Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
– 1 Corinthians 13.7
Something that rocked my world and continues to change my life in the most incredible ways is this truth: Love believes the best of others, reality, and yourself. While we’re always telling a story in our heads, love chooses a good story. Love picks positivity.
I teach yoga and LOVE it! While guiding the students I preach positivity. One of my favorite reminders is “Tell a good story in your head.” Humans are storied beings, and as such we’re always writing and telling a tale in our minds. Whether we realize it or not, we constantly have a narrative going. The problem is we’re culturally biased to tell negative, judgmental, shaming, and downright terrible stories in our heads … at least that’s my experience.
I’m a bit OCD, and one of the habits it has helped foster for me is weighing myself everyday. I’ve gained a few pounds in the last month, which quickly and easily leads to the following story in my mind: “You’re getting out of shape. You’re getting a bit pudgy. It’s all downhill from here.” YET, simultaneously I’ve never felt stronger, my runs have been as fast (or faster) than ever, and I’m getting closer and closer to regularly getting into handstand. While it seems I’m culturally biased to dwell on the shaming, negative story, I do have the power to CHOOSE a positive, affirming, and encouraging narrative … and so do YOU!
(Note: Realizing these choices and what’s going on in my mind when it comes to weight and fitness has helped me make the shift from negative to positive already … at least mostly. 🙂
Along those same lines, my wife Lisa and I got married in a small ceremony last January. Then, over this last Labor Day weekend, we had Wedding 2.0, our big ceremony/celebration with as many of our family and friends as possible. It was one of the most joyful and fun days of my life. YET, when I see pictures showing the back of my head, I see how I’m balding, which quickly and easily leads to this being the loudest voice in my head: “Not only are you losing your looks, you’re losing your vitality. Sucks to be you.” Isn’t it crazy where our minds and thoughts go? Or is it just me?
The thing is, love is a choice, and we can ALWAYS choose love. We can always choose to believe the best and tell a good story. Sometimes it’s harder than others, but I wonder if perhaps the more difficult it is, the more worthwhile it becomes? You know how you get alerts or notification when someone texts you, messages you on Facebook, posts on your Facebook wall, or comments on your Facebook posts? There’s a few people who when I see an alert/notification from my mind immediately goes to something like: “Oh no! This isn’t going to be pretty!”, or “What firestorm is this going to start?”, or something along those lines.
I recently went there when I saw alerts with their names … and I was delighted to realize our culturally condition bias to believe the worst was once again WRONG! The thing is, telling a negative story about others, assuming the worst, and so on is rarely helpful and generally wrong. In short, negative stories in our minds lead us to stress and worry over something that’s usually wrong, which means we literally get worked up over nothing!
If I had to do those moments when alerts from “those” people popped up again my plan is to choose love. Instead of letting my mind go to, “oh no”, I’d direct my thoughts toward, “_____ is a precious and beautiful child of the Divine. They have great thoughts and insights into many things and experiences I can learn and grow from.”
What about when the assumptions are correct though? What about when the negative stories in our minds are justified? I’ll start by saying safety is paramount, so let’s assume harm is off the table and safety isn’t an issue. Love is the most incredible and powerful force in the world. In truth, I’d say only love is real, but I digress. 🙂 Choosing to believe the best by assuming good things and telling a positive story in your head will both literally bring more joy, peace, and bliss into YOUR life, and will bring out the best in others when we act on our good story.
We see this truth play out in the most incredible way in book/play/movie Les Misérables. In this classic tale on the power of grace and believing the best, the eventual hero, Jean Valjean, starts as a convict and thief. When he has nowhere to go and nothing to eat, a kindly old bishop takes Valjean in for the night, but his kindness is repaid with theft. Valjean steals some silver and flees, only to be caught by police and brought back to the bishop.
Imagine the scene from the priest’s perspective: You’d just done someone a great kindness, YET they’d betrayed your love and stolen from you. In a sweet twist of fate, though, NOW you get to repay their treachery. All you have to do is tell the police: “Yes, he stole that silver from me. Take him away. He deserves to rot in jail for what he did.” Based on how culture shapes our thoughts and imaginations, I think that’s the natural, normal, and easy inner narrative we’d have. HOWEVER, it’s NOT the story love chooses, and not what the bishop does.
Acting nonplussed, the priest tells the police he not only GAVE Valjean the silver, but the ex-convict had also forgotten other items he’d given him. The bishop then proceeds to give Valjean two silver candlesticks, the most expensive items in the house. Once the police leave, the priest tells Valjean why he did this. He asks him to use the silver as a second chance, an opportunity to become an honest and loving man. Deeply moved and struck to the core of his being by this great mercy, Valjean pledges his life to God and caring for others.
Choosing to believe the best about others, reality, and yourself is a powerful act of love. This grace has ripple effects that change lives in incredible ways. The bishop’s kindness to Valjean led to the ex-con saving Fantine, Cosette, Marius, and even his enemy Javert. Likewise, your believing the best in yourself could lead you to being warmer towards a coworker, who then is more loving toward her husband, which allows their marriage to flourish instead of end, which in turn leads to _____, and so on.
Love will change your world, the world, and others’ lives.
I’d like to point out it’s not always easy, it takes time, and doesn’t always have the affect on others we’d like or hope for. For instance, I can think of one experience where I did a pretty decent job of believing the best in another person, but it didn’t end well. I’d say in some ways the kindness improved our relationship, but in others the love was rejected. I’d sum it up like this: Love is always a gift (grace). When the gift is received it feels amazing and leads to greater bliss, but when the grace is rejected it feels like a burning coal and leads to greater sorrow.
That said, I trust and believe that ALL love will have a positive affect all the way around … it just might take a year … or two … or more. What is more, choosing to believe the best and tell a good story in your head will immediately start forming you into a happier, kinder, and more peaceful person. Positivity is literally magic for the soul!
So, I’ll say it again: Love will change your world, the world, and others’ lives. Believing the best is life-giving, bliss-bringing medicine for you, others, and the world. What do you think? What’s your experience of this? If this resonates with you, what’s a small, doable way you can practice this more in your life?
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Grace and peace,