How to Come From a Place of Love.
Learning how to connect from the heart not the head.
Listening helps us understand. Understanding leads to compassion. Compassion opens the way for love. Love opens the door for openness. Openness creates the space for better connection.
We often allow the things that we disagree with in others to separate us from them. Thinking the differences are things that make us better than them because somehow we are more right in what we think. What we believe. Or what we did.
In religion. In politics. In beliefs. In sexuality. In the ways we view life. In how we should treat people. In rights. In freedoms. In what we consider right or wrong. Good or bad. In the way we choose to live. In the lifestyles we choose to live our lives by.
I am not condoning the behavior, the views, or the beliefs of those who embrace and exhibit them. I’m not saying that they are right for that but I’m also not saying that you are any better for where you stand from their perspective. If you don’t agree or think they are horrible wrong or inherently bad, the behavior doesn’t make them right but I don’t think it necessarily makes them bad either.
Often we are unable to separate someone from the things that they believe, think, feel, ways they choose to express themselves, and live their lives. Leaving us unable to be open to connection with those too different from us. Wishing things were different, that those people were different but also just believe they are unable to be helped or changed. Subconsciously looking at others only as the things that we either agree or disagree with them as who they are and nothing more. As with us or against us. As good or bad. All dependent on what they believe and how they think.
The part we seem to often get wrong is that we think we need to agree or approve of something to get along and to respect each other but the key to growing together isn’t allowing the things we aren’t the same tearing us apart but in bettering each other is learning from each other by listening to each other. With ears that want to hear and not ears that just want to respond. Not with any preconceived notions. Not with any judgement. Not unable to hear because we are so certain of our stances and views that it makes us unable to hear others. Not because we need to change but because if you ever expect someone to listen to you and hear you out, you have to be able to listen to them too.
With an open heart, with open ears. Hearing is not synonymous with validation or approval of where they stand and what they believe.
People who land on opposites sides of views often are so closed off to the other side that they aren’t even able to respect the people because they disagree with their views and that is what needs to change if we are all going to be better. But, it isn’t one side’s fault more than the other. The effort has to come from both sides. Coming together not because they are trying to change or invalidate the other but because they want to be open to learning about the other side. Learning not to change but to have better knowledge about why they are each the way they are. And within this respect and trust are built creating a safe space, a space where growth is possible because there is safety for expression without condemnation or judgement.
A healthy space to engage in a conversation with the goal of connectivity.
The goal should not be to try to come to an agreement or be on the same page. Nor should it ever be to attack someone else’s views or beliefs. But, to try to understand the things that we struggle to at times in others. Not to make it right but to learn how to exist and how to better connect with those who differ from us in a respectable way.
No one wants to be told they are wrong. That is always going to be something that shuts people down right away and closes them off to hearing anything. Often times, we approach a conversation with the wrong intentions and not with an open heart for the humanity of others because our judgement of who they portray to be and live their lives overshadows any respect and understanding we wished to bring to the conversation. Coming from a place of a part of us believing that we are better and more good because their views and beliefs are inferior to ours leading to the conversation being open and then immediately closed with both sides get defensive.
Accusing each other. Assuming things about each other. Attacking each other. Reacting rather than responding. Because it becomes more about protecting your own beliefs than understanding why they believe and think the way they do.
Hurtful words that often come out in the heat of the moment. Words that get misinterpreted. Leading to a verbal repressive battle of each side trying to make the other feel like they are wrong as well as inferior in the things they hold near and dear to their hearts.
In the heat of the moment that “they’re part of the problem” leading to them reacting very radically to comments like that insinuating that they are completely wrong and bad for the things that make them who they are. Even if they share many views that are the same, allowing one differing on to make them seem less to the other side because they aren’t completely on the same page.
This often happens with people on both sides who are open and closed minded. You think you’re on the same side until you “fall out of line” by having one view that isn’t what those with like-minded views think you should believe or lives a little bit in the grey rather than the white or black.
