From “How Could You?” to “How Can We?” A Story and A Playbook

(From Jeff):

At the end of a lunch conversation I had with someone who wanted to learn more about Love Not Fear, the person I was talking with told me this story about the experience that drove him to look for us. He sent it to me later via message, and this is what he said:

My partner voted for President Trump; I voted for Hillary Clinton.

Neither I nor my partner, nor many, many other people, had good answers for what happened next.

Post election my partner and I, who up to that time were having what I would describe as a loving, healthy relationship, become angry at each other when we talked about the election.

I had to be ‘right.’ I would not accept her reasons for voting for President Trump as a good choice, or even a valid, rational response to the realities of the political/economic/social situation(s) as I understood them. My perspective was ‘correct.’ I did not accept her perspectives of what happened, why, and consequently the validity of the choices she made. And that included her expectations.

As a result our relationship was dissolving before our eyes. Neither of us knew what to do for certain. As I said there was no ‘playbook.’ We did agree that we valued our relationship. And we valued each other: everything about each other, even the things we didn’t like, because that’s who we were.

We agreed to stop reading Facebook, because we found it inflammatory, incendiary. FB was an addiction, an emotional fix that reinforced our perspectives and made it increasingly difficult to communicate with each other. Each time we talked and at least partially bridged our gap, merely reading FB, or listening to other news sources, emails, etc., set us at odds again, sometimes with even more certitude.

Fortunately, over the course of the next several weeks we began to understand that we were the only true reality. Not manipulative FB posts that prompted an emotional response of a certain kind. Not TV commentators or news articles written from a certain bias.

I came to realize that she had valid reasons for her beliefs, reasons that I in fact shared. I couldn’t make decisions for her, run her life. I couldn’t. Only she knows what’s best for her. I had to give up my superiority, my control, and just be who I am, just be ‘me,’ and let her be ‘her.’ That was good enough.. In fact it had to be because that is all there is.

It was better for both of us. We can share who we are; not hide behind our knowledge, education, etc. Its honest. Its getting to know ourselves and each other; growing together. (We can only ‘be’ ourselves when we’re with someone else.)

“Where the myth fails, human love begins. Then we love a human being, not our dream, but a human being with flaws.” — Anais Nin”

That notion of a “Love Not Fear Playbook” was one that we had kicked around before in a couple of contexts, and it struck me that this man was describing one of the core experiences that led me to start Love Not Fear. So I asked my friend and Love Not Fear Leader Amy, who is a clinical psychologist, to comment on what a playbook might look like, and here’s what she said:

 This is a great story. It reminds me of the poem by Rumi that starts:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
If we are to write a playbook for how to restore and maintain relationships across differences, especially political differences in this age of hyper-partisan politics, then it contains these basic moves:
First, identify who is important to you, and then notice if your actions are moving you toward that person or away. Being “right” feels so good, and it’s so hard to be kind to people we believe are dead wrong, or else willfully ignorant of the facts as we know them.
So another important move is the willingness to hold lightly our ideas about right and wrong and the way things should be.
Remember “the dress” that achieved internet fame a couple of years ago? I remember showing my husband the picture of the white and gold dress only to have him describe it as blue and black. It was truly upsetting to me. How could this person that I know so we’ll see this simple picture so differently? I actually spent some time researching explanations for the phenomenon, all of which boiled down to this:
Seeing is perception, and perception is influenced by both our biologies and our histories. Perhaps my husband and I perceived different colors because he has a different history with colors than I do. I needed to be able to let go of being right in order to try to understand how someone else could see it differently.
If our histories influence something as basic as color perception, how much more do
they influence our perspectives on weightier matters like politics, religion, and
parenting?
Trying to understand where someone is coming from is literally that – asking what has been this person’s life experience? How does it make sense that they perceive the world as they do? And how does my particular life journey make sense of the beliefs I hold?
If we can do this with kindness and compassion, we can love even when we disagree.

A message to the Love Not Fear community about the last 24 hours

Welcome to 2017. In a few weeks, the Love Not Fear idea will be a year old, and in that time we have built a Facebook following of more than 700 people and a group of more than 50 people who have raised their hands to be leaders or volunteers for the movement. With great thanks to Sid we have incorporated as a non-profit and on January 19 we will hold a strategic planning session to lay out our goals for 2017 and beyond. Through all this, I continue to find people who resonate with the idea that a) there is too much fear in our world, b) love is the antidote and c) we ought to work on countering fear with love somehow. People tell me they want to do something; they (and I) just aren’t sure what.

