and loving, I am grateful. With this short introductory article, I'm imagining beginning a conversation over the next few weeks, asking what would life be like if we were more loving and caring with one another.
Last week, we seemed to trigger a lively discussion by posing the question, Are You Trying to Change the World Through Anger? One of the more gratifying aspects of the discussion was the high level of caring and thoughtful interchange between readers. We saw an usually low level of "below the belt" criticisms and ad hominem attacks aimed at commenters and their responses. I would love to see more of this kind of considerate and mindful exchange extended to one another, at least within the confines of the Living section, if not life itself.
Too often these pages reverberate with vitriolic recriminations, one accusing the other of anything from simply being wrong (with great self-righteousness), to being vile, ignorant or otherwise worthless. Last week, we seem to have opened up something more akin to a genuine dialogue for which I am extremely grateful.
I acknowledge that for the most part, even the recriminating comments can arise from a level of caring. Clearly, if they didn't care, they wouldn't have bothered to comment in the first place. However, it can be difficult to separate the caring from the anger or vitriol in which it is cloaked.
As I was reading through the string of comments in preparation for today's article, I was struck by another aspect of caring that might be good to explore: that of loving. As readers exchanged comments with one another, often with differing points of view, I saw evidence of what I would call loving. The form of loving I'm talking about has little to do with the emotional, romantic or affectionate sense that most will take from the term.
Instead, this form of loving demonstrates a kind of caring and consideration that reaches out, and continues to reach out, even when the other may not be receptive at first. This is not the kind of "push-back" that insists on being right; rather, it is a form of genuine exchange, respecting the other point of view, offering alternative thought, and yet still being open to a meaningful, learning exchange.
Merriam-Webster offers a couple of interesting insights into the word loving. The first definition in their online dictionary is "affectionate" while the second is "painstaking." They cite common synonyms for loving which include tender, kind, caring, warm, gentle, sympathetic, and considerate. Merriam-Webster also tells us that painstaking means "the action of taking great pains" or "diligent care and effort" when doing something.
Diligent care and effort - doesn't that sound like something for which we are in relatively short supply these days? What if our politicians exercised diligent care and effort and actually debated issues such as the economy, jobs and healthcare? How might it benefit us if we actually focused on caring about both people and the issues more than political power and position?
Can you imagine a loving politician? Perhaps not. And, yet, we will never get there if we can't find a way to become more loving ourselves, especially in our relationships with one another.
Imagine what life might be like if we experienced more day-to-day interactions that were characterized by kindness, caring and consideration. What if our first reactions to misunderstanding or disagreement were reactions of outreach and inquiry, of seeking to understand rather than the defensive or aggressive backlash that has become so commonplace in our society?
How can you imagine being more loving in your daily life? Not just with family and friends, but with co-workers, people on the subway, or just plain old strangers? What might loving look like? Certainly it doesn't have to mean some kind of gooey, syrupy, maudlin interaction. In fact, a loving interaction might be quite focused, perhaps even sharp at times.
However, the kind of sharp I'm talking about here is more of the intellectually acute variety and less of the kind that cuts or wounds. How do you disagree without becoming disagreeable? Can you imagine a loving exchange that is also one of disagreement or opposing points of view?
Approaching life from at attitude of loving and caring is fundamental to what I have been writing about the past couple of years for the Huffington Post. I am persuaded that loving and caring can be extraordinarily powerful and practical, and yet leading a life of loving and caring can be quite challenging.
Of course, we have all witnessed people claiming to be loving and caring who can't seem to handle the practical side of life very effectively. We have also bumped into those willing to use a loving and caring façade as a form of deception to further their own self interests.
I would love to hear from you about your thoughts and experiences in living life from a place of loving and caring. What works for you? How does it work? What are the pitfalls? Where must you be vigilant? What do you do when the other person is far from loving or caring?
I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.