Acting out of love is one of the keys to being a spiritual warrior. It’s how we face the world in an open and accepting way, rather than constricting and closing off our hearts. The reason to be loving is for yourself – not for other people. Carrying around unnecessary anger and fear is a burden that will weigh on your heart for as long as you choose to hold onto it.
But sometimes it’s easier said than done. You can’t always know the best course of action based on the act itself. For example, imagine these two scenarios:
You have an argument with your spouse. You apologize.
Your friend asks for a favor. You say no.
You may think you know which person is acting from love and which from fear. After all, apologizing is good, right? And isn’t it bad to say no when a friend asks you for a favor? Life is rarely (never) so simple. Each of these actions could come from love OR fear, depending on the intent behind the action. Imagine that this is the story behind the first scenario:
Your spouse is always belittling you and putting you down. Whenever they criticize you, you apologize, because you’re afraid to stand up for yourself and don’t love yourself enough to think you deserve better.
I made this mistake in a relationship once. I was dating a guy who criticized me in a lot of insidious ways, and it was so subtle that I didn’t even realize it was happening at the time. Over time it eroded at my self esteem, and I kept thinking we argued because I was doing things wrong, instead of understanding his roll in the problem. I was doing a lot of reading about lovingkindness and forgiveness at the time, and I misunderstood what I was reading to mean to always acquiesce in an argument.
Later, I realized I had been acting out of fear of losing him rather than love and respect for myself. Now I understand that at times, confrontation and argument can actually be part of being true to yourself, rather than something to always avoid.
Imagine that this is the story behind the second scenario:
Your friend has a serious drug problem, and asks to borrow money from you. You know she’s borrowed money from you in the past and used it for drugs, so you say no, because you love your friend and you want to do what’s best for her even if it’s not what she wants right now.
As you can see, it is not the act itself that comes from love or fear, but rather the intent behind it.
When we are acting our of love, sometimes we need to make decisions that are difficult. Love is not always easy. In fact, fear is often the easier path.
Whenever you have a difficult decision, look at the intent behind your actions.
Are you trying to grasp onto something, whether it’s a person, possession, or even time itself? Is there something out of your control that you’re not accepting? If so, then you are acting out of fear.
On the other hand, are you making a difficult decision because of an openness and acceptance of yourself, someone else, or the world around you? Then you are acting out of love.
Photo by Camdiluv