When most people think of love, they usually think of the romantic love that they’ve seen in countless movies and novels. Very few people consider the type of love leaders like Mohandas K. Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. exemplified. When these iconic leaders spoke of love, it was thought of as a deliberate choice. Love wasn’t something that you fall into, but rather a choice to give love despite how they may have felt about the other person. Love is a concept that is often misconstrued and can be very discriminate. To love unconditionally is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp. Loving unconditionally does not come without its failures, but rather it’s a struggle that is endured every day for the good of those affected by this choice.
I often hear the excuse “I cannot help how I feel,” when one is struggling with someone who may have committed a transgression against them. One cannot help how they feel, and I would never advocate dismissing those feelings; however one can control how they react to a situation that may have caused them strife. “… Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it,” (Charles R. Swindoll). This same concept can be applied to love. One may react to a situation with love even though others may not do the same. It’s this choice to love in the most difficult situations that will propel people to greatness. It is easy for one to succumb to their feelings. However, to put your feelings aside for the betterment of others is truly extraordinary.
Unconditional love is often misunderstood and misused. The concept of unconditional love is admired by many, but used by few. Many people, who claim to unconditionally love others, in all actuality, have preconceived conditions. We often give some people love, while keeping it from others. What has been advocated by so many iconic leaders, is to give love whenever, wherever, and with whomever possible. To “love thy enemy,” (Matthew 5:44) becomes a choice, and not a feeling. When King was jailed and persecuted for supporting the civil rights of his people, he probably had feelings of hurt, pain, and maybe even anger. In the face of these feelings though, King chose to love. This was a tremendous act of love because despite all the horrible acts committed against King, he did not use his feelings as a justification to withhold love.
When applying the concept of choosing love in one’s life, a variety of difficulties will more than likely occur. One of the hardest obstacles that one may encounter is people taking advantage of their kindness. They want to stand firm at times, but fear that it may be hindering the love that they want to choose to express towards others. It was not until after many trails and errors, that I realized that tough love has to be applied in that circumstance. Loving someone does not mean you withhold wisdom that might upset them, especially if that person needs to hear that message. However, the way you approach the subject makes all the difference, which includes not letting arrogance in having wisdom getting in the way of delivering that knowledge to someone who really needs to receive it. Love does not make one weak but empowers one beyond rationale.
Far too often we witness people shouting and screaming for their righteous cause, which because of the message’s delivery; falls on deaf ears to those who really need to hear it. Instead of shouting hostile rhetoric to those you are trying to convince of a certain just cause, try using love and compassion to convince those who oppose you. You’d be hard pressed to find speeches by leaders like Gandhi or King that displayed hostile rhetoric or hateful words. However, through their love, which at times was tough love, their message was not only heard by the people who were following them, but it was also heard by the people who needed the message the most—their oppressors.
In today’s society, the individuals and groups who get the most media attention are the ones that are shouting the loudest rhetoric and advocating extremist approaches. We may find ourselves blaming those who are broadcasting these people, but the blame is on us. We need to fight for love like we fight for money, power, and fame. When we make love our top priority, the media will not be able to ignore the love that we are advocating. People are often perplexed about how to make positive changes in this world, but what they don’t realize is that there is a blueprint on how to make impactful transformations.
In the past century, the most successful revolutions have been the ones that were fundamentally rooted in peace and love. Those who receive power by violent means will be constantly under threat of attack because of the vengeance desired from those they oppressed to get to the top. As blood only begets more blood, love only begets more love. A revolution that is rooted in love and peace is not only possible, but is the most successful. We live in a world today where violence is the most used strategy to bring about change. Not very much good has followed that violence; it is time to give peace and unconditional love a chance. It is time to choose love instead of violence, to help bring harmony and balance back to humanity.
The idea of choosing love may seem radical and even impractical to some. When choosing love, one does not have to be unrealistic or irrational. In fact, your decisions should be calculated and well thought out. The point is not to love blindly, but with purpose. To love with purpose is the key to overcoming any obstacle. Without purpose, your love may not have meaning. The choice to love is not reserved only for the historical moments of defiance which Gandhi and King were part of, but rather it is a choice that can be made every day. In our lives, there are many instances where we become frustrated, disappointed, or even angry at certain situations or people. The issue can seem even insignificant to some. However, it is this daily choice to love that will ultimately lead to one being able to choose love in the most difficult situations in life. Love is not always the most popular choice, but it is and always will be the right choice.
Edited by Casey Maxwell