Love is the Way.
It’s a phrase I use a lot in my writing.
I’m often told – and increasingly so in recent weeks – that Love is too simplistic an ideal or value to hold to in times like these. In fact, only this morning I was told I was naïve for holding Love at the centre in the midst of all this chaos.
It is a common critique I receive. It can’t be all about Love, there has to be Justice, and punishment, revenge, some time’s people just aren’t worth the time or energy they require.
I just want to say, I hear the fatigue and emotional exhaustion behind that.
These last few months have been brutal. We’ve been separated from those we love, in some cases only able to see or interact with the online persona of those we know and deeply care about.
This has a strain on relationships.
It’s easy for little disagreements to become magnified. Easier still to begin to see a person through the lens of their most infuriating Facebook post, and to forget that no person is the sum total of the craziest idea that they have.
Easier to forget to Love.
But, Love is the Way. And I don’t say this out of a soft, naïve, everything goes sort of mentality. The reason I bang on about this so much is because, after over a decade of serving, and being served, by people on the margins of our society, I’ve witnessed first-hand the healing and transformative power that Love brings.
I’ve seen what can happen, when those I work with, embrace an angry and traumatized young person, and refuse to let go. I’ve seen the healing that can happen, when a person refuses to stop Loving another, even when the cost of that is high. Even when it hurts. Even when it’s hard (I speak about this a little more here in the context of our justice system).
Love transforms. It isn’t easy. In fact, Love requires the most of us. We are invited to look deep into each other’s eye’s.
To see each other.
To refuse to turn away.
No matter the cost.
No matter how hard it is.
Now, this doesn’t mean that there are not times where don’t need to protect ourselves from harmful or abusive relationships. Nor does it mean that there aren’t times when we need to disconnect from each other on social media, turn of the phone, ignore that last comment, whatever it is. Relationships are complex, and there are times where disconnecting may be necessary for your own mental health and wellbeing. That is ok.
But, when we hold to Love, we choose not to allow ourselves to dehumanize another. We choose to keep seeing people as people. We choose to keep investing in relationships (when it is safe to do so) even though it is hard.
Much has been made of the government dividing us.
But, this division we’re feeling, it has not been created by the government.
We are dividing ourselves.
Whenever we write someone off in our head because they express an opinion we disagree with, whenever we attack or dehumanize someone we know because we don’t like their post, whenever we ghost people close to us, because we realize they no longer fit within the tribe we have chosen, we create division.
The Government has set out a plan, and implemented a policy, and that should and will be critiqued, combed over, and criticised.
But, the Government has not dictated to you how you should start treating your friend’s and your whānau. That decision belongs to us.
Because, despite how it may feel, we get to choose.
To Love each other, to hold with each in the face of the most intense disagreement, or to walk away.
To check out of the conversation, out of the relationship, out of each other’s lives.
That decision is ours.
The easy road is the later. It is harder to be in relationship with those we disagree with, to cut off relationships, to decide “they” are just not worth the energy, to walk away.
But, this is not The Way.
How we treat each other in this moment matters.
We can shame, ridicule, and otherize those who have made different choices to ourselves.
Or we can listen to one another, see each other, and even in disagreement choose to Love one another.
One day Covid will be gone, whether our relationships remain may just have something to do with how we choose to move forward in this moment.
So today, you have a choice.
Love or hate?
Unity or division?
Agreement is not contingent on these things, what matters is the spirit in which we move.
Will we choose to see the humanity of the individual behind that screen?
Or will we dehumanize and otherize each other for the sake of a good tweet?
In the end.
It’s up to us.
A.J. Hendry is a Laidlaw College graduate, and now a Youth Development Worker and housing advocate, working in the Youth Housing and Homelessness space. He leads a service supporting rangatahi experiencing homelessness and is also an advocate working collectively to end youth homelessness in Aotearoa. He is also the curator and creator of When Lambs Are Silent.
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