Frequently allowing our own values to distort and work against us. Becoming so hyper-focused on our core ideas whether good or not leading us to steer towards the exact direction that we never wanted to be, possibly even escape from in thinking and in actions. Inclusion rather than exclusion. Sharing rather than hoarding. Open rather than closed. But falling more and more to the extreme end when we begin to embrace a mentality that make others think we don’t value their differences just as much as the similarities they share with us. Often being blind to the reality that fundamentalism is something that lives on both ends of the spectrum and that what we should all strive for as humans isn’t to have too much of anything or anyone. Remembering that too much or too little of anything isn’t good. It’s about what lives in the in-between. Because those are the people the world needs more with views that are aware of both sides, tolerate, but not ever thinking that either should change or hold the other side’s.
They’re the grey and that doesn’t mean they can’t choose one side or another. It means they refuse to be the black or the white because they’ve seen the evils and separation that both can cause. Wanting to be better than that. Living better. Seeing people as more than the things they choose to believe in and think.
Seeing grey as a balance between the two colors not as the inability to stand firm in something or be indecisive.
Like the yin-yang, you don’t want to ever be black or white, but a combination of both. Apart Yin-the black half illustrates darkness, cold, negativity, chaos, and passivity. And apart Yang-the white side portrays lightness, warmth, positivity, order, and actions. Together they are balance but apart they are extremities. Lost in either extreme you are lost in total lightness or darkness but embracing them both they are able to complement each other.
Understanding and welcoming the idea that grey space does exist between total acceptance and utter rejection, between complete failure and sheer perfection. And being able to acknowledge that we are not perfect either by any means and always have things to learn if we can ever have the hope for someone else to realize the same. That there is a difference between accepting someone as a person and approving the things that they do as a person. That people are not just what they believe or think and being able to separate them from that. Being able to see them as human apart from the parts of them that you don’t like, agree with, or think are right.
Acknowledging that it is unfair for us to assume everyone else must have our same standards, metrics of justice, ideas of what is good and bad, and same conscience. It holds others to standards that they don’t deserve that are unrealistic and makes it harder for us to learn how to connect with people who we hold wrongful expectations for. Yes, we are all human. But, we also have all been taught to value different things, believe different things, treat people differently, and see the world very differently. If we continue to have expectations for others that they have never known to hold for others and themselves, we will continue to refuse to connect with those who don’t meet those and divide over minute differences instead of learning how to connect over grander similarities that can bind us together. Uniting us instead of separating us. Helping us build each other up instead of tearing each other down. By the things that make the world a beautiful, diverse, and more interesting place.
We give so much shit to each other about not being the same as us forgetting that if we were all the same, life would be very dull and boring. That we would never be challenge and we would never grow. We would always feel comfortable, never forced to expand our horizons. Never wanting to be better and do better. Life would be meaningless and stagnant. For everyone.
Often when we feel attacked we don’t like to leave any room for nuance or tension because as human being we like comfort and like when things are clearly defined making it easier to know where the lines are. While at the same time, life isn’t like that. People aren’t like that. Both very much full of variation and those reluctant to seeing what lives outside of the lines they like to live within are limiting themselves. The way they are willing to connect, their happiness, the reality they choose to acknowledge exists, and their capacity to learn to love and exist better.
It takes time for someone to be certain of themselves and their beliefs enough for them to be able to understand that someone challenging or questioning them is not an attack on them. To enter the interaction being willing to leave space for the other person as they hope for space for themselves. Pushing but also letting themselves be pulled. Leaving the mentality of all or nothing, right or wrong. Abandoning the need for both/and, either/or. Creating a space for inclusion and connection created by love, advocating for justice, and with the desire to celebrate the differences we all have. No longer looking to capitalize and punish the things about them that conflict with the things we believe but find places to understand and connect within them. No longer encouraging and being a part of call-out culture.
