God, by whatever name you call God, is not concerned with most of the stuff we humans fuss about. BUT, if God is concerned about anything it’s how we treat all life forms–other living beings. Jesus, for some of us, is all. For some others, he is nothing/no one. For me, Jesus is the greatest example of what God intended for the rest of us. And, IF he never existed and it’s all a lie–his character (the ideal, the model) still represents what I believe the Divine wanted for our world–to treat each other and other living beings with a transcendent love–radical acceptance. IF Jesus’ life is the greatest story ever told then it’s a story, a life, worth emulating. Ashe. Amen. Word. Truth.
For this reason, I wrote the book: How to Love: Following the example of Jesus of Nazareth, the ultimate postmodern psychotherapist. Love is the message and the practice of his life. Of course, Jesus of Nazareth is not the only prophet of love and peace this world has known, but he is the one I know. In my book How-to-love, I use the narrative (practices) of his life to share my message of how to execute love in a Jesus-like fashion. As a trained psychotherapist and a spiritual follower of Jesus of Nazareth, I know how to love using therapeutic skill, an ability that I learned from the master-teacher, Jesus, but refined while training to be a systemic, relationship expert. For our world is clearly in need of more than love. What is missing is the skill of knowing how to love. My calling, in response to Jesus’ message, is to teach the world how to execute the skill of love, indeed, a most desperate and urgent need.
“Whosoever will let him [sic] come” is the statement of invitation that Black preachers often make when “opening the ‘spiritual’ doors of the church.” This invitation is for those who are un-churched or un-saved (not Christian) to become members of a local Church and/or the Universal Church—the larger group of Believers who profess Jesus as personal Savior, i.e., a belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, regardless of church affiliation.
For a long time, I thought ministers made-up the statement, until I discovered that it was possibly inspired by Rev. 22:17, which is an invitation to anyone who wants to accept the Water of Life (i.e., Jesus) to “Come.” This notion of invitation is a seminal posture of the relational therapist. It’s a posture in the sense that we offer an invitation to change, which mean the client can reject the invitation. The client is free to say, “No thank-you” I’m not interested.” Jesus extended an invitational as well. He never even tried to force anything upon anyone. He offered or invited, and they responded according to their own will. This is how authentic healing works. People have to hunger and thirst for healing, then seek it before it is possible to be healed. Likewise, we in the therapeutic community offer an invitation with the hope that the client accepts it, and only then can healing begin. However, we accept whatever the client decides, as it is always our goal to honor the client’s voice.
Impediments in Relationships
Absolute thinking is a sure way to hinder connections with others. Condemning and confining “shoulds” are prescribed behaviors and attitudes in the Christian community that may prevent or impede real connections. Now, please, please understand that I know that there are spiritual absolutes, e.g., who God is–and in the Christian faith–who Jesus is. Now, stay with me on this. I’m talking about how-to connect with people because the most important aspect of our faith is to love others. So, don’t allow yourself to be distracted from what is most important. Biblically speaking, the Pharisees were notorious for behavior that can be most dramatically described as swatting gnats and swallowing camels (Matt. 23:24), i.e., focusing on small things and missing the greater message or teaching.
This discussion is important because it encourages Christians to look inside themselves, to consider what really works, and what really matters in relationships, and to choose what is effective for change. So, condemning shoulds are a no-no if you are interested in connecting with others. No one wants or needs a lecture on how he or she should behave. Most people (small children included) know what is right and wrong. From my experience with couples and parents, constant nagging, preaching, or lecturing does not help or change behavior. It only alienates and frustrates. People who nag or preach do so because they don’t know how to relate in a way that gets what they really want—greater connection with those they love. To transform a relationship requires a different, more non-judgmental approach.
Confining shoulds give others few options for alternative actions. They limit possibilities. And the fewer the options, the more difficult it is to envision or see how to get unstuck or solve the problem. You will see when you read further about the therapeutic postures and attitudes how the approach opens up pathways to unlimited possibilities. This is the nature of what it means to be liberated, yet connected, in relationships.
