“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
To-Do or To Be
This past Saturday morning, May 2, our 4-year-old daughter, Esther, came downstairs from her room and sat on the floor with a dejected demeanor. This was bothersome because she always wakes up cheerful and ready for the day. She is what we call a morning person. She adds life to the room with her smile and positive attitude. As this was out of character, I inquired, “Is everything okay?” Shaking her head, she looked up in response,” I can’t do anything!” I grew even more concerned even, though I was glad she was willing to talk. I sat down next to her and began voicing her accomplishments. Then, I realized that this was not the time to list her achievements but to let her know what she does is not a metric for who she is.
I began to list be traits instead of do traits. I told her, “You are beautiful, funny, kind, and our daughter, which you did nothing to become except to be born. Besides, I am not interested in what you do but who you become.” She had a perplexed look on her face as if to say, “What are you talking about!” But since I spoke to her while smiling, she knew everything was okay, and off she went to play with her toys, cheerful as usual before eating her breakfast.
Later, after talking her off the cliff of despair, I reflected on the encounter, and wondered, “Do I define my worth based on what I can accomplish?” In other words, “Have I staked my self-worth solely on activities? Another question rolled in. “Are my to-do’s the system by which I measure my success?” In light of these questions, I began to seek deep within me and discovered that I regularly attached my worth to what I accomplish and achieve. There have been days I have reached the same cliff and said, “I didn’t do anything!” This hit me especially hard a few days ago when I did not write at all for about two days. Needless to say, I was a kaleidoscope of mope (I read this in my daughter’s bedtime storybook) and ready to jump off the cliff. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, this thought crossed my mind. “Writing does not make me who I am. I am a writer because of who I am and becoming.” As I backed off the cliff, I concluded that my experience as a person translates into my writing.
This time of COV-ID 19 has drastically curtailed our activities. As our to-do (and to-go) lists have become shorter, I believe that it has opened the door for us to develop a to-be list, which is also known as core-strengths.
Building a Strong Core
Your core is your bed seat of physical strength. According to the Harvard Medical School, your core is a group of muscles that stabilizes and controls the pelvis and spine, thereby influencing the legs and upper body. Dr. Susan Trainor affirms that “a strong core will improve your technique, strength, stamina, and complement everything you do.” Some might assume that a strong core is only important for athletes, but everything you do successfully draws on the strength of your core. From sitting down to standing up to lifting objects, your core is at the center of these activities. Increased back pain could be an indicator of a weakened core. A strong core is what helps maintain good body posture. Posture, according to the American Chiropractic Association, refers to the position in which we hold our bodies while sitting, standing, or lying down. A good life posture is especially important in our world today. Plenty is happening around us that can weaken our core, compromise our posture, and affect our stance regarding the correct standards and values. We can end up at the cliff of discouragement and despair, wondering, “Where do we go from here?” In all my years on earth, I have only known one core strength that will keep you standing when everything around seems to be falling apart. Love.
The greatest core strength
“I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. I have seen too much hate. And I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we aren’t moving wrong when we do it because John was right, God is love. He who hates does not know God, but he who loves has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.”
These soul captivating words are an excerpt from a speech that Martin Luther King Jr. gave in 1967 during the decades-long civil rights movement. In a time where hatred and the pressure to resort to violence were growing, King Jr. tempered those tensions with the lodestar of love. It was his core strength. And it gave him the right posture to maintain a non-violent approach. Without this core strength, he would have fallen into the trap of hatred, retaliation, and aggression. And where love is absent, these core-weakening behaviors are prevalent. He defined love as “the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the life of another.” I almost resisted writing that definition because I seem to fall short of it each time. But oh, what a core-strength goal to shoot for each day! That in every interaction, I commit to love no matter the outcome.
What makes love so powerful? I believe it is more of a force than a feeling. It is a universal indicator of authenticity, redemption, and transformation. It is in the treasure chest of love that we find valuables such as empathy, respect, trust, courage, and integrity. Where even a modicum of love is applied, lives are changed for the better. It can make the worst of enemies the best of friends. As a person of faith, I am a product of love because Jesus poured his whole being into me by dying on the cross for my sin. So, like Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus, I am choosing to stick with love as a core strength. And apply it to keep my posture upright no matter what is happening around me. I hope you will choose the same.
Final thought: With love as a leading core strength in your life, you will develop a stable posture in the face of life’s difficulties. Additionally, your authenticity will draw others in. They will depend on you more because the trust drawn from love will create a safe place they can count on.
Keep on keeping on!