Those who believe that there should be ideological purity in the world are the kinds of people who work against the growth of humanity to be better than it has be and currently is. Working simultaneously against the progression and growth that society is seeking to achieve rather than regression. Not propelling us forward but trying to derail the good and desire to be better than humanity inherently has and the majority embrace. Risking falling into the extremes of what we have fought so hard to not be. Going from one end to the opposite.
Forgetting that it doesn’t make us better to still behave the same but hold different views. It makes us exactly what we hated before. What we didn’t want to be. Because being better sometimes mean landing somewhere in between than landing on the opposite end.
Sometimes the middle is the most peaceful place, not because you’re a middle man but because it allows you to not live your life in any extreme. Understanding both but wanting more for yourself. Never wanting to be on one end or the other. Understanding that is no way to live if you want to live a happy and peaceful life while radiating that towards others.
Any form of extremism not matter the intention can cause harm to those it includes, to those it doesn’t as the implications and demands of what it means to live out lead to self-ruin, violence to others, or both. Leaving no space for others who don’t embrace and comply with the exact beliefs you hold, not encouraging openness but more a form of inclusion or exclusion. Not tolerance. Not peace. Not acceptance. Not respect. Not encouragement of individualism. Not love.
Ideals aren’t what are bad. Beliefs aren’t what makes people evil. It’s what people do with those. It’s expectations that are placed upon those by others. It’s any singular adherence that becomes required. It’s any exclusion. It’s any questioning that is discouraged. Any personal expression that is looked down on. Any oppression that comes from it. Any defensiveness that in instilled in having to protect those things as if someone could take them away. Any judgement that it creates within those who embrace those things. Any sense of needing to change others. It’s the refusal to think that other beliefs are just as valid. It’s any sense of righteousness or a holier than thou attitude. It’s the exclusion of those who don’t accept those.
You can’t defend your intent while ignoring the impact even if it wasn’t the intention. While you can control the intention, you can’t always control the impact, how the intention is interpreted, and received.
Those are the things that make the things that make us all different bad. Not the people but the choices. The intentions behind those. The actions behind those beliefs. And the mentalities that come from them that affect other people, that harm other people. Regardless of the intent, the impact can’t be ignored. Because even with the best intentions in the world or someone believing they are helping, if the impact isn’t beneficial or harmful to the recipient then the intention never mattered.
A person’s intent provides you with valuable insight into where their heart and what to expect from them in the future. Not what will come of it, but what they hope to result even if that isn’t the actuality of what comes of it. Intent is the dangerous thing that creates impact that harms not because it means to, usually there is good intent but because our intents don’t always align with what is truly in the best interest of others.
Stemming from selfish, self-serving parts from within us of helping others become more like us thinking our way is the only way. Often, we don't even realize the fault in our intentions behind how we interact with others or enter a space to connect with people who contrast with us. Putting up subconscious walls with our boundaries not allowing our hearts to stay open. Not because we fear our beliefs and views to be skewed but because we refuse to hear anything that doesn't correlate as we deem it as wrong automatically. Until we realize that it isn’t for us to try to change others, to think there is only one right way to believe, think, or do but celebrating our differences. Until the place the intent comes from shifts from hopes of “high-minded saintliness” to understanding and empathy.
Empathy demands we try to feel what the other person is feelings, even if they’re in pain as a result of your good intentions. Intention and impact both matter but the difference is whether the combination will result in a productive or destructive result. Empathy leads us to becoming better human and having better connections with others not because it means we approve or agree but because we accept others in the entirety of who they are.
The intent to connect with someone should never be coupled with the intention to try to change or invalidate anything about them. But to make an effort to understand, respect, and tolerate each other for who they are and everything that gives them their sense of individualism regardless of what we personally feel or think about those things.
Not because it should be justified but because sometimes taking the time to understand where someone is coming from opens them up to wanting to understand others as well and perspectives that differ from their own. When no one tries to understand you why would you ever want to try to understand others. When no one respect your beliefs and opinions or accepts you as you are and doesn't try to change you why would you want to do that for others.
