When the cost of selfless love becomes too great a burden
Before we develop an analysis that helps us find the perfect sweet spot for how much love we have to give others while still being able to maintain our own interests, let’s define “self”. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of self is, “The union of elements (such as body, emotions, thoughts, and sensations) that constitute the individuality and identity of a person.” Selfless love, the ask to put our individual identities and emotions in the backseat in order to love well, sounds counterintuitive on the surface. How can we be authentic if we’re suppressing what makes us unique? Shouldn’t the world know our thoughts? Is anybody listening to our perspective? It feels like the world’s become even louder in the last year, with many of us feeling the need to pick a side and shout our beliefs from the rooftops. After all, how else can we be heard if we’re not loud and proud about where we stand? How can we truly love others if we’re not true to ourselves?
I challenge myself, and you, to consider a different perspective today. Instead of focusing on being heard, will you work with me to become a better listener? If you’re still reading, my challenge is that you ask yourself the following: Who can I gift kindness, compassion, deep listening, and empathy to that I don’t always agree with? Please engage them in honest dialogue with compassion. Don’t make the goal about who’s right or wrong. Truly hear what they are saying and even compliment something within their belief or ideology you agree with. If we can open the door to respectful dialogue, yelling becomes unnecessary. The goal switches from needing to be heard to gifting others with that hearing you desired so badly. We must learn to agree to disagree without being disagreeable.
Thank you for indulging me in the challenge above. We’re able to love others selflessly when we set aside our own agenda. The goal isn’t to hide who you are. It’s to make room for others to be welcome in the same room as you. Sometimes we need to stop the shouting long enough to listen for who’s been knocking on the door. I’ll leave you with this. According to Bishop Michael Curry, “The opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s selfishness.” The real question then isn’t how much selfless love is necessary. The question is can we afford a life of selfishness that prevents love? Now more than ever before, I know I can’t.
Logan Penovich is a Special Projects Manager at the American Red Cross. She earned an M.A. in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership at Wheaton College (’20) and a B.S. in Entrepreneurship (’14) at the University of Minnesota. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author's employer, organization, committee, or other group or individual.