Love, Acceptance, and the Paradox of Change
Loving People As They Are, Instead of Telling Them How to Be
There’s a magical paradox that happens when we love someone perfectly as they are—this love often allows them to change. In fact, I think welcoming them exactly as they are (including your and their desire for things to be different) is the best way for change to occur.
This makes sense—if you expect a seed to become a flower by talking about how it should or will be a flower instead of a seed, it won’t do much. But if you nurture the seed, place it just where a seed needs to be, and water it, it will grow.
In just the same way, expecting people to change by telling them what they will or should become is a waste of breath. A much more effective and loving interaction is to nurture who and what they are in the present.
Certainly you can nurture the seed in a way that anticipates its future: you plant a flower in the sunlight, where people can enjoy its beauty, and you plant a tomato in the garden, where you can protect it from predators and harvest its fruit. You continue to care for it based on its unique properties, but you remain humble and open to the mystery of it developing in its own unique way.
In just the same way, you can love people in the moment in a way that anticipates and supports what might best serve them. Yet you remain humble, open, and appreciative of all the twists and turns and unique ways they surprise you in their development.
Loving The World As It Is, Instead of Wishing it Were Different
Now let’s take this paradoxical principle to the next level. If welcoming a person as they are is the best way to support who they will become, what happens when we do the same thing with the world at large?
What happens when we truly appreciate the circumstances and moments we are in? When we see the beauty of what’s occurring—even in the suffering and uncertainty? When we treat each moment like a seed; knowing it is perfect, that it is not a flower, and yet also knowing that with the right conditions, it just might become one?
The moments we are in are precious and beautiful. Even the anguish of global poverty, war, and environmental threats can be held with wonder, like a seed with spikes. And like most paradox, we can hold the wonder and beauty while also throwing some seeds out.
My invitation to you then is to try loving what is on three different scales:
1) In other people, even when you want them to be different
2) In the world at large, even when you imagine a better future
3) In your own life, even when you want something more
What if “saving the world” is less about making it different in the future, and more about savoring the good and the bad right now? Can you love the present moment, appreciate its beauty, even when that includes discomfort, suffering, anger, and pain?
Even when exactly what such a viewpoint requires is swift and decisive action on your part?