A Time for Nothing But Love
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” This quote is reminiscent of a discussion I once had with my friend Jessica Muroff when she said, “I have time for nothing but love.” She explained, “if I allow myself to dwell on certain challenges, they will be all-consuming. Instead, I choose to show others love.” That conversation was life-changing. While positivity was my previous goal, there were times that I dwelled on the negative and felt angry. While human, reflecting back, I allowed a dark Eeyore cloud to depress my mood when I could have focused on the positive. Following the conversation with Jessica, it was decided that I, too, have time for nothing but love. The following are strategies that can help you also channel this mindset.
Identify Your Internal Cheerleader & Naysayer
One of the ways I identified to show people love was to determine my personal hero who excels at it and the opposite who does not. My hero now acts as my internal “love-o-meter” and is pictured at the onset of each difficult situation. A national leadership guru, she is genuine and authentic and makes everyone feel special, heard, empowered and inspired. Quite literally, her last Facebook message read, “when it rains on your hardwood floors, sometimes the only thing you can do is dance the night away on them.” It would be an honor if people had an experience like I do with my hero when interacting with me. Oppositely, I never want someone to feel like they met my internal naysayer.
Foster Positive Interactions
With these two internal polestars, I intentionally try to create an optimal experience for the people with whom I interact. For example, since deciding that I have time for nothing but love, I verbalize compliments instead of silently observing someone’s awesomeness. I force myself to tell the stranger on the elevator that his outfit is sharp and the speaker returning from the podium that she rocked her keynote. I respond to emails sent by a friend to a group to let her know she is doing an awesome job leading the organization and I forward emails recognizing a colleague to share how proud I am of his achievement. If a recipient replies to my email requesting information that was included in my previous message, I don’t inform the sender of the error, I copy, paste and resend the information, a small gesture to make that person's day a little easier.
My nothing-but-love mindset transcends written communications to in-person interactions, such as when picking-up a birthday cake order first thing in the morning. The bakery had the cake ready, but had not yet written the personalized message on top. Problematically, all of the icing was frozen, meaning the mistake could not be corrected before I needed to leave the store. So, the bakery wrote on a ribbon and laid it across the cake. It wasn’t what I wanted. As I worried that my friend might question the specialness of her ribbon-laid cake, I considered explaining Bakery 101 to the staff - why bakeries should have thawed icing on hand during all bakery hours. Before anything was said, however, I reminded myself that ending the conversation in such a negative way is not the experience with which I wanted to leave the staff. This is especially true given that I had no idea how the mistake occurred (what if the bakery was short-staffed that morning?) or if I was speaking with an employee who knew anything about it (what if this employee worked in a different department?). So, instead of saying something negative as I might have previously done, I smiled and told the bakery my friend would love her cake (she did!). The staff looked relieved. And, I felt joy seeing their smiles that would not have come from lodging a complaint.
A similar experience occurred when recently waiting for a morning meeting. After 10 minutes, I sent a friendly text asking if the colleague was on her way and informing her of how to reach my assistant and me if further location or parking directions were needed. When no response was received, I texted that I would wait an additional 10 minutes and was excited if she could still make it and understood if that was no longer possible. After another 10 minutes, I texted that I was leaving and hoped everything was okay. That afternoon, the colleague responded with her apologies – a family member was unexpectedly hospitalized and due to the stress of the situation, she forgot to cancel our meeting. I was extra glad that my messages extended love, not judgment. My day was fine not going as planned – while I waited, the “extra” time was used to enjoy a rare sit-down breakfast. More importantly given what happened, I would have looked like, and felt like!, a jerk had my messages been judgmental. It was my colleague who was having the bad day, not me. The last thing she needed was my negative attitude adding to her stress. Showing nothing-but-love was the best outcome for both of us in this situation.
The Challenge: Show Grace
Inspirational posts about not knowing how others are feeling and extending grace are often shared. But, how often is that mindset actually practiced? Analyze it. Do you consistently show others love? Is love consistently shown to you? My guess is that it is not.
A lawyer by trade, I've been on the receiving end of countless incendiary emails. "You didn't do this . . . " "It is inexcusable that it took you so long to do that . . . " And so on. No one ever asked what happened, how I was feeling, or what could be done to help. They simply attacked from the outset, assuming the worst.
Since adopting my nothing-but-love mindset, I've committed to treating others with humanity, giving them the benefit of the doubt, and extending grace. Soon after making this pledge, a member of a group I chair called to tell me that a fellow member blew off his committee responsibilities. I responded, "Do you know why? Did something happen? Or, did he truly not want to do the work?" The caller reflected, "I don't know, but I should. Let me get more information and update you again later." While a leader's job includes fostering accountability, consider first showing compassion and being solutions-driven.
And that, my friends, is your challenge this week - shifting your mindset to show others grace. It is promised that the joy and inner peace you experience from making someone’s day far outweighs any short-term satisfaction you may (or may not!) experience when you abandon love.© 2020 Spread Your Sunshine, LLC