–by Ted Seymour (Feb 14, 2019)
It’s a peculiar phrasing, I know, and one worth re-reading a few times, but I’ve been deeply impacted by these words since first reading them a few of weeks ago. The gist of this is that we shouldn’t necessarily put our efforts into trying to learn how to be more loving. Instead our focus would be more wisely placed on learning to stop acting in ways which are not loving. It turns pretty much everything we think about loving upside down. In a way, it’s the spiritual equivalent to standing on your head until all the change falls out of your pocket. “Learning to love” is not really the way to go about becoming a more loving person. The real trick is to learn to recognize our unloving ways and then to stop doing those things. Once we stop doing that which is unloving, then perhaps all that will remain is love.
One of the greatest gifts of a path of self-awareness is the transformation within us that can occur over time. We change. We really do. But that change largely happens only when a true and deep desire for change is present, a desire that manifests most effectively in the form of an inwardly directed curiosity, an intentional awareness of our actions and beliefs which we can hold up to the light and investigate. And so here, with this concept of unlearning to unlove, comes a sincere invitation to pay close attention to the ways in which our own actions may be unloving in nature. […]
Being loving is one of the fundamental qualities of being human, yet we are constantly acting in ways that are contrary to that loving nature. “Unlove” is any behavior, thought or action which is antithetical to love. Unloving actions aren’t neutral, they are actually harmful to one degree or another. […]
As an example of unlove, lets look at the words we use when speaking about someone else. Do we say things about others that puts them in a negative light? If we do, we are at least obliquely causing harm to the people we speak of, influencing how others perceive them, and digging the subject of our disparagement a deeper hole to climb out of than they may already have. Not only are our words harming the person about whom we speak, but we are also helping to further a culture of what I would call “harm-speak” by supporting others through our own actions/inactions to partake in similarly harm-inducing behavior. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, by acting in a manner that is harming to others, we are absorbing some of that harm into ourselves. Our behavior, our speech in this example, when positive in nature, supports the development of an inner belief in our own goodness and value. When our behavior is unloving, we inadvertently affirm a subconscious belief of our own lack of deservingness.
Most every behavior and thought pattern we have has, in one way or another, been learned or introjected. Our parents, friends, family, teachers, neighbors, community, celebrities and politicians all model unloving behavior at times. As such, unloving thoughts and behavior become normalized and we in turn participate. Humans learn largely through absorption and it doesn’t serve anyone for us to get down on ourselves for this. Like every other human on the planet, we all are, rung by painstaking rung, climbing the ladder of our own personal evolution.
We do, however, have an opportunity and perhaps a responsibility as well to “unlearn” our behaviors that are unloving. As I mentioned earlier, stopping a particular behavior itself is not really so difficult. You simply stop doing it. The more challenging part of this process is in becoming a person who is committed to identifying our own unloving behaviors. I unfortunately don’t have a magic elixir for invoking this perspective in people. An individual simply must really want to be willing to let go of the person they have been and hold themselves to a higher personal standard. Once that inner commitment is there, the transformation can begin. It may initially take the form of regret which emerges after the fact when we see that our behavior did not live up to our new standards. Over time, we start to see our unloving behavior as it arises. Eventually the loving/unloving filter gets applied prior to acting and we can begin to experience the cessation of our unloving behavior. We keep practicing, that’s all, and we learn the joy and healing power of making amends along the way.