For all this, it feels kind of like we’re stuck. Several board members have said that we need new blood and new energy, that their lives have gotten crazier,  that maybe they’re losing some motivation. And let me say here that not only do I understand that intellectually, but I’ve had days where I’ve felt it, too.

The last day, though, has been the latest example of a nudge from beyond myself about this, and I want to share with you what’s popped up for me to see if any of you get a nudge as well.

As a preface, Love Not Fear needs to be open to everyone if it’s to be anything, and that includes people of all faiths including those of no faith. I truly do not believe that the concept of love overcoming fear is limited to people with a certain name for the Divine, nor is it out of the grasp of those who claim there is no Divine. But all that said, part of being inclusive is being wholly real, so I kinda have to say at this point that I do believe in a personal God, and while I’m not all that clear on the mechanics, I do believe that sometimes God brings stuff to our attention for a reason.

Late yesterday afternoon I had a meeting with a couple of friends at Panera that was primarily about a non-work, non-Love Not Fear small project, and after talking about that project and some other unrelated issues, my friends said, “Let’s talk about what’s really important.” Through their work, which is neither political nor theological, they’ve identified some trends that have them convinced that we are at a crisis moment in society, that the central institutions of our world are coming apart, that something big and new is coming that we can’t see yet. They don’t think the world is ending but do think it may feel like the world is ending for a lot of people. And they wanted to tell me that they were convinced that my Love Not Fear idea is an important element of getting to the other side of it and they want to be connected to it.

Last night, Amy, who is leading the Love Not Fear Research and Education team, tagged me on Facebook to share this sermon she found. You should really read the whole thing, but this part at the end jumped out:

“There are messengers of love all around. And again, and forever, they say: do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. For in the heart of God there is enough love to cast out fear. It is from this heart we come and to this heart we return and it beats around us and is shown in the shimmering love that absolutely covers this world. There is enough love to cast out our fear. And it’s everywhere.”

This morning, the readings that came up in my devotional included this quote from I John 3: “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” And the reflection on that passage was an extended quote from a guy named Clarence Jordan who died the year I was born:

“[It] is not enough to limit your love to your own nation, to your own race, to your own group. You must respond with love even to those outside of it, respond with love to those who hate you. This concept enables men to live together not as nations, but as the human race. We are now at the stage of history where we will either take this step or perish. For we have learned with consummate skill to destroy mankind. We have learned how to efficiently annihilate the human race. But, somehow or other, we shrink with horror from the prospect not of annihilation, but of reconciliation. We will either be reconciled – we shall love one another – or we shall perish.”

He wrote that about 50 years ago, but it sure sounded like the conversation I had at Panera with my two friends the day before. If we are to make it, we need to embrace the reality that we all belong to each other.

This confluence of conversation and sermon and scripture and reflection in so short a timeframe (it was probably 12 hours from first to last) struck me as meaningful. As a divine nudge to keep at it.

And here’s what the “it” is: it’s about building a Love Not Fear community. Look, I work in the world of policy, and I’m wearing a t-shirt as I type this with a quote from Daniel Burnham on the front that says “Make no little plans, for they have no magic to stir men’s souls.” So my mind goes naturally to how the economic, political, cultural and environmental dynamics make love hard and fear easy, and left to my own devices, I’d start working on an opus for how to change policy to shift that balance. But the world we build reflects our collective heart. If you really want to change the world, start by changing hearts, and that kind of change happens one by one in a community.

Whether you just liked the Facebook page because someone asked you to, or because we posted a message that stuck with you and made you smile, or whether this is something you’ve been looking for, you’re already on the way. As we start a new calendar year, ask yourself whether you’re feeling a nudge to do something, to “love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” And if you want to get involved in building the skills of love and empathy together and inviting others to join us, let’s figure out together how. We need you. Drop a comment on this post, e-mail me at lovenotfearmovement@gmail.com, message the Facebook page, and we’ll get you added to our leader group so you can weigh in on what we should focus on first and how to move forward.

The Day After the Election: How Does Healing Begin?

As the election season ends and we look to make peace within our families and communities, remember that the peace and justice we want to see in the world starts with our abilities to see what another sees, to feel what another feels, and to allow our hearts to be broken.


Very soon this election will be over. Yet the acrimony and the deep divides among us that the political process has exposed will not simply fade. The divisions between us need to be healed actively and intentionally. How do we begin?

