My heart goes out to all politicians, especially those in power. Between Covid-19, climate crisis, and community deterioration, they have some incredibly important yet tough decisions to make. They must also feel like they are in a tenuous position. Suppose they commit to making unpopular (and yet necessary) changes. In that case, they risk losing their seats and, therefore, their ability to make future improvements. But if they don’t use this chance to make positive change, they risk sacrificing the health and wellbeing of us all, including their children and grandchildren. Whether we like them or not, we do need to respect the dilemma that they face. And for this reason, this article comes to deliver this one wish to all politicians – Love.
What Has Love Got To Do With It?
What the hell does love have to do with politics? I can hear so many reacting with mockery and ridicule. I can hear the dismissive statements already, telling me to take my idealistic hippie nonsense back to the commune. That’s ok, go ahead and insult me if that’s your thing. I am a big girl; I can take it. I can understand the view that there is no place for love in politics. However, while I appreciate this view, my challenge is to hear me out.
But first, what do I mean by the word love? It is one of those words that people see to think does not require definition, that we all get it. I would not like to make that assumption, so let me describe what I mean when referring to love in this article. Unfortunately, the dictionary is not very helpful, suggesting that love is deep affection toward something or someone. So to help me out here, I must turn to a very unusual reference for me – the Bible.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and angels but have not to love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2, And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not to love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13
If anyone has watched parliamentary question time, the analogy of noisy gongs and clanging symbols is remarkably accurate – just without any of the therapeutic benefits! And the personal criticism and rude rhetoric we see flung about every day is the antithesis of this depiction of love.
However, what strikes me most about this description is that love is not about putting yourself in the centre of attention. In contrast, it advocates the extraction of individual concerns and agendas from the picture so that you can focus on respect and reality. It is about making the right decisions, even if these are against your self-interests and result in your personal redundancy. It is about taking pleasure in the health, wellbeing and happiness of others, even if you are not the one who has bestowed it. It means being vulnerable enough to show your true self and be brave enough to commit to something bigger than yourself.
Every Moment You Choose Love or Fear
So if it is not love we see in our parliament, what is it we are witnessing?
Someone once told me that everything we do is done either out of love or fear. I wish I could remember who told me this so that I can thank them for this insight. It has helped me understand so much of what I see in this world. So, when I came to write this article, I thought I better find out where the quote came from. The earliest reference I can find came from Seneca the Younger (4BC – 65AD). He said:
“True love can fear no one.”
This statement suggests that there can be no fear when true love is present, and in the opposite, where there is fear, there is no true love. Here we see the certain proposition that love and fear are opposites and cannot exist together.
With further research, I have found that this assertion was also made by two amazing modern and open-hearted thinkers – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and John Lennon.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a revolutionary in how we care for the dying and how we deal with death. She certainly would have seen the extreme perspectives in those facing their last days and the family and friends who were preparing themselves for a life without their loved one. Here’s what Elisabeth said:
“There is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
John Lennon was, in my opinion, one of history’s greatest poets, philosophers and protagonists. During his days in the Beatles, he passionately professed that “all you need is love” (1967). His solo song ‘Imagine’ (1971) was a testament to his vision of a world founded upon love, where there is no fear, and all the people are “living a life of peace”. John has been recorded as saying:
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love.” ~ John Lennon
So why is this important? Why should we care about which one, love or fear, we are motivated by? To answer this question, let’s look at the outcomes of each scenario.
What Does Acting From Love Look Like?
Looking at the descriptions provided by Kubler-Ross and Lennon, it appears that when you are acting from a place of love, you will see a flow of positive emotions. Happiness, contentment, peace and joy will be felt by the person acting from love. Moreover, they will share this peace, hope and joy with all around them. Lennon believed that acting from a place of love was the vital ingredient to authentic creativity. He saw that when you are working from love, you are open to life’s reality but have the passion and excitement to contribute and bring positive change. It is this balance between reality and hope that is so needed right now as we face Covid-19, communities in crisis and a climate emergency.
