You are more than good enough.

I don’t live in regrets, but I do look back at times and wonder how I could think what I was thinking for all those years. How did I come to be so afraid for so long, and what was I afraid of?

It wasn’t until I developed a massive cancer in 2003 that I really thought about whether the way I was living my life was doing me any good. I understand now, I was driven by trying to please others, taking on the roles they had for me, making myself up as the mirror image of who I thought was acceptable and successful and good. Nobody would’ve thought I was racked by fears and insecurities. I seemed confident and capable, and achieved a lot.

But I look back at photos of myself and see a woman desperately blending into the landscape around her. Everything about me designed to paint myself as a certain kind of person – responsible, intelligent, successful, productive, talented…..yes, “special”.

I didn’t feel special. I felt less-than. I felt I had to prove myself. So I created a persona from the outside in and hoped it would work.

Based on fear.

They don’t like me. They won’t help me. They think I’m stupid. They think I’m bad, dirty, flawed, sinful, broken. They don’t see how clever, talented and good I am. They will ignore me. They will reject me. I need to show them I am good, and good enough.

Then, one day, I realized I was sick, and getting sicker. It was clear that my body disagreed with the life I was living, and wanted out. I could keep living the pretending, prove-it-all, self-aggrandising, insecure, over-achieving life if I wanted, assuming everyone thought the worst of me and wouldn’t help me. Assuming I was so helpless and worthless I needed to prove I was worthy. I could keep living like that. But my body had decided it wasn’t coming with me.

I thank my body now for its wisdom, for “putting its foot down”. For not being willing to ride with me any longer on my fear-based marathon of trying to disprove my assumption everyone thought badly of me and I needed to prove them wrong.

Because that’s what I thought.

I am bad.

I need to show I am good.

I appreciate now why I was attracted to Christianity at such a young age. The heavily reinforced concept of being a helpless, rotten, dirty sinner who needs help and can’t do anything for themselves including be “good” exactly matched my internal view of myself.

Except, that’s not who God is. That’s not what Jesus is about. That’s not who I am.

I wonder… are you held in a “system” – a group, culture, family, tribe or way of being – because the beliefs they hold reinforce the negative way you think of and feel about yourself?

Is the picture you have of who you are really the truth? Is it what God truly thinks? And how long are you prepared to believe you’re helpless, dirty, broken, unworthy and wrong…until your body or mind or soul decides it doesn’t want to come too?

I look at all the disconnected, soulless people I know, and I think I see what happened.

Their soul had enough, and it got up and got out of there. They died a kind of death, and now they can’t see or feel it any more.

But you see it, you feel it, don’t you?

Look for the flame inside you. You already suspect you were born for more than this. You have heard a calling in your spirit, and you’ve allowed your fears to quell that voice, in your search to be safe and liked and belong. But it’s costing you. What are you prepared to pay, to stay as you are right now?

I’m grateful I listened to my body and broke out of my old beliefs. But things got much worse before they got better. I lost my business, and my marriage. My husband descended into mental illness and addiction, and my church family largely abandoned me. We imploded financially. I was left wondering why I survived cancer, to die in every other area of my life.

But as it turns out, everything I suspected in my heart about myself – but which had been undermined for years by fear – was true.

I really was strong and brave.

I really was faithful and intuitive.

I really was clever, resourceful and intelligent.

I really was capable of deep, healing love, forgiveness and trust.

I really was a capable, connected and loving mother.

I really was beautiful and worthy of the love of a good man.

What do you know? I was “good” after all.

My life is healed and healing, from the inside, right to the outside. Who you see today is who I really am. I’m not proving or striving any more. I don’t believe I’m a rotten, bad, unworthy sinner – I understand how we live in the age of Gods grace, and are fully restored to our glory in our creator. I am not afraid. I am me.

Be courageous, my friend. Freedom from fear can begin today. One step. Then another. Why not begin? Listen to that still, small voice inside you, and begin to trust it. It’s telling you the truth.

I’m for you – you’re worthy. And you’re good.