 

Prominent behavioral psychologist Steven Hayes recently wrote about the three essential psychological skills that research shows are needed to be able to enjoy and love others. First, we need to be able to take another’s perspective. We need to be able to put ourselves in another’s shoes and see the world through her eyes, understanding how her perspective might be different from our own. Second, we need to be able to feel what the other person is feeling – to feel his joys and sorrows. And third, we need to be open enough to our own emotional experience to not shut ourselves off from the other person’s pain, even when it is hard. When we can see another’s perspective, and feel what they feel, it can be painful for us, especially if they are different from us. If we try to protect ourselves from those uncomfortable feelings, we shut down our ability to be truly compassionate. Loving those who are different from us is hard and, sometimes, heartbreaking. Glennon Melton, author of Love Warrior, says this about opening ourselves to the pain of others: “Do not run, do not turn away: follow your heartbreak…Everything beautiful starts with a broken heart.”

 

These, then, are the essential ingredients to loving others: perspective taking, empathy, and openness to experience. Research in psychology tells us that the opposite is also true: when we are lacking in these three skills, the result is that we judge, objectify, and dehumanize others. The good news is, we can strengthen these skills with intentional practice.

 

Hayes concludes with this: “The modern world needs to take seriously the battle between hate and love. If it is to be love, we need to go behind the eyes of, say, women being groped … and then we need to take a deep breath and take the much harder journey into the mind of a groper. We need to go behind the eyes of a Mexican child on a school bus being shouted at to go home … and then pause and feel what it feels like to be the middle-aged man shrieking at him or her.”

 

by Amy House for Love Not Fear Movement

Let’s Do This Together – What Role Will You Play

“How can I help Love Not Fear and really make a difference in countering our culture of fear with love?”

As I’ve talked with people about Love Not Fear, I’ve gotten that question a lot.  People (including you) understand how an overabundance of fear in our culture is hurting us and how we need to create a more positive, connected culture in response. But the “how” and the “how do I fit in” questions are important and real.

Last week, a group of us met to talk about where Love Not Fear should be going, and out of that came a couple of things.  We’re beginning the process of forming a non-profit organization, working on how best to refine our mission statement as an elevator speech, and identifying the key things we need to do to build the community of people who believe we need to promote a loving culture over fear; to equip people with facts, ideas and tools to help them shape their own media environment and raise the issue with friends and family; to support and encourage opportunities for face-to-face meetups to promote simple community with people who cross barriers of difference; and to begin to nudge the major institutions of cultural power to back off the fear and highlight the love in our society.  Through the conversation, we identified a lot of different opportunities, and I’ve grouped them into teams.  Some of them require a high level of coordination that really will look like a team, while others are activities people can do whenever and wherever they are.  I hope you’ll look over the options below to see what speaks to you and join us!  The best way to sign up is via this survey: (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BXPLD3W, if you want to share it), but if you’d rather, send me an e-mail at lovenotfearmovement@gmail.com, or message us on Facebook  or send us smoke signals or…

Here’s the list

  • Love Not Fear Outreach Team

PURPOSE: Spread the word about Love Not Fear

SKILLS/EXPERIENCE NEEDED: Willingness to share with friends about Love Not Fear and encourage them to join us

TEAM SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE: More people join Love Not Fear by liking the Facebook page, volunteering, signing up for e-mail list, etc.

COORDINATION NEED: Anyone can do this at any time! Need a point of contact to surface what tools Love Not Fear can provide to make this easy and successful.

 

  • Love Not Fear Mediawatch Team

PURPOSE: Identify great examples of media (traditional or social) that exemplify Love Not Fear’s core messages so they can be shared with Love Not Fear members

SKILLS/EXPERIENCE NEEDED: Willingness to search for examples in social and traditional media and share them with Love Not Fear

TEAM SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE: Love Not Fear’s communications channels have lots of examples of positive stories in media to share with members

COORDINATION NEED: Anyone can do this at any time! Need a point of contact to collect examples from the team and share with the Backbone Team for use.

 

  • Love Not Fear Science Team (aka “the Compassion Corps”)

PURPOSE: Take research on fear, compassion and community and turn it into bite-sized messages that anyone can understand to help point out the problem of our fear-driven culture and inform tools for individuals to help themselves and their loved ones change their mindset.

SKILLS/EXPERIENCES NEEDED: Expertise in social sciences connected to fear, compassion, community and love or willingness to research literature in these areas; Expertise in communicating with non-scientific audiences.

TEAM SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE: Lots of factoids, tips and tidbits that Love Not Fear can share and use to help themselves and intervene with loved ones

COORDINATION NEED: Need to ensure that people aren’t duplicating effort. Where there are multiple team members who have similar expertise/interest, need to coordinate work and collaborate on products. Need to collect examples to share with Backbone team.