Intending to connect with someone's humanity and not everything else that clothes them.
Without that intent behind our efforts to connect and build relationships, how can we ever expect that in return. We can’t. And it will never inspire or encourage people to grow for themselves, want to be better, or open their hearts. Genuine connection starts in the heart not in the mind. I think sometimes we forget that especially when getting into emotional debates about subjects surround conservative views versus more progressive ones. We try to attack the issues intellectual but don’t realize that people hold them in their heart and they close that not leaving it open to hear anything when you don’t speak to the heart of their humanity.
We have to stop trying to connect from what we “think” and more from what we “feel.” Shifting from a human-made created place to a more humane place. A mentality of “doing what you think is right” to “doing what you actually feel is.”
What we seldom realize and are able to approach connecting with other is that it’s not about justifying or disproving but understanding not because things are right or wrong but because that insight will contribute to openness and acceptance even if whatever it may be isn’t something we agree with or believe. Where you may not understand things or even think they are right but can respect them and that everyone is just doing what they think best even if it’s not what we deem as best or right.
Starting with not being defensive when faced with opposition or differing opinions and views. Not trying to also overpower or impose your views onto other people or have a sense of righteousness not allow you to hear the other side as an equally valid one. Remembering that just because it isn’t valid or right to you doesn’t mean it isn’t to the other person. And if you want respect you have to be willing to give it too. You can’t ask for things from others that you aren’t willing to give yourself.
The thing that we misunderstand by thinking that we need to understand each other is that it means we need to approve or agree with that person and the things they believe and think but that is not what true understanding means at all. It’s not what it’s about. Thinking that when others think differently than us or believe differently that they are attacking us leading to a posture of defensiveness when it was never in danger.
We often spiral and get stuck in conversations where we criticize and attack people for taking a slightly different approach or hold a slightly different conviction.
When people disagree or simply just hold differing beliefs, philosophies, and mentalities than us, we have to stop taking them as them attacking ours and thinking we need to change ours. Yes, sometimes that is true the intent isn’t good but not always. Any the defensiveness that is created holds us back from so much in life in being able to connect with others and connecting better with others because we are often so afraid that they are going to try to take the things that we consider vital parts of our being away. When we are able to learn to approach interactions without getting defensive and being strong in what we believe but able to hear another side is when we will learn to come together as humans rather than building walls wherever we find something we don’t particularly like about others. Where we will value each other’s humanity above all else, above any beliefs or views we might hold. Understanding that at the end of the day that matters.
“It’s not about walking on eggshells, but known the very real pain from people’s stories can equip us to enter conversations more hospitably.”
Acceptance going hand in hand with respect for yourself and for others, for everything that makes us individuals. It isn’t our job try to change them or change what their definitions of how they define things in life. We have to stop approaching conversations thinking this way if we ever hope to be truly open and learn how to be tolerant. That is something they have to change for themselves because they want to and it isn’t for us to judge them because their definitions may differ from ours. I don’t think that validates them to show them respect and acceptance for how they choose to be and live their life. I think if we all learned how to show that to others, the world would be a much more peaceful place with people who interacted with each other from a completely different place within themselves. We have to accept ourselves for who we are and then accept others if we ever hope for the same in return. Never because we agree or think they are wrong and we are right but because we all deserve it as human beings.
Understanding is the ground of love. Not discrimination. Not oppressive. Not judgement. Not hate. Not censorship. Not bullying. Not suppression. Not universality. Not uniformity. Not invalidation.
Part of the work in becoming more progressive involved entering conversations with eyes wide open to the history, pain, and ways in which different people have experienced life. Learning so we know how to progress, so we can understand better, and have the knowledge to be better. Leading to compassion as we begin to see how of course they respond in the way they do, act like that, and feel how they do. People are the way they are for a reason. It doesn’t mean that it’s “right” or that it’s “wrong.” We all define those things in different ways.
