The premises behind redefining love are not new. Love is messy. Be accountable. Set healthy boundaries. The nature of good and evil. Shame Cycles. Toxic relationships. Authors with far more wisdom and expertise have written at length about these issues many times before.
Like so many others, I did not dig into these topics until I was motivated by personal crisis. My first response was to panic, which lead to fear. Fear fueled anger that clouded my judgement and destroyed my happiness. Redefining love led me to peace, and I’d like to share that path to peace with the world.
My response to crisis is so common. We simply aren’t taught by our culture to respond with love first. I want to change that. I don’t want love to simply be my first response to challenges. I imagine a world where redefined love is everyone’s first response. I want to change the culture.
Most of us don’t like taking sides, and yet so often we do. In fact, our culture demands it. The two-party system of American politics requires that we align ourselves with either the right or left, us or them, leaving little room for compromise.
I often watch culture with the detachment of someone who, like many others, doesn’t feel I fit neatly into either extreme. I listen to others debate whether or not we should build a wall around ourselves and I am intrigued.
I’ve lived a city mouse/country mouse sort of life. I have experienced intense culture shock right here in my own country. I can tell you, the chasm between urban and rural is vast. As is the gap between North and South, East and West, rich and poor. Dismissing these cultural disparities is at best uninspired and at worst dangerously naïve.
There are invisible walls already constructed all over this country. Certainly I can’t be the only one who sees this.
People are different
It certainly would be simpler if everyone spoke the same language, worshiped the same religion, held the same values and lived in the same culture. But that doesn’t work on several levels: 1) How boring! And 2) That’s simply not the way it is. Why whine about something we can’t change?
People are different. You may not like it. It may make you uncomfortable. But complaining about it isn’t going to improve the state of things.
Individual cultures have been vying for dominance since the beginning of mankind. Cultures rise and fall and are replaced by another culture for a while, until that culture falls. Throughout the entirety of human history, the primary cause of a culture’s demise is its inability to change and grow and accept that people are different.
Outside forces may have delivered the final blow, but the demise of the vast majority of empires began from within. The same goes for large companies that tank, private family businesses that fail, city governments embroiled in scandal, prominent families who have fallen from grace, and even individuals shattered by brokenness.
Conflict is not a bad thing
We don’t have to compromise our values in order to accept the reality that people are different. We can still argue passionately for what we believe. We just do so with the understanding that there is always going to be someone who sees things differently.
Accepting that each of us is different is not equal to agreement. The fact that we are different inevitably means that we are going to disagree. Our knee-jerk reaction to disagreement is defensiveness. We automatically feel threatened, which triggers our fight or flight response, which makes rational problem solving impossible.
We have been culturalized to believe that conflict is a bad thing, when in fact it can be very constructive. Conflict is an inevitable and necessary first step to problem solving. The only way a conflict-free world could exist is if a problem-free world existed, which will never be the case.
Attempting to avoid conflict is not only a waste of time because it is impossible, but it is a wasted opportunity for growth and change. It is not the existence of conflict that matters, but how we choose to manage it when it occurs.
The masters of our own demise
Once we can accept that people are different, it becomes easier to speak their individual language. Once we understand that acceptance doesn’t require agreement, we become less defensive. When we become less defensive, we can begin to redefine love. Once we’ve redefined love, we can start constructive problem solving.
There are endless examples of the need for this in our culture. Pro-Life. Pro-Choice. Black Lives Matter. Build The Wall. Kneel For The Flag. Transgendered Bathrooms. Gay Marriage. Gun Control. Gun Rights. Me Too. Time’s Up.
There are so many emotions behind these movements. The passion behind both sides of each issue is genuine and deeply rooted in culture and experience. Both sides believe fervently that they are right. We aren’t going to always agree. We’re just not.
With redefined love, we accept that everyone is trying to make sense of this chaotic life in their own way, based on their own experience. We can passionately disagree with others on matters of dire importance, while still respecting that the conclusions drawn by others are, in most cases, coming from good intentions.
Is there evil in the world? Absolutely. But much of what we view as evil is actually deeply held values that differ from our own by people with as much dedication to the public good as ourselves.
When we redefine love, it becomes easier to discern between conflicting good intentions and the truly evil.
It would certainly make things easier if we all agreed, but that’s never going to happen. And I don’t believe that’s the way the world was meant to be. We are different by design. Rather than seeking to shut down the opposition with rage, redefined love requires that we seek to hear and be heard.
We are so fortunate to live in a nation that offers us an opportunity to be heard. We can protest. We can publish. We can vote. We should do all of these things. We should stand for something.
Protesting is a crucial right in any democratic society. But if we can’t get past the protest to the necessary constructive conversations, it won’t matter how many enemies we have abroad or how high a wall we build around ourselves. We will be the masters of our own demise.
Let’s take our world back!
It is possible to feel anger and love at the same time. Sometimes people continue to behave recklessly or hurtfully even after we have expressed our boundaries or taken a stand. Sometimes we must remind ourselves repeatedly to love a person who continues with the same offensive behaviors.
The key is to stay in charge of your feelings. You choose whether love will reign or anger will be in charge. If you continue to love yourself through your anger, you will be able to maintain control of your feelings.
Manipulative people thrive on triggering your anger, because they know that if you’re angry, they can maintain control. By loving someone who is actively trying to hurt you, you confuse them. You take back control of your life!
Right now the manipulators are thriving, and laughing all the way to the bank. We must take our culture back from those who are ruling by fear. Love breeds rationality. Be rational!
A culture redefined
Sometimes we must agree to disagree. We live in a very politically divisive time. Our politics and our religion and our values are all packed up together in a too small suitcase, bursting at the seams. The slightest bump comes along and poof! The whole thing blows wide open. Everyone’s stuff gets all mixed up and everyone is angry.
If you have redefined love, you are able to pack lighter. You know who you are and what you stand for. You are able to protect your own sense of self, while loving others as you recognize that those you disagree with are only trying to do the same.
What if everyone redefined love? Imagine if everyone could put their anger aside for an afternoon and make an attempt to understand where someone else was coming from.
If enough of us raise our children with redefined love, we could change the entire culture in a few generations. The differences between us would still exist, but the walls would come down.
Eventually, by redefining love, we would be able to make peace with anger, loving ourselves and others through even the toughest conflicts.
I see no other solution to what plagues us.
Copyright © Redefining Love 2018.
The author of Redefining Love is not a licensed mental healthcare professional. The information included on this site is for general informational purposes only. For mental health questions or concerns, please reach out to a licensed mental healthcare professional.