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Be the Change: Is love all we need?

With two teenagers sharing my house, with their many friends, the music I am exposed to becomes quite varied.

While much of it isn’t my style, I am amused at how much of the music my kids listen to is the very same stuff I listened to as a teenager. I guess it is true, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Anyway, I was listening one day as they were playing some of the old Beatle’s tunes. One in particular caught my attention. “All You Need Is Love.” As I listened to this particular song, on this particular day, the words really stood out for some reason. Maybe it is my age, or life experience, but listening to it carefully, I thought they really had it right, love is all we need.

Then, I heard a more recent song by Ziggy Marley called “Love Is My Religion,” and felt he really hit the nail on the head, too. A flood of song titles and lyrics went through my head like, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love” and many others. I was amazed at how many there were.

With my thoughts focused on love — not the passionate, romantic type of love, but the true, deep, unconditional type of love — I thought about a class I took in college called “Comparative Religion.” Although I don’t claim to be a wealth of knowledge on all the world’s religions, I thought if you strip away all the rules, regulations, do’s, don’ts, dogma and doctrine, the foundation for them all is love.

So, with all this teaching about love, why isn’t there more love in the world? Why can’t we love our neighbor?

Okay, there is that “we” word again. It seems it is always easier to ask tough questions using “we.” I guess it eases the burden to put us all together in one guilty pot. Not that it isn’t true, but in this case I decided to ask the more appropriate question which hit much closer to home, “Why can’t I love my neighbor?”

A few years ago I was contemplating this question, looking at the instruction to “love your neighbor as yourself.” I was going through life trying to implement love your neighbor, love your neighbor, love your neighbor, with only limited success. I would ask myself “why is it so hard to really love my neighbor?”

While the reasons for the difficulty are many, it dawned on me that I had only focused on the first part of the instruction, ‘love your neighbor,” leaving off the last part all together, “as yourself.”

The proverbial light bulb went on: If I was to love my neighbor in the same way I loved myself, well, I was in trouble ... and so was my neighbor.

I found when I really looked and was honest, I didn’t love myself very much. I tried to deny it, but deep down I knew it was true. Not wanting to bear this burden alone, I looked around and discovered this seemed to be a globally human problem. Individually, we don’t seem to like ourselves very much. We put ourselves down, criticize and condemn and then we do it to others too.

Keeping the focus on me, and not the world, the question now became, “Why don’t I love me?” Oh, I tried to argue the point and insist I really did love me just fine. You know those conversations you have with yourself where you go back and forth on an issue as if you were a split personality? Well, that is what was going on, like a couple of lawyers in a courtroom, prosecution “don’t love me” versus defense “do love me.” Prosecution won. I had harbored every mistake ever made and concluded I was guilty. Therefore, I was justified in not loving me. Ouch! I would have liked to deny this realization, ignore it and hope it would go away, like I have done with so many things I don’t really want to look at, but this one wasn’t going away. I knew it was true and I knew I had to get to the bottom of it.

As I dug deeper I saw that there was a huge roadblock preventing the love I wanted to express from flowing. That roadblock was tied to forgiveness. Generally I found it easy — well, easier — to forgive others for their infractions, but somehow I held myself to a different standard. I had harbored every mistake ever made and whatever unmentionable things I had done were, well, just unforgivable. It wasn’t logical at all but it was what I was dealing with.

I was reminded of a quote I had heard which struck a nerve and goes something like this: “A mistake is not something you are, it is something you did.” Separating who I was from my mistakes was the beginning of the forgiveness process. I grasped that it is impossible to have love flow outwardly if inwardly there are any thoughts, feelings and emotions to the contrary. As long as emotions like anger, hatred, guilt or blame, whether toward myself or others was present, I was not able to love anyone, even myself. Just like the fact that it is not possible to love my neighbor if I don’t love me, I can’t forgive others if I don’t forgive me. And if you think loving your neighbor as yourself is tough, try forgiveness. I mean true, heartfelt, forgive and forget kind of stuff. There is nothing simple about that.

Family, friends, co-workers, self and the world at large present ample opportunities on a daily basis to practice the art of forgiveness. It is a moment by moment, conscious process. It may take a lifetime to master but when put into practice the love that is released as a result is more than worth the effort. It is good for me, it is good for you, it is good for the world we live in.

So, were the Beatle’s right? Is love all we need? Bottom line: Yes, but it takes true forgiveness to allow that love to flow. Be the Change — forgive, forget and let love be all we need.

For more information on monthly meetings of Be The Change Pagosa Springs call Andrea at 903-6047 or e-mail BeTheChangePS@yahoo.com.