Listening to them and their stories can open space for us to understand what those reasons are. Meeting each other in the vulnerably open space that is created connecting at the deepest parts of our humanity. Leaving space for connections that are individuals engaging coming from genuine places of trying to gain understanding not attempting to disprove each other in a healthy interaction benefiting the knowledge of both parties.
It's not about becoming more liberal or less conservative. It's about progressing. It's about growing. It's about being better than you are than you have been. Progressive is about moving forward with yourself, your mindset, and your life. It's not about any negative connotations that come to mind when you think of progressives. It's about advancement for yourself, for society, and for the world.
Understanding that one of the best ways to inhibit openness and hope for that in others is by showing kindness with no intent behind it. Showing others inherently there is a better way to communicate with others and exist. Refuting the natural reaction of wanting to disprove someone or tell them why they are wrong and we are right. Rejecting how so many choose to enter conversations with those who are opposing in what they believe because they understand that will never be the way to better others and inherently the world.
“Compassion emerges not only when we begin to understand why people are the way they are, but even more so when we accept the, given all the same circumstances, we would likely be no different. When we get frustrated with other people, we tend to think we’d do this differently or act like that instead. Such thinking totally bypasses the very real probability that if you were born and raised exactly as they were (same parents/religion/ethnicity/culture/economics/etc.), then you would almost certainly think, act, and talk like them. We tend to hold others to a standard of our own creation, informed by our own background, indifferent to the diverse struggles we all face.”
We stop seeing them as enemies, less than us, or as people looking to change us and more as people who are just trying to live as best as they know how to. Who are human just like us, incredibly imperfect and hopefully with an innate desire for growth at some point in their lives. In those moments, being able to remember what it took for you to be who you are today and how hard some of that growth and expansion was. Showing that love, understanding, patience, and compassion to others as you have to yourself.
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” -Maya Angelou
Giving us the ability to have honest, humble, and charitable conversations. That come from a place of mutual respect and seeking understanding not reprimanding, converting, or altering in any way.
Learning to connect and communicate better by doing our best to:
- Believe in one another’s good intentions
- Trust that we want the same things
- Will disagree on how to achieve our goals and that’s okay
- That diversity in practice is just as important as diversity in belief
- Show one another we are willing to listen, learn, and show compassion
- Model gracious dialogue
- Ask good questions, ask the right people, assume they have something to teach us
- Forgive quickly when offense is taken
The head cannot go where the heart is unwilling. An emotional opening necessarily precedes an intellectual commitment to a novel idea. We feel a particular way initially then find evidence to support it. Reason and logic do not lead us to our convictions more so they solidify them. But until the heart is willing, there isn’t potential that is able to thrive. An open heart leads to an open mind. Not the other way around. As with any change that is going to stick.
Open people are more likely to find happiness because open people are not miserable and closed off, stuck in their ways. Because even when there is reluctance and stubbornness in open people they still hold the memory of moments when their hearts were opened just enough to let light in and plant the seed of transformation allow it to take root. Openness attracts more openness.
It takes an incredibly strong and courageous person to doubt, to question the things that everyone else has simply accepted or that they were told to.
Life is about knowing love, giving love, and receiving love. No more, no less.
Transcending and including everything that brought us to where we are now. Allowing us to transcend many of the ideas, values, and practices left behind. Giving yourself permission to included elements from your past that still have value or make you feel good, or that might contribute toward building the type of life you desire. A more loving and open posture. Not forgetting how you have grown and where you came from. While encouraging the growth of others with your openness and acceptance for who they are and where they are at right now in their life. We all learn and grow at different paces in our lives.
"Here's the thing, a meaningful life doesn't really have much to do with where you started, what you started with, with who you started with, or even all that much to do with where you find yourself now. It has everything to do with where you choose, with what you choose, with who you choose, and with why you choose. And while everyone and everything may try to make the choice for you, each new day is an opportunity to redefine anew the person you are becoming."
Accepting people as they are but not having to accept the behaviors or beliefs they have and being able to separate them. Entering healthy spaces for connection and exiting toxic ones. Understanding your role in connecting with people at different parts of their journeys. That is isn’t for us or for them to try to change each other. Showing empathy and compassion when seeking to connect. Looking for the good rather than focusing on the bad. Focusing on the similarities rather than the differences. Prioritizing any good over any bad. Showing them what you wish they would show to you. Never feeling like you need to agree or approve. Desiring to connect more than anything may try to divide. Entering with an open heart.
Understanding this helps us shape a vast horizon in which we can embrace the roads we took that got us to where we are now, leverage the insights and lessons we learned, and continue down new and more open paths in different directions welcoming change, challenges, and growth. Evolving beyond where we can from. No longer subjecting ourselves to our past ways of living, being, and thinking. Yet including parts of our past selves that bring value and never forgetting the journey it has taken to get us where we are.
Respecting the nature of transformation. Welcoming the changes and challenges life brings us. Accepting that it all belongs. Leaving what is heavy and retaining what is good. Constantly evolving and understanding that others are as well. Coming from a place of love. Learning how to connect from the heart not the head.
It's not easy to respect other people's opinions, beliefs, and views. It's not always easy to hear. It's easy to get defensive and want to go to battle about them. It's easy to want to push them onto other people. But, that's never going to change people. That's never going to help people, better people. That's never going to help you grow either. It's hard to listen and try to understand with an open heart and open your mind to other possibilities and ways out there. But, I promise you that you won't regret it.
It's easy to stay in comfort. To just surround yourself with those who share the same views as you. To not ever enter conversations where people might oppose you. To stay within the lines that have been drawn for you. To just follow the beliefs and live the life you always have. To keep doing what you have been doing. But, why settle when there is so much more out there. Horizons that you never even saw. Things in this world that you never knew. And people in this world who can show you that there is so much more to life than you've know. People who can show you another way to live, possibly even a better way. People that will show you choosing hard over easy can be a very rewarding path, that choosing to stray outside the lines is more fulfilling than living in comfort ever was for you.
I know that all too well especially when you come from a place and past of very close minded conservative views. But, it is possible. And life is so much better and happier when you're open to them. When you're not closed off to all the things that make people different and life interesting. When you allow yourself to be exposed and be objective, having conversations without trying to just put bullets in the other person's side or constantly tell them they are wrong. Allowing you to learn so much more about yourself and others. Growing more than you ever could have without letting yourself be open. And listen to views and opinions that are very different than your own and people who live very different lives and have had different experiences than your own. The beautiful part of life is that people all around us have so much to teach us if we are willing to listen and open to understanding. With the ability to choose what we like and don't like, what we want to believe and what we don't along every step. Not needing to be, live, or believe a certain way.
Being a better version of yourself starts with you. How you love yourself and how you love others. How you deal with the things that happen in life to you and how you connect with those in your life. How you choose to handle the challenges your face and those who challenge you. How you show that to others and exude that energy to others.
Love for yourself. Love for others. Love in terms of the best interest of others. Love in letting other people be happy. Love in inclusion not exclusion. No matter what that means for you or how you feel about it.
Respecting everyone's journey and that they are where they need to be on it.
Most importantly, the place those things come from within yourself. That's the question we all should always ask ourselves. If it's not from a place of love that's when we need to ask ourselves why not.
The way you live your life, what you choose to believe, how to express yourself, or who you choose to love has nothing to do with you being a good person. It's about how you allow those things to impact others that determines that, that matters.
“We may still not like what they are saying, and it may still be appropriate to push back, but now you’re engaging in the conversation from a place of love, and that changes everything.”
Photo cred. Jonathan Zoeteman x Julia May