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I don’t want to stop loving Paul.
More to the point, I don’t seem able to stop loving Paul.
And to the point of Lesson 36, I definitely do not have to.
True love is not a trade-off
If we are loving someone in order to receive love in return, we are not really loving at all. We are manipulating.
I have been guilty of this sort of “love” in the past, for sure.
Maybe even a little bit with Paul.
(Near the very end—like, seriously, the last few days before the separation—I was wanting so much to feel connected and receive his support, it’s possible I offered up my own time and energy with impure motivations.)
But on the whole, I very much understand the essence of the St. Francis prayer. And most days, I legit seek to love more than I seek to be loved.
Which is exactly why it has been so hard withholding from Paul.
“Generosity is a spacious phenomenon”
I was so glad to see Katherine proclaim the significance of generosity in Lesson 36.
She talks about how good it feels to be with people are generous with us, who allow us to be authentic and unjudged.
“We feel like we can breathe around them,” she says.
However, she continues, plenty of us “enter the majority of our encounters defended and closed. This withholding of ourselves is so common that we just think it’s normal.”
Which makes sense, what with all the fear that can accompany vulnerability.
Because sure, I benefit from receiving generosity of spirit. But when I give it, I am at risk.
What if my love and kindness is not returned?
Well, perhaps it won’t be.
“Yet,” Katherine says, “what better opportunity to give love than when one is not getting what they want?”
I choose to love generously, no matter what
We already know it’s a fallacy to fixate on one person for love, whether giving or receiving.
Nobody can fill me up, and nobody needs to.
(Well, no human, anyway. Unlimited love and support is the forte of God, angels, spirit guides, etc.)
So the trick is to stay open even when I feel hurt.
Rather than looking for someone to give me love, I am better off finding people to give love to.
If we want to move beyond the limitations of our self-absorption, Katherine says, we must “be adept in the practice of giving love, even when giving love is not the easy thing to do.”
I agree. And giving love has another useful benefit, which I explored in a #thankyouthursday blog post last May:
“Although I cannot always control how I receive it, when I give love, I always have it.”
“Being generous is a spiritual discipline”
Yyeeeeah, Katherine, you know how to get me on board!
Tell me I need to be generous as part of my spiritual path and I am alllll about it, even when it’ hard.
But the thing is, loving generously is not that hard to do.
It’s just sometimes hard to remember to do.
Lesson 36 in practice
The onset of Week 6 also marks a return to journaling as homework.
(I still kinda can’t believe we got so many reprieves in Week 5! I was almost starting to miss these prompts.)
Katherine asks us to make a list of people in our life who we are making wrong.
To me, this was like answering the question, “who have you been judging?”
My list was pretty darn short, I’m relieved to say, although things got tricky with the next prompt.
Because when asked to pick one person from the list to explore further, I picked “the president.”
How did this get political?
I then had to list all the things I think the president is wrong about.
I didn’t even bother with details—just kept to the basics, like, “how you communicate” and “how you treat other people” and “values.”
Then I was supposed to put myself in the president’s shoes—to pretend that I was him, and to explore his perspective in order to find ways he might be right.
In doing so, I came up with some plausible viewpoints: “you have to be tough to get results;” “people don’t take you seriously if you’re not aggressive.”
But I was in no way able to agree with those views. Then I tried to imagine what the president thinks I don’t understand about him.
There is room for love in politics
This practice did evoke love and compassion.
“I’m not a bad person;” “This is an impossible job;” “I don’t want to fail;” “I want to be a good guy.”
Those statements are probably true.
I still have great difficulty accepting the president’s outward actions and behavior.
But since I pray for him every day, it helps to at least be able to imagine that he might want me to understand him.
That even when he’s hard to love, he is still worthy of love.
If I can love the president, I can certainly love Paul
To be clear, it is not hard for me to love Paul.
It is hard for me to miss Paul, to not know how he’s feeling, to worry that I’m a fool for still having hope.
(I know, I know. I’ve tried several times throughout this course to abandon hope, but it just keeps coming back.)
But it is not hard to love him.
So what I really mean is, if I can find the capacity to love the president—aka a man whose choices I can in no way condone—then I am certainly allowed to love a man whose choices I find challenging but completely understandable.
And anyway, there is no benefit to withholding love.
Withholding = restriction = the opposite of freedom.
And since my intention is to be fully grounded in my own freedom, generosity is definitely the way to go.
Love > fear,
Want to know what happens next? Proceed to Chapter 37.