Love, Jo xxx

Soul Letters for the Cancer Sojourner #27 What Really Matters

There’s a scene in the movie City Slickers, where Curly (acted by Jack Palance) asks Mitch (Billy Crystal) if he knows what the secret of life is. Answering his own question, Curly then holds up his pointer finger and says, “This one thing.” Mitch, puzzled, asks Curly “But what’s the one thing?” “That,” says Curly cryptically, “is what you have to find out.”

image credit: iStockphoto
image credit: iStockphoto

Late in 2003, I was told that I was dying of cancer. I’d always thought being told you had cancer would be the worst part, but it wasn’t like that for me. What worried me the most was the realisation I hadn’t worked out what it was, not by a long shot.

Now, almost ten years later, I’m still working on it. I like to believe I’m closer than I was. My current operating theory runs like this: in order to work out what’s really important – what it is –  it helps to know what isn’t really important.

Here are a few things I’ve worked out are not really important to me –

Having a dust free house.

Being right every time, and making sure everyone knows it.

Knowing for certain whether there is a God or not, and whose side He or She is on.

Creating art or writing other people think is good.

Singing songs that other people think are good.

Winning.

Losing.

Having perky l’il breasts.

Hair colour.

Skin colour.

Remembering who wronged me when, and why.

Forgetting to apologise to those you’ve wronged.

Scatter cushions.

Our parents mistakes.

Our children’s mistakes.

Our own mistakes.

Succeeding at making others happy by failing to ever start trying to do what you suspect you were created to do.

Thinking the price for others’ happiness is your own misery.

Thinking the price for your own happiness is others’ misery.

Perfection.

Worrying about looking young.

Worrying about growing old.

Worrying what others think of you.

Worrying.

Winning. (I know I already said that but it’s really not important. Unless there’s a gold medal at stake, and there usually isn’t.)

Adapting your efforts to the opinions of critics.

Ignoring the advice of true friends, and very wise people.

Getting even.

Getting what you want.

Getting what you think you have coming to you.

And there’s more.

Isn’t there, friend?

Could well be you’ll work out what it is, by clarifying what it is not. Time is short. We only have the rest of our lives to work it out, remember? 🙂

*****

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Soul Letters for the Cancer Sojourner, #15 Your Story Matters

People love stories.

There are many reasons why. Stories connect us. They inform us. They help us feel like we’re okay. They excite us. Inspire us. They comfort us, and illuminate the past and the future. They make us feel special. They help us realise we’re not alone.

What happened to me happened to them.

That’s just like me.

I feel that way.

I want to do that.

That’ll be me one day.

I know what that’s like.

This is who I am.

This is where I belong.

Stories connect us – to place, to people, to experience, to culture, history and to each other.

Indigenous cultures understand the vitality and importance of story. And not just the individual story, the collective story.

The story of me, and the story of us.

image credit: iStockphoto
image credit: iStockphoto

There is an intrinsic power in story we can access and use, but we must overcome any beliefs we hold which dictate telling others about ourselves is something resembling pride, conceit, narcissism, self-centredness or ego.

Those mediocrity-maintaining, self-preserving habits may have served us well in the playground or the classroom, or some other hostile environment, but our story may turn out to be far more powerful than we can imagine.

Your story is important, significant, and infinitely interesting.

People are hurting. We are hurting. We need each others stories.

Someone needs your story.

Yes, your story matters.

*****

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Soul Letters for the Cancer Sojourner #14 – How To Be An Inspiration

Whenever I go speak to a group or at an event, I never take any new material. I’ve learned the cleverer or more authoritarian I pretend to be on a subject, the bigger a wanker I appear, and the harder it is to keep on pretending to be wonderful when I get down from the platform. When it comes to my subject of choice, I’m no expert. I don’t bring anything new to the conversations I have or the stuff I write about cancer. Its all been said and done before.

The only thing I can bring people which they haven’t heard before is my story, truthfully told.

