Legacies Of Love: Reversing The Toxic Energy Of Hate
Whenever we turn to TV, social media, or even casual conversation, the toxic energy of hate is pervasive. So I decided to focus on the legacy of love for our Tips & Tools this month. Love: the most potent eradicator of the toxic energy of hate, the healthiest thoughts and feelings we can feed our bodies and souls, and the most precious value we can pass on to future generations.
Here is Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, writing on the power of love:
“No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him…. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to … [become] aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.”
Let’s plumb the meaning of each sentence: “No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him….” You’d think it would be the opposite, that as you know a person more deeply, the more you can love him. Perhaps we can begin in these divisive times by remembering that we are all children of God, and no matter their “mistaken” beliefs, their “selfish” desires, or their “blatant” intolerance, we all fear losing what we have; we all want to be comfortable, and we all want to be right. Instead of stubbornly persisting in our beliefs, desires, and feelings, we can open ourselves to listening to another – hearing another’s story – we all have a story! Here is the response of Chani Nicholas (feminist healer and astrologer) to being loved despite her imperfections:
“To be loved is to be given the greatest gift. The gift of being human.
Held despite the issues I’ve yet to heal.
Extended dignity despite all that I’ve withheld from others.
Granted respect no matter how many I have trespassed.”
Returning to Frankl: “Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to … [become] aware of what he can be and of what he should become.” Isn’t this our purpose when we write legacies to those younger than we: that we deeply and lovingly see and share with them who we see they really are, their strengths and directions. Here is part of a send-off letter I wrote in August to my oldest granddaughter who was leaving home to serve in the IDF, (Israeli Defense Forces):
“…to share a concept I believe: the “acorn” theory, conceived by Jungian, James Hillman. He posited…that each of us enters this world with a unique soul – personal psyche – acorn – whose purpose is to grow from acorn to sapling to full oak tree. Acorns, after all, do not grow up to be bunny rabbits or elephants…. We can’t see our own future, so we can’t consciously guide the progress of our acorn, but sometimes others can support, consciously or not, that growth in another….
I hope I am one of those who sees you, who you are, as a sapling or young tree, deepening your roots and spreading your branches as you take this next step on your life path. I hope that I can be here to support and nurture your acorn with my love.” [I then wrote of particular skills and talents, branches on her tree, that will be strengthened and grow on her journey, and of course closed by restating my enduring love.]
Another way of thinking about turning away from the toxic energy of hate and focusing on being loving was shared by a legacy colleague (Robb Lucy) on a Huffington Post blog before Thanksgiving. He wrote about “turning bickering into bonding.” It’s too late for us to practice love for this past Thanksgiving, but this month gives us the same opportunity as we come together with family for Christmas or Chanukah.
Turning from the toxic energy of hate toward love depends on our willingness to remove our blinders to see and listen to the humanity in others. This sounds simple but of course is complex and difficult. The Navaho wisdom, “You can’t wake someone pretending to be asleep” reminds me of my own recalcitrance. The saving grace is the legacy of love that I want to pass forward, not hate, and that helps me open my heart. I wish that for you too.
Getting Rid Of The Toxic Energy Of Hate:
- Name three people you know with whom you strongly disagree or who have values vey different from your own.
- Choose one and reflect on his/her positive qualities; find something about her/him you “could” love.
- Shift gears and imagine you have the opportunity to ask him/her who he/she is, what his/her story is, and that as you listen you find yourself feeling some compassion (not pity or disdain) for the person.
- Write a legacy letter to a dear friend describing your experience (both positive and negative) about your practice opening yourself to love, rather than closing down with habitual negative thoughts or putting up blinders to not see.
- Continue this practice when you find yourself with strong negative feelings and judgments, and journal about your practice without judging yourself. Especially note any differences you feel in your willingness and in your heart.
May this season of light help you to be willing to see others’ humanity, and may the season bring more love to you and all those you love,
– Rachael Freed
Rachael Freed, LICSW, senior fellow, Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing, University of Minnesota, is the author of Your Legacy Matters and Women’s Lives, Women’s Legacies. firstname.lastname@example.org and www.life-legacies.com.