Recently I was on a flight and watched the movie, Lone Survivor, with Mark Wahlberg. It’s a war movie about a group of elite military soldiers whose mission is compromised and they end up in a fierce firefight with the Taliban. Wahlberg’s character is the only one who survives when he is rescued by a friendly Afghani man and his boy, who go to great lengths to keep him safe until other U.S. soldiers arrive to take him home.
It is a violent, savage war movie and … it’s a love story.
I know that sounds odd, paradoxical, but it’s true. Amidst all the shooting, killing, and military bravado, at its core this movie is a story of love. Soldiers who love their country, young men who band together in a military unit based around the love they share, the Afghani man and his son who love justice more than their own safety ― the movie is full of stories of love.
And this is the state of our world today. A world of love, camouflaged by fighting. It’s everywhere we look. Good people who deeply love and yet are so fearful that we spend our lives fighting the “good” fight.
We fight disease. We fight our jobs. We fight with our spouses. We fight with our children. And most importantly, most ironically, we fight with ourselves.
Like those soldiers in Mark Wahlberg’s unit pinned down by the Taliban, we are pinned down against ourselves in a constant battle with the voices in our head. We fight, desperately seeking to be good men and women, to quiet the little child in us who just wants a hug. But admitting we seek love is scary, asking for a hug is a terrifyingly vulnerable act, and so instead … we fight. Then we tell a story about why we fight to justify the impossible irony of using fear and anger in an attempt to generate love.
How many times in your life have you felt like the lone survivor? All alone, scraping and clawing your way through life, so entrenched in the fight that you’re not even sure what you are fighting for. The fight has become the journey. Yet deep down, hidden far inside, it always comes back to love.
I don’t know all the answers. I don’t have a cure-all solution for the complexity of life. But I do know this, we all do: this thing we’re doing, this “good fight” we’re fighting, isn’t working. All around us we see the casualties of war, both literal and figurative, and we know this isn’t the way. Yet we wage on because it’s what we know how to do. It’s the human way, “never stop fighting.”
I’m not suggesting that we give up. I’m not saying that we should all sit apathetically on the sidelines of life, limp with inaction; quite the contrary. What I suggest is that we re-examine our definition of courage, that we question the very belief that continuing with a failing strategy of fighting is courageous. I’m opening the door to the possibility that true courage comes from something far beyond brawn and bravado, that it comes from love … and that, contrary to the popular image, perhaps a hero is actually a man or woman who shows the courage to engage in active compassion toward the world.
Throughout history our greatest heroes have come from times like these … moments that look hopeless. As love is trampled by fear and greed and aggression, men and women of supreme valor have emerged unarmed, carrying only their hearts in their hands: Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and The Dalai Lama to name a few. These people redefine courage day-by-day, loving act by loving act, as they bravely face the world cloaked only in their vulnerable desire to heal through love.
Unfortunately, there’s another side to these heroes, a side that isn’t as positive. It’s the reality that we’re content to let them stand alone. We turn them into superheroes so we can marvel at them from the sidelines, watch them with wonder and eventually celebrate their lives on the holidays named for their courage … while we trudge on in the mud of the status quo.
Today I want to challenge us all to enter the ring. I invite everyone, no matter who or where you are, to crack the door of your heart; to look fear in the eye and respond with an “I love you” to yourself and to the world.
If you are a businessman, look around your company and find an employee in need. Someone whose health insurance has maxed out and can’t afford the treatment they need … call them, tell them you care, and make it possible for them to heal.
If you are a mom or dad, take a day off work, or an afternoon, or even an hour, and spend it daydreaming with your child. Dream big with them, encourage them with your love and truly connect together.
If you are sick and fighting disease, pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and connect with the love inside you. Listen to the message your body has for you, truly hear it and tell your body, especially the parts that are ill, that you love yourself.
Everyone, everywhere, catch yourself as you start to yell, or scream, or think a violent thought and instead have the courage to share compassion. Give yourself this gift today – one day without struggle and fight, one day of love and peace.
This is not a pipe dream, it is not woo-woo or naiveté. The path to peace rests solely on our courage to act in this very moment. Right now each of us possesses the key to peace. The key lies in your heart, the key is your heart and your heart is the key.
Big hugs of love,