The other day, I was having a particularly hard time at my job (I work as a sales assistant in a dress shop). Christmas shoppers can be particularly belligerent. I know why this is – everyone is spending too much money, and feeling the weight of expectation to make Christmas into some kind of joy orgy –  but it doesn’t make dealing with the cold, judgey glares and icy rebuttals from customers any easier to deal with. I was feeling particularly dispirited, when a lady who was trying on a couple of dresses poked her head out from behind the curtain and said to me, “I know you. Didn’t you speak at a cancer advocacy conference a few years ago in Sydney?”

“Sure did.” I replied.

“I thought it was you! Hey, I just wanted to tell you, that was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever heard in my life. Honestly.”

Tears sprang to my eyes. My self-esteem, which had been stuck like dog poop to the sole of my shoe – wafted back up and seeped back into my heart where it belongs like sweet, warm honey.

I thanked her for making my day.

*****

I was thinking about what it means to be inspiring on the way home from speaking at a cancer support group this morning. I’m often introduced as an “inspiring speaker”, but a long time ago I stopped thinking there was something special I could be or say to make people be inspired. I didn’t set out to be an inspiration, although it can be a little bit addictive having people tell you you are.

It’s much nicer than having people eye you up and down judgily, snicker behind your back, try on a dress you tell them looks nice to which they reply “Surely you’re joking – this is fucking horrible.” before throwing a mess of screwed up clothing at you and exiting the shop whilst also talking loudly on their mobile phone throughout the entire experience.

You can see why I’d like a lot more speaking engagements.

According to my dictionary, “inspire” means “to fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something”. It literally means “to put the spirit in”. We can try to inspire with stunningly innovative information or wild tales of our derring do. But what happens when someone is inspired has little to do with what we say. It happens because of what we are. We inspire others whenever we truly reach someone’s spirit with our spirit.

I’ve come to the conclusion people will not be inspired by our specialness, our greatness, our peculiar talent, strength or courage, or even by our interesting story. People will be inspired when their heart has been accessed, and they believe they have truly accessed our heart. This is what I know – honesty, authenticity and a willingness to simply tell the truth about ourselves absolutely changes others’ lives.

Don’t seek greatness, expertise or uniqueness in the hopes it will inspire others. Your knowledge is useless if they don’t feel you’re accessible. Don’t seek to know more on your topic than anyone else, simply seek to grow your capacity to be honest and authentic, and expand your willingness to be vulnerable.

When your listeners or readers feel they have connected with your true spirit, it will bring them to life in ways both you and they cannot even imagine.

Nobody was ever encouraged by a lie, or a liar.

*****

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Soul Letters For The Cancer Sojourner – #12 Not My Time

Today, a friend asked me:

“Name something you did today with all your heart.”

It was an easy question to answer.

Today I wrote some words about another day a few years ago – the day I decided I wanted to be alive for the rest of my life.

I was about halfway through my radiotherapy treatment, and the most ill I’ve ever been. Three months of chemotherapy, a stem cell harvest, blood transfusion, six weeks away from my family and a very nasty case of shingles on top of everything had pulled me down further than I’d been in my life, physically, emotionally and mentally. I honestly felt like dying was a reasonable, comfortable option, if going on living was going to be anything like that.

I slept – thank God, I slept – and dreamt of swimming. I swam laps and laps, up and down, all the time watching the bottom of the pool, wondering what it would be like to live down there. After swimming laps in my dream for what seemed like hours, I wanted to stop and just rest a while.

At the end of the last lap I don’t tumble turn, instead letting myself just sink into the deep end. I slowly drift to the bottom, unafraid, happy to be at rest. I stop breathing. I let my arms and legs just hang there. I close my eyes and start to drift off. Just what I need – a long, long sleep.

I am startled by a sound – a voice – a muffled scream. I feel a boiling in my throat. It’s my voice. I am screaming.

Image credit: iStockphoto

I shake myself awake from the dream. It’s not my time. This is not when I get to stop living. I must keep on being alive, and only I can do it. Keep swimming, keep going. This will not last forever. Keep breathing. Don’t sleep now.

I dredge my soul up heaving from the bottom of myself. I know it was close, as close as it gets, but here I am.