If you think you already know how to love then why would you even consider that I have something “you don’t already know” to offer? You wouldn’t, right? Another possible reason that you wouldn’t be interested in knowing about how-to-love is you are fine with things the way they are–you are accustomed to the turmoil, and you don’t see the need to change a thing.
So, why, then would I keep pestering you about the value of how-to-love?
As a psychotherapist–relationship doctor–for over 20-years, I’ve seen my share of clients in distress who thought they knew how to love their spouses, life partners, parents, friends, co-workers, and children, but didn’t. Honestly, if they had known how, they wouldn’t have needed my help. I’ve succeeded in helping many clients heal their relationships, and I’ve also instructed thousands of graduate students on how to radically accept challenging clients. How-to- love focuses on learning radical acceptance.
Now, I’m hopeful that your answer to my question now changes. Why? How? Because if you gave it some thought, you’d realize that like so many others you don’t know how-to-love. How do I know this? Because right this minute one of your many relationships is struggling. The other person could use some help and so could you. Believe me, you need to learn how-to-love, especially if it’s the other person who has the problem, which means you have one too. Agree? Contact me– I got just the thing for you.
“‘Cause I said so, now eat your vegetables!” There was a time in the history of our country that this remark would have been met with respect and obedience from a questioning, perhaps somewhat, wayward child. If I were America’s mother, this would be my attitude. It seems that some all-knowing-all-loving-supremely-sacrificing, old-school mom needs to yank this country (by the arm of course) into doing the right thing. Love is the way; and how-to-love is a better way. I’m going to keep bringing your attention to this matter–as would a nagging mother–until I get it undivided. I say repeatedly that to love is to radically accept someone. To do so means that we consider our need for grace and then give it to someone else. This is a skill that has to be taught, much like your mother forcing you to eat a vegetable that you don’t like “because it’s good for you.” Similarly, how-to-love is an acquired taste; once you learn to like it, it becomes your favorite thing on the menu, so much so that you serve it to your own children, making your family’s space/our country the place we wholly call home.
Admittedly, nearly any and everything we do in our country becomes a point of sales–we are attempting to change lives, ours included. We concoct ideas, images, ideals, gadgets, icons, etc. to make our point or our mark. How-to-love is no different. What I’m selling is a “way'” of being that is not altogether new, although it’s has a nuance that is.
For me, love’s language is sign, because when you love someone that person knows it no matter how you show it–whether you use your “love language” or theirs. The look in your eye translates your love into a special feeling of joy. The sign of love is experienced, and it’s unmistakably love.
It’s selfish to demand that someone love us according to a language that he or she may not necessarily speak; it’s quite loving, though, to accept the offering graciously without judgment. I got it: your child gives you a picture with a note for Mother or Father’s Day with misspelled words and coloring way out of the bounds of the disfigured heart. Instead of lovingly adoring the gift, you offer corrections/criticisms. This is what I mean by accepting a gift of love regardless of the language that it’s wrapped. Do you suppose your 3-year-old reads love in the sign-language of your actions?
Love then is radical acceptance. You accept the kindness as an act of love, period, without specifications. And your acceptance is a reciprocal act of love, period. This is knowing how to love in circularity–it comes and it goes in a moment.
MLK, Jr. was assassinated over 52 years ago, but I’m guessing that Sunday morning in the US is still the most segregated time of our week. It’s interesting that on some level, we still purport to be a Christian nation, “one nation under God,” right? But, many of us have yet to experience the freedom that the framers of the Constitution lauded. My question then is what have we been doing after centuries of sermons on love. And how is it that the love of God has not transformed our nation since it’s inception? After Sunday, are we expected to treat “others” any differently than before Sunday? Or is what we do on Sunday morning, a show, even a pretense that we comprehend what it means to love sacrificially? Instead, nothing has changed in how we show our love to others. I guess a new question would be “why the pretense since we are free to fear and hate and other; we are free to kill and steal without remorse and accountability. And so we mourn for and long for a country where our world is changed after Sunday. There is a more excellent way–how to love is it.
The truth of the matter is that to love radically is to be able to
question one’s own sense of truth in favor of the relationship. I’ve got to ask
at what cost does one let go of a negligible truth. Your decision is to determine if the
relationship is worthy of your sacrifice.