It appears then that operating from a perspective of love is beneficial not only for the person undertaking the activity but also for the good of the communities they are serving.
What Does Acting From Fear Look Like?
Being the opposite of love, it is obvious that fear creates a flow of negative emotions, including pride, anger, desire, apathy, guilt and shame. These emotions are rooted in the prime concern for what other’s think of us, rather than being true to ourselves. When we act from fear, we hand our power over to others and allow them to define our sense of self-worth.
Spending our days in fear is nothing short of destructive – for the person living in fear and the world around them. Because as Lennon so wisely perceived:
“When we are afraid, we pull back from life.”
Fear closes us down to others and our potential. We mistrust ourselves and sacrifice our ability to make a positive contribution to this world. When we are scared about how others may react, we do not give all of ourselves. We are not honestly and fully ourselves. The result is that we live in a state of conflict – there is a war between who we know we truly are and what we display to others. Care, creativity and contribution are stifled. Gandhi recognised this when he said:
“Fear kills the soul.”
Why Do We Act Out Of Fear?
It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it – just choose love! So why do we get trapped in a conflict between what we know needs to be done and what we are willing to do? There are two possible answers to this question:
- We allow others to tell us what we should be. The fear we have here is one of rejection, of looking stupid and not being accepted. It is the ultimate fear of being an outcast and lonely. We choose the comfort of the tribe over the courage of living a unique and full life. In the world of politics, this plays out as the preoccupation with retaining power and position. This is the modus operandi of party politics.
- We are afraid of what we could be. I believe that inherently each one of us knows what we are capable of. Moreover, I fundamentally believe that we all have an inkling of the potential that resides within our communities and our country. It is grand, beautiful and brave. And yet, it is risky to shine. What would happen if I release what is within and live a life that is big and bold? This deep fear of succeeding, of our power, is captured succinctly by Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us”.
How Do you Move From Fear To Love?
In so many ways, this world is geared to keep us in a state of fear. Our legal and judicial systems are founded upon punishments and penalties. Marketers rely on FOMO to keep us spending our money on status symbols. Political parties hold sway by their ability to convince their members to follow the party line. In all cases, fear gains power by defining us as either good or bad, rich or poor, successful or a loser, a member of the tribe or an outsider.
In this context, how do you move from a place of fear to acting with freedom and authenticity? There is one initial step: finding the courage to be yourself and accept yourself. But how the hell do you become courageous?
If you look the word courage up in the dictionary, you will see that the definition of courage is:
“The ability to do something that frightens one.”.
This definition holds the key to what courage is all about. Courage does not mean that you don’t feel afraid. It is the exact opposite. Fear is an inherent part. Without fear, bravery does not exist. I remember reading an interview with Paul McCartney when he discussed John Lennon’s insecurity about how he would be remembered. Despite this concern, Lennon kept going. He kept pushing the boundaries and expressing himself in and outside his music.
This is because courage is choosing to move beyond fear. It is the choice to sit with the discomfort of the unknown because of something more important.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
Courage is about deciding that being true to your amazing spirit is more important than allowing fear to keep you stuck in conformity. It is about deciding that stepping into your power is more valuable than giving in to your anxiety.
But more than just coming from a cognitive exercise, courage comes from action.
It is about trying new activities, meeting new people, finding those things that give you energy, fueling your passions, and making your heart sing.
As this definition suggests, courage is not a quality endowed at birth or something our Fairy Godmother gives us with a wave of a wand. It is an ability, a skill that is developed over time and with dedicated practice.
The Lennon we know and love was not born fearless, nor did he live or die fearlessly. But somewhere along the way, he chose that love for himself, and the world in which he lived was more important than his insecurities. He chose to step out of fear and into love, and in doing so, brought inspiration to so many.
You may argue it is risky to act from love. Yes, there is an inherent vulnerability for you individually. But it is riskier for the people you serve to continue acting from fear. This world has enough fear, and your acts of fear are creating so much suffering. We need your courage, and we need your acts of love!
And so I leave you with this one question:
“Right now, are you acting out of fear or love?”
My wish for all politicians: