In Japanese, there are several ways that one can express the English idea of the word, “love”. That probably makes things easy to understand in a lot of situations. Think of it: a word for the way you love a gadget, for the way you love your family, and a certain way that you describe feeling romantic love. One can only wish that the English language could be equally as specific. The versions of love I’ve talked about the most today are the love we share between friends and the love that we hold for everyone else.
Today, I listened to a friend talk about how difficult it is to tell someone he loves them. It is especially difficult for men these days to tell their male friends they love them. He described being in the military and even in post-military times being surrounded by men who couldn’t be their authentic self because of whatever facade they felt necessary to put on. He admitted to doing the same thing. Toxic masculinity is not only destructive for society but also for the soul of a man who yearns to express sincere thought unobstructed by a wall of cold “toughness” around their heart. After listening to my friend, I remembered something that could offer some perspective. There was an article posted on The Huffington Post written about this very topic titled, “Telling Male Friends ‘I Love You’ Is A Muscle Guys Need To Flex Every Day“. If I’m being totally open, honest, and transparent, I haven’t read this article yet because I wish to provide my own perspective about this topic without redundancy.
In my own life, I tell all my friends I love them. Every phone call, coffee, or random run-in at the grocery store, I make sure to express the love I feel for the people in my life. It feels good to spread it, and I spread it all over the place. On the contrary, it can be devastatingly regretful if it is left unexpressed. Think of the people you’ve lost so far. Not everyone experiences great loss in their life, but if you’re like me, you’ve lost many friends over the years. How many of those friends’ last words to you were, “I love you”? How many of them died before ever hearing you utter those words that describe the reason you stuck with them to the very end? I know I was guilty of this when I was younger. As I’ve grown older and have had many friends pass away knowing that I love them, I can tell you that feeling the pain of their loss without the regret makes celebrating their life so much sweeter.
To take things up a notch, what about the love that we have for strangers? A lot of people tell me, “Well, I simply have zero feelings toward the people of this world I don’t personally know.” It hurts my heart to know that this is the standard for people in the United States AND in many of the more “civilized” parts of Earth. Those of you who are crestfallen at this standard know what kind of love I’m talking about.
Unconditional love is a feeling of love for all of mankind regardless of any and all details of a person’s life. It’s rare to come across. Many get too caught up in an agreement-based mindset and never even consider exercising an acceptance-based mindset. However, it’s this type of love I believe has the power to shake the world. I’ve seen its power in action, and I’ll tell you of its power if you’ll indulge my little story.
Seven years ago, almost to the day, I was hanging out at this local Pizzeria in Hammond, Louisiana. I was with a friend who is my current roommate over a thousand miles away. We were going through what is best described as a leadership program as remote participants in Los Angeles. The program had boosted my emotional intelligence to a point I never thought possible. So, everything I did in relation to this program was done to my highest level of excellence.
Back to the Pizzeria…I was having an important conversation with one of my mentors in the program outside when my phone unexpectedly died. I immediately went inside to seek support from my buddy. After exploring different possibilities like acquiring his contact information from mutual connections, using his phone to contact the guy, or giving up on the conversation all together, he decided the best way to support me was to bring me home so I could charge my phone and finish the conversation.
In the moment that we made this decision, something strange happened. I noticed a man across the way whom I hadn’t seen before. I had made a little mission for myself. I was pretty familiar with this place and its staff because of $5 calzone nights during college. This man was standing in the worst place in the entire establishment. He was standing right at the entrance to the bar where all the servers got their drinks and the bartender went in and out to pick up the bar food orders (which were abundant). I only wished to tell this gentleman about the implications of his choice to stand where he was standing, but something happened as I walked up to him that’s difficult to explain.
My arms stretched outward and I walked right into a hug with this stranger. To my surprise, he hugged me back. Then, in a timid voice, he asked, “Did we have a moment?” I laughed and said the first thing that came to my mind, ‘Just because I don’t know you, doesn’t mean that I don’t love you. In this moment, I could feel him drop his guard and his whole body relax in our embrace. He said to me, “Aw man, that’s beautiful. I think this whole bar deserves to hear that.” I looked at him and said, “I think you’re right.”
I then stepped back and commanded the attention of this entire place. Stepping into my courage and into my power, I said with the biggest, most passionate voice I could muster, “EXCUSE ME!” There were about 30 people in there that night, and they all turned my direction to see what the commotion was all about. I said, “JUST BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW YOU, DOESN’T MEAN THAT I DON’T LOVE YOU.” There was a silence…
These people could have written me off as some drunk guy yelling nonsense (I was only one beer in). They could have written me off as some crazy man just being crazy. They could have avoided eye contact and ignored me in fear of being in the spotlight. Instead, they did something that blew me away.
They could see the authenticity in my eyes. They could hear the sincerity in my voice. They could feel the honesty and pure intentions of my energy. I want to say ‘they all got up one by one’ for dramatic effect, but the truth is that they all sort of got up at once. Everyone in that establishment, except for like 3 people, came to me and hugged me. It was a bar group hug.
That moment was so special, and it played an integral part in my decision of becoming a public speaker. I could see so many pairs of shining eyes. Some folks told me things like, “Thank you,” and “I love you too,” but most people used their eyes. There were eyes that said, “You have no idea how much I needed to hear that.” There were eyes that said, “I haven’t had someone tell me that in a long time.” There were even eyes that screamed, “I FEEL THE WAY YOU FEEL, I SIMPLY HAVEN’T FOUND THE COURAGE TO EXPRESS THOSE FEELINGS WITHIN MYSELF!”
The crowd dispersed, and my buddy looked at me and said something I could never forget.
“Look at you, leader. You’ve inspired love and connection between absolute strangers.”-CW
In that very moment, we walked out of the pizzeria. Do you see the power of unconditional love? Do you think we would be dealing with equality issues in this world if this flavor of love was more prominent and more accepted as normal? Do you think we, as a planet, would be dealing with such a housing crisis if this love was taught and nourished in every home? Do you think even a single soul would starve if everybody loved everybody?
When you love someone, it doesn’t matter what color their skin is. It doesn’t matter how much money they have. It doesn’t matter what they believe, contrary to popular belief.
I guess I’ve jumped on top my milk crate a little here, but what I really want to say in all this is that the world needs more love. Just like calling out your racist grandparents is a small action that makes a difference, telling your friends you love them is just the same. In fact, the smallest action step you can take in putting more love into the world is telling your friends that you love them.
I Love You