I’ve often been struck by the idea that all the suffering in the world, all the world’s problems and deficits and cruelties are exactly equal in might and force to the love, the gifts, the talents, latent in all the world’s inhabitants.
In this way, the world is perfectly balanced: The sum of global pain is equal to our collective capacity for love. The deficit of goodness in the external world is equal to the power we hold within to create good.
Every need can be met. Every wound can be healed. Every pain can be soothed, but only if each of us uses our capacity for good fully.
In practical terms, of course, each of us can’t work on every issue. We can’t even learn about every issue. But we can begin to use our capacity for good more fully. Here are six ways to begin:
- Let the pain in. Open your heart to the pain of the world. We all have an instinct in us to avoid it, to turn away from the disturbing news, to shield ourselves from feeling tragedy. Instead, open your heart to the pain. Breathe it in. Feel it. Be present to it — not to get caught in drama or sadness, but to fuel action.
- Do small acts with great love, every day. Create a daily giving practice. Give something every day: money, time, assistance, or a heartfelt thank you or compliment. Keep a journal where you record your act of giving at the end of the day. Writing it down (and realizing when you’ve forgotten to do the practice) will help you integrate this habit into your life.
- Pick a cause to pour your time, money and energies to, over the long-term. Select something that moves you, something that you sense is the work you are called to do in the world.
- Be a light at work. As a coach, I often speak with clients who feel their work because is meaningless because they work at a company that’s “just about the money.” But as business scandal after business scandal shows us, these environments need ethical, service-focused, loving human beings desperately—perhaps more than anywhere else. If you work in one of those places, you have the opportunity to make a tremendous difference. Decide to be a light at work, through your kindness to coworkers and customers, by refraining from gossip, by helping to build bridges or resolve conflict when needed. Watch the ripple effects, and notice how it makes work more interesting and energizing for you, too.
- See what love-assignments life gives you. Life brings us little love-assignments in the form of the suffering that show up in our midst. Is there a need in your neighborhood, at your school, in your workplace, that is touching a place within your heart? You don’t have to solve the problem, but you can make a tremendous difference by offering your support, love, solidarity, skills, time, companionship, or a material gift. Notice what assignments life is giving you, and step up.
Yes, the world is full of suffering. Full of it. And we are full of the medicine that heals it.
Are you meeting the world with your full capacity for love?