LEADER: Amy House

 

  • Love Not Fear Challenge Team

PURPOSE: Develop EASY things anyone can do to promote love and counter fear

SKILLS/EXPERIENCE NEEDED: Creativity, interest/experience in social marketing

TEAM SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE: Models or calls to action that are so fun that they can go viral

COORDINATION NEED: Working together in a supportive, creative way will help us end up with the most successful ideas. This team will need to work together as a collaborative team with a facilitator.

LEADER:

 

  • Love Not Fear Youth Team

PURPOSE: Engage middle school and high schoolers in learning and spreading the message of Love Not Fear so that students are conscious about surrounding themselves with positive messages

SKILLS/EXPERIENCE NEEDED: Ability to communicate effectively with middle and high school students; connections to schools, youth groups, and other organizations that serve teens

TEAM SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE: Students are engaged in promoting Love Not Fear in their schools, organizations and families

COORDINATION NEED: Need to ensure that outreach to schools and other organizations isn’t duplicative; need to identify tools and messages that students require

LEADER: Jessica Kreger

 

  • Love Not Fear Arts Team

PURPOSE: Tap the power of the arts to promote Love Not Fear and use the act of creating art as a way to engage people in simple community

SKILLS/EXPERIENCE NEEDED: Professional artists (ability to create and market art), experience in teaching others how to create art

TEAM SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE: Love Not Fear benefits from powerful art that communicates our message through logos, images, music and other experiences; Love Not Fear members learn in meetups how to use art to combat fear

COORDINATION NEED: Coordinating the creative process for art, developing exercises for members, and potentially coordinating with partners to distribute/showcase/sell Love Not Fear art.

LEADER: Karan Porter

 

  • Love Not Fear Allies Team

PURPOSE: Develop relationships with other organizations that align with Love Not Fear’s mission and/or can disseminate Love Not Fear’s message

SKILLS/EXPERIENCE NEEDED: Connections with other organizations, willingness to develop organizational relationships, sales/marketing/business development skills and experiences

TEAM SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE: Love Not Fear is connected with other organizations in ways that enable us to complement each other’s missions and have a broader impact

COORDINATION NEED: This is a broad category; coordination is needed both to shepherd the brainstorming process on what allies to engage and to ensure that there isn’t duplication of effort in reaching out to potential allies.

LEADER:

 

  • Love Not Fear Meetup Team

PURPOSE: Design, market and implement Love Not Fear in-person activities that offer opportunities to have FUN face-to-face social interactions, preferably with people who are different from themselves

SKILLS/EXPERIENCE NEEDED: Event planning and marketing,

TEAM SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE: Love Not Fear can offer fun opportunities to meet new people who are different from yourself

COORDINATION NEED: Need to coordinate schedules so efforts don’t undercut each other and to coordinate events

LEADER:

 

  • Love Not Fear Backbone Team

PURPOSE: Provide Love Not Fear with the infrastructure necessary to build and engage the network of Love Not Fear members

SKILLS/EXPERIENCE NEEDED: Web design, experience with e-mail management systems, social media expertise

TEAM SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE: Love Not Fear has active, engaging, functional web, social and e-mail tools as well as the technology to connect members across distances for meetings and events

COORDINATION NEED: Need to coordinate integration of different Love Not Fear channels so that messages align; need to coordinate with other teams that are providing content (esp. Compassion Corps and Challenge Team);

LEADER:

 

What Shawn Achor Has to Say, and How It Aligns with Love Not Fear

I had the great fortune to hear Shawn Achor speak to a group of non-profit executives, board members and staff at a conference today. For those who don’t know his work, here’s his TED Talk, which is not only my all-time favorite TED talk, but my wife’s favorite, and even my daughter’s favorite.  It’s only 12 minutes.  Watch it if you haven’t:

Achor’s work is focused around the science of happiness, and there are a few key lessons that, even if you don’t watch the excellent TED talk, you need to know:

  • Happiness isn’t pleasure. It’s the joy you feel when you are moving toward your potential. Pleasure may breed complacency, but joy breeds creative growth.
  • Happiness isn’t a by-product of success, but it’s foundation.  We get it wrong by saying when we achieve x, then we’ll be happy, because our brains will keep resetting the bar for success so that we’ll never achieve it. Instead, there is a large body of research that shows that success, in almost any way you define it, comes more readily as an outgrowth of happiness, meaning happiness is good for business as well as good for the soul.
  • We are socially connected creatures, down to our neurons, meaning that happiness is a choice, but not one we make individually; it’s one we make together.
  • We are shaped by our surroundings. If we are surrounded by dreariness, sadness or negativity, it will shape how we see the world.
  • But the opposite is true, too. We can shape our framework and our surroundings by developing habits that support happiness and realistic optimism.  Achor outlined 5 key habits with research that backs each one.  You can get them by e-mailing start@happinessadvantage.com.