—–

I love today, every today, because every today I am here to write about that other day when I had the choice whether to hold out for a day like this. I will never cease to be astonished at how bright and close every day is to me now. I don’t have to swim so hard anymore, but the practice has made me lean and strong. Strong enough to hold my own, and others’ too. Strong enough to bear to remember when death whispered in my ear and made me think that sleeping would be better than waking, sinking better than swimming, dying better than surviving.

Name one thing I did today with all my heart?

I lived.

*****

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Soul Letters For The Cancer Sojourner – #3 You Can Change One Thing Today

When cancer comes, it can have us feeling disempowered and helpless. Where before we felt we had some control over our life even if just to a degree, cancer can have us thinking we have no control at all, and as if any control we thought we had was a lie. But cancer is the liar. Even when something like cancer interrupts and intervenes, we always have choices available to us.

As someone with cancer, we may find ourselves in a position where we need to give power over our body to someone else, but we can still choose to nourish and to nurture ourselves – body, mind and soul. We can choose what or whom we allow to come close to us right now, and what or whom we’d like to keep at a distance. We can choose not to accept the premise cancer is stronger or greater than we are, and we can choose to let some things go and hold other things closer. Whilst some choices may be taken away from us in the wake of a cancer diagnosis, changing our focus can help us recognise those areas where we still have control, and are able to keep ourselves in the drivers seat.

image credit: iStockphoto
image credit: iStockphoto

Our frustrations and strong emotions often signal areas we’re feeling a challenge to our power and sense of control.

Whilst we might feel submitting to the inner work cancer seems to require of us to be a kind of “giving in”, it could well be the issues we’re facing would’ve come up anyway, even if we never had cancer. Illness is often a catalyst for change in areas which are already problematic, but which we’ve been able to avoid until now.

Part of surviving is about learning how to keep yourself behind the wheel of your life as you journey through cancer, whilst still accepting the help and support you’ll need from others. This can be challenging, particularly if you’ve been largely independent, or are someone accustomed to leading or caring for others.

Accepting help, change and rest isn’t “giving in to cancer”. It’s part of helping keep yourself strong. Despite how afraid you may feel at the moment, especially if you have more time on your hands than you’re used to, don’t be afraid to look inwards – cancer won’t be found in those deep, inner places. Remember, your body is just one part of you, and there are places – parts of your mind, spirit and soul – cancer cannot touch. In fact, those places may just be about to justify their existence. Don’t fear the work. You are stronger, braver and kinder than you probably have been led to believe.

The changes cancer brings can seem overwhelming and catastrophic, particularly at first. Experiencing cancer may seem to take more than we believe we have to throw at it. But you can do this. Just take one step at a time. You can, if you will, change one thing today – one thing which could make all the difference to you, and to others. One small decision could turn this thing right on its head. Exchange one choice you know compromises you for another one which brings you closer to where you want to be. Taking the best care of yourself possible is not selfishness. You need you to take care of you more than ever before.

Don’t look out there for the difference here – look to yourself. It’s not them, or that, or those, or there. It’s you. It’s in your head, in your heart, in your hands – that’s where your future healing and wholeness is, whatever the outcome of the cancer.

Look to your creativity and to your imagination, and not to your past or your history, for the answer to the question “What one change can I make today which will create a difference in this situation for me?”

Today, decide you’ll spend a moment to recognize you are the small difference needed in this situation. Don’t wait for circumstances or for others to change. Cancer is not in control. You are. Cancer only knows how to do one thing – but you are capable of way, way more.

You can’t change the world right now. But you can change one thing today.

*****

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The Making Of Me – The Christ Identity

I’m always interested when people say that they want to be more like Jesus, because it’s something that’s important to me as well. Christ’s life and persona is the echelon of the ideal Christian life, and I know we are supposed to imitate and model ourselves on Jesus; do what he did, say what he said, act like him and be like him in all we say and do.

Simple really. Except not.

You know, trying to be something other than what we are is something we all know how to do. Our whole lives, we learn to copy people we think have desirable attributes; physical, social, financial, political, in fashion and hairstyles and ways of acting and speaking. Whole industries have grown up to service our need to be like other people – people we feel are successful, sexy, smart, interesting, powerful, rich, or is just someone who sings pretty. Weird.

It’s all about identity. We want to lose ours and get someone else’s instead, because then people will like us and think we’re cool too. Wanting to be like Jesus Christ these days has to be a good thing, especially when you consider some of the alternatives. I still struggle with the uncomfortable realisation I live in a world that had little trouble finding someone in about ten minutes to replace Charlie Sheen in Two And A Half Men. I just hoped it would be a little bit harder is all.

Changing the subject entirely, Jesus, when he was here, apparently wasn’t looking for an identity. However, having been baptised by his cousin John at the appointed time, Jesus entry into the wilderness could be construed as the beginning of a search for his true identity. No doubt Jesus already knew he was special. And he knew other people knew he was special. People had seen a bird come out of nowhere and heard heaven speak when John dipped him in the river a few days before. Jesus knew people were either expecting him to save the world, or turn out to be another crazy false messiah in a camel-hair toga. When Jesus left for the wilderness, he looked like any other young adult might who knows way too much to go back to his old way of life, but also realises he’s not quite ready for whats about to come. We’d call a journey like this “finding ourselves” However, it seems that by leaving his family, religious tradition and employment and all the expectations that come with them, Jesus is not going to look for his identity. Indeed, he looks for all the world like he’s trying to lose it.

And it’s not until he’s done with this wrestling, this sacrificing of his own will, this process of identity deconstruction that Jesus re-enters the world. He has become a human being without a skerrick remaining of his traditional, religious, political, commercial or even a personal or familial identity. He deliberately left it behind in the wilderness. Having done this, Jesus now knows that he’s ready to undertake and complete the work of his Father in the world of men. In losing his identity, he has given up all he ever really had as a man – and now, he has nothing else left to lose. He is ready to fulfil his destiny.

When we claim to be imitators of Christ, we need to be careful we don’t simply exchange one set of personal attributes we think are undesirable for another set from somewhere else we find more desirable. This is simply taking on another identity. Jesus Christ identified completely with the Father that sent him, and was able to do this because his own identity had been completely laid down. Of course, Jesus didn’t identify as a Christian, the way we might do today. He didn’t identify as a carpenter, a Jew, a Rabbi, a teacher, a son, a brother, a citizen, or any of the other things he was expected to either. He identified as the Son of His Father, and did only what came from that. He laid down his own identity, and all the other faces and names and roles he had been expected to have, and did this as a daily discipline, for all of his life. And, in essence, this is what he asks us to do too.

Of course, we can’t relinquish our social or personal responsibilities as citizens or parents or employees. We may be sons of God, but we’re not the Son of God. We can however relinquish all concepts of what we are meant to do and  be – this identity of “Christian” – and instead, as Jesus did, simply lay down our will, and our desire to do the right or the popular thing, in exchange for the will of the Father. Oh, and we also should never believe our own publicity – take ourselves so seriously we forget what we were meant to be doing in the first place. It’s easy to get caught up in the seriousness of the Great Commission, and forget that the gospel is simple, any fisherman can tell it.  The idea we’ve come to be accustomed to of what a “Christian” is and should be is a construction of ours, and not Jesus’. Jesus knew we’d never be able to do all that he did anyway. It’s meant to be much more simple than that.

A Christ-identity is one that is always being laid down for the Fathers will. A Christ-identity is one that is being journeyed through like a wilderness, and laid aside like a promise of false riches and power. A Christ-identity is one which has no life of it’s own, but is sustained daily by the manna of God’s provision of grace. A Christ-identity is one that does not die with the one who carries it like a personality does, but which, like communion, is shared again and again with thanksgiving and humility, and will come alive again no matter how deep the grave, or how grievous the wound. Imitating Jesus is more than just copying his ways and his words, and keeping to some predetermined construct we’ve created of what a Christian ought to do and say and be. Being like Jesus is being prepared to give away our idea of what a Christian, or a religious person, or a minister, or a leader, or a good organiser, or a perfect mother, or cool father, or neighbourly neighbour, or very hurt person who is able to forgive, or even a quite good person, or anything else we think we need to do to be a Christian should look like. And it’s to just keep giving that idea away away, while we love the people He brings within shouting distance in the meantime.