Now, the very practices he outlines are worthwhile and will help you build community and counter fear, but more importantly, Achor’s philosophy dovetails with the foundation of Love Not Fear. We start from the same philosophy:

  • We are shaped by our surroundings, and for too many people, fear is too prevalent in those surroundings, especially the artificial fear generated by media and marketing of all kinds
  • We are social creatures, so much so that the action of building real social connections counters the influence of fear within isolation.
  • We can develop habits that rewire our brains and rebalance our lives so that they aren’t overrun by fear, AND we can spread a healthier mindset to others.

Love Not Fear will (I hope) find habits that build on and go beyond the ones Achor uses in the Happiness Advantage, but we’re starting from the same place.

 

PS – In the off chance someone is reading this but hasn’t connected with our Facebook page, or Facebook has decided you don’t need to see what’s posted there, we’re holding a meeting June 30th to form the Love Not Fear organization, and we could use your help.  We’ll connect people outside the area virtually, but definitely go sign up if you want to be a part of this!

 

It’s About Time

This week the discussion in the Love Not Fear Community Creators group was about time, because when I asked the members what the biggest barrier was to bringing people together in community, “Time” was the top response.  Now, the context of that response in my little survey was about the challenges of scheduling get-togethers, and several people talked about those challenges. But (as I sorta suspected), for others the response was driven by the lack of available time – both theirs and the people they wanted to convene – to engage in community, and that’s a huge issue in modern life.

The last couple of weeks have been a crunch time for a lot of the Love Not Fear Leaders, so things have moved a little more slowly.  The image I have is of when I was a kid at the beach – as I waded out to deeper ocean waters, you’d have to stop and stand still when the waves broke on you, so you didn’t get knocked back, and only after the wave passed could you make more progress.  To an extent, the last week or so have been “wave weeks” for a lot of folks.

And yet…as we focus on the four things – Being a Beacon, Supporting Community Creators, Retraining our Brains and Changing the Culture – there has still been some progress.  To wit:

  • We’ve got a group focusing on using social media to be a beacon, to which we’ve added Mallary as a Twitter lead. While they haven’t launched yet, having people focused on it is great, and our current social media channels, especially the Facebook page and Instagram feed, are making progress thanks largely to Christy.
  • We have a really good group of Community Creators (cited above), almost 40 people who have been identified by friends as the type of people who get others together, and we’re using the FB group to talk through the barriers they face and how to solve them.  If the result is that members learn some life hacks and tools from each other, then that’s a good outcome.  If we identify some need for which there is no tool, that will be a great item for Love Not Fear to tackle.
  • We have a Compassion Corps – Amy and Kathleen – two people who work professionally in helping people retrain their brains using compassion. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can take what they know and imbue it into our social channels!
  • We have a window into the arts in Karen, which is not only a realm of community that has its own value but can also be a medium for being a beacon.
  • We have a team – Heidi, Loretta and Frances – who have offered (or been “voluntold”) to help me put the organizational structure together for Love Not Fear.
  • And Jessica may help us bring some age-diversity into the mix by engaging students!

For a “wave week,” that’s pretty impressive, right?

I credit this to the line from the video below: “People don’t choose dreams. Dreams choose them.” I continue to be encouraged and motivated by the people who have been chosen by Love Not Fear. Hope you are too!

Actual quotes from actual people

full-heart

These are, to paraphrase David Letterman, actual quotes from actual people about Love Not Fear. I could have said any of them, but I didn’t.  And these were from eight different people in the last two weeks:

  • “I have been thinking about it so much because I am personally experiencing that what the world needs is Love, not fear, in every way. I feel lead to be involved because I am living the experience of this concept! That never happens to me!…It’s inspired.”
  • “I resonate with the call to help out with this initiative, and I await clarity as to exactly how.”
  • “Okay, so I know I want to be involved, I just don’t know how.”
  • “When I really should be doing other things, my mind keeps coming back to this.”
  • “I am being pulled to the cause and am frustrated as I want to do more, take some kind of action rathern than sitting back and shaking my head saying this is terrible.”
  • “I 100% want to be part of this.”
  • “I Love Love and Love the idea.”
  • “This is an awesome concept and the timing is perfect for an alternative to so much going on around us!”

How about you? These eight people, and some others, are putting Love Not Fear together in a Leaders group. Do you feel the same way they (and I) do? Do you want in?