Because, funnily enough, that’s exactly what Jesus did.

Waking Up The Walking Dead – What Happens When You Decide To Fully Live

Mulling Howard Thurman quote “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Great quote. I remember reading this a couple of years ago and thinking yes, this is how I want to live my life. And I believe I have been pretty much ever since.

But I’d like to add a caveat. Here’s what they don’t tell you. Some people won’t like it when you come alive. If you insist on fully being alive in any particular role, environment or sphere, you had better be prepared for a backlash.

For my part, whilst being engaged in the things that make me fully alive I have found that my energy, enthusiasm and passion has come naturally to me, and have had a positive effect on those around me. I think it’s because people know life when they see it, and they know it’s something they want too. I know this was the case with me, and it’s what made me want to stop merely doing things I was good at for the kudos and the rewards, and start doing things I had no idea how to do because that’s what made me ‘alive’ – scared, totally out of my depth and utterly intimidated, but so close to realising what I was made to do I couldn’t resist doing it. But not everyone is inspired being in the presence of someone passionate, someone who is prepared to take risks, someone who is not afraid to begin again as a novice even though they have experience somewhere else for the sake of being where they are meant to be doing what they are meant to be doing. Some don’t like it one little bit.

That’s essentially what your critics are. They are the people who have found a place of safety and security, and who hate your ability to stretch beyond your own. They despise their own fear, but more than that, they resent your ability to transcend yours. A critic is not someone to be feared. They are to be smiled at. They help you understand you’re doing something that scares most people half to death.

But there is one step beyond critics; the walking dead. These are the ones who have managed to get up out of being ineffective, self-absorbed and insecure, and have found a way to succeed but without shining or taking any risks whatsoever. They like to fashion themselves into leaders of the lying down dead. As long as everyone is in various stages of dead, the zombies are okay. But when you turn up, breathing and jumping around and acting like not being a walking dead person is a viable option, they get mad.

Zombies know that criticism is for amateurs. Faced with someone who threatens to show them up for the walking dead they really are, zombies pull out the big guns.

I can’t tell you exactly what those big guns are. It will depend largely on what sphere you’ve decided on. Suffice to say, the walking dead will do whatever it takes to stop you from reminding them what life is supposed to look like. They will try and tell you that’s not how we do things here. They will have you convinced that mediocrity is an option and you are ‘too much”. But don’t listen. It’s not impossible to survive the wiles of the walking dead. But it will take all the wisdom, all the faith, and all the patience you can muster.

Good luck.

The Opposite Of Love

I remember a few years ago there was this discussion in Christian circles about exactly what the opposite of love could be, because there needs to be an explanation for all the terrible things people do to each other.  If they’re not loving, what are they doing instead? What do they need to stop doing so they can be loving, as God is loving? What are the things that stop Christians, and those who are not Christians, from loving their neighbours, and anyone else in their world, for that matter? What is this key that could help Christians carry out 1 John 4:7 (Let us love one another) potentially stop wars, cure poverty and just generally make people get along with each other?

We’d all been assuming for ages that the opposite of love was hate. But then someone pointed out that you can hate someone and love someone at the same time, and that you can demonstrate hating behaviours directly towards someone you profess love for and vice versa. And we knew it was in fact possible to hold onto ones hate for someone or something and give all the outward appearances of love, or even to love just one sort of person and hate another sort for quite arbitrary reasons, if there were sufficient incentive to do so. So we stopped saying love and hate were opposites anymore, and resolved to just accept that in certain circumstances sometimes hating was unavoidable, and love impossible.

So after that, they said the opposite of love must be fear, because we only hate what we are afraid of, and once we know all about something and don’t fear it any more we are able to love it. For example, Christians were encouraged to learn about and understand varying religious practices and sexual expressions in the hope that this would lead to greater capacity to love the people engaged in them. But unfortunately, ‘others’ remained ‘others’ despite everything we knew about them, the only difference being that Christians now knew more about the people they hated and could object to them in more personal and informed ways than ever was previously possible. Fear, it seemed, could not be eradicated by love, but fear could be useful in helping us work out who God’s enemies were.

But then someone else said, no, it’s not fear that’s the opposite of love, it’s is actually indifference. And we all went “yeah…”, because we could all relate to being on the receiving end of someone else’s total lack of positive regard, or any regard whatsoever, be it positive or negative. We appreciated that what people aren’t aware of, they can’t have any feelings toward – they can’t love what they don’t acknowledge. Christians understood indifference – we experienced it when we tried to tell the world they were all dying in their sin and going to hell, and then refused to come to church or know and appreciate our Lord and Saviour. We were also well versed ourselves in demonstrating indifference toward people or issues we had no vested interest in changing or improving, or where we could effect no change favourable to our cause. We all agreed indifference had to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from love. The absence of any feeling or sentiment, empathy or interest in the other, whether feigned or inadvertent, surely had to be the opposite of what Jesus had in mind, except in the cases where one deliberately maintained one’s innocence, ignorance or naivety for reasons of maintaining good mental health or physical safety. We couldn’t be held responsible for loving those we went out of our way to avoid ever coming across in the first place.

Time has passed. The world is changing. Love in all it’s forms is needed now more than ever before. The older I get, the more I understand that the world, and by the world I mean the earth and all the people on it, has some fairly significant problems, and that I am one of them. I can tell you what I hate and what I’m afraid of, even though I know Christ teaches me to love, and tells me that love comes from God. I think about the pressing social issues in my part of the world and wonder at my own capacity for indifference when it comes to solving these issues, or even being part of the solution. I search for smiles. I stare into the blank expressions of the people around me in the street, and I think, surely, we are all as capable of love, even small expressions of it, small acts of kindness, as we are of indifference, of fear, of hate?

We are. But we don’t.

There is no opposite of love. There is love, and you do, or you do not. It’s within us to do it, all the time, to everyone. It’s how we were made. When it comes to how we were made to love, the gears work only in one direction, but at various speeds, including not at all if we so choose. They don’t go backwards. There’s no opposite to love. Hate, fear and indifference are different sets of gears, and let’s face it, running all your gears at once is exhausting; no wonder we pick only the ones that require least resistance. Hate and fear pull from their own momentum but move quickly once they get going, they feed off each other. Indifference gets busy and greases those gears. But love needs someone out front to throw the propellor before it can even get off the ground. With love, you’re the mechanic, the pilot the navigator and the passenger. Love is harder work, but takes you much further, and the view is better.

Why do we overcomplicate things? Does it help us in actually practicing love to think love has opposites? Or does it merely justify our own reasons for not doing it, or provide the ammunition to aim at someone else we think should be? I have been the recipient of an act of love perpetrated by someone who lacks the capacity to tie their own shoes, directed at me for no other reason than I was present in the room. Love is not quantum physics.

If fear, hate and indifference are anywhere in the equation, its perhaps only to demonstrate what poor excuses they make. The propensity for fear might not indicate a lack of love on our own part, but perhaps where there is a lack of being loved on someone else’s. If the fearful person were properly loved, would they be so afraid? Our tendency to hate stems less from our incapacity to extend regard than it does from our wish to keep the unknown far away from us. If a hateful person were properly loved, might they be less threatened by the society of others? Indifference comes not from inadvertent ignorance, but from deliberate self-centredness. If an indifferent person were properly loved, might they be more willing to see the world through others eyes, on purpose?

Love, therefore, is not so much the opposite of fear, hate and indifference as it is the cure for it. People who are properly loved will not be afraid, hateful or naive, and it’s our mission as Christians to love one another, because love comes from God.  When we have learned how to be loved properly by God ourselves, through Christ, we will release love’s alternatives, and seek to practice it at every opportunity. Our mission surely then as professors and disciples of Christ is to do what He did. Love people. And do it properly.