The Biggest Act of Love

by Manal Ghosain on October 1, 2015

Family by the sea

Love is an essential part of life. It’s what motivates, forms, sustains, and nourishes all forms of creation. We all share the same desire to love and be loved. However, we have different ideas about how we can express our love.

Today I want to share with you an expression of love we don’t usually think about. But it’s the most powerful and helpful thing we can do. So here it goes.

The biggest act of love is to allow others to be who they are—fully and unconditionally.

Easier said than done, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. We love our significant other, our family, and our friends. But there are things about them we wish we could change. So we create imaginary ideals for each person we love, and expect them to live up to them.

We want our loved ones to live the best life possible. We want them to realize their potential, enjoy life, and connect with us. And we really want them to understand us, and appreciate what we do for them.

Sometimes things work out according to our expectations. But most of the time we feel either disappointed in others, or guilty that we’re not helping them enough.

What would happen if we just let others be who they are, for no reason other than loving them that much?

Letting others be

When we let others be who they are, we:

Trust life. We trust that our loved ones are on the best path for them. If they need our help or opinion, they’d ask for it. Their unique life is unfolding as it’s meant to be.

Trust our loved ones. They are on their path. They are fully capable of changing course, if they need to. They are living their lives, their way.

Let go of wanting control. The other part of trusting is letting go of control. We would need to be conscious of our desire to control the situation or the actions of others.

If I’m on a healthy diet, can I let my loved ones eat whatever they want? Or should they try my way, because it’s supposed to be better?

On a logical level, we all know that we can only control our own behavior. But emotionally, we want others to share our path.

How can we let someone poison their body with cigarettes or alcohol, especially when we’re on a health kick?

We need to let go of wanting to control others and trust that their journey is the right one for them, in this moment.

The more we love others, the more we need to allow them to be who they are. We are no better or worse than anyone else.

The only thing we can do

The only thing we can do when it comes to loving others is to be there for them. Being there doesn’t mean we need to steer their lives in a certain direction. We can give them attention, and support. We can help, only when asked. And then we let them be, and just be with them.

How to let others be

Letting others be, especially when we deal with them every day, can be a challenge. How can we let them be, when we don’t like what they’re doing, without feeling passive or complacent?

The following ideas can help. I suggest starting with the first idea.

Imagine it’s a loved one’s last day.

Before wanting to say or do anything, imagine that this is the last time you will ever get to interact with this person.

Is what you’re about to say, or do, worth it? Is this the last thing you want to remember about the encounter? In all likelihood, you’ll drop it.

The person is way more precious than any opinion or advice we have.

Choose curious empathy over controlling judgment.

Instead of saying I wish my father would stop doing this, and focus on his health, I can imagine myself in my mid eighties having all the life experiences I had and choosing to live the way I live. What would that be like? I don’t know.

I admire my father for living through all the things he’s lived through (war, depression, dispossession, extreme weather conditions, losing his father and being responsible for his siblings and mother at the age of 18). I didn’t live all of that. He managed okay before I came along. I don’t know what I’d do if I experienced his life.

Try to be in someone else’s shoes. How would you feel? What would you do?

When we look deep enough, we realize that every person is awe inspiring—not someone who needs to be guided and told what to do.

Do nothing.

If the above two steps fail, consciously choose to do, or say, nothing—unless being asked. Let go, as much as you can, of your own fears and insecurities.

Go within. What are you feeling? What do you want? Do you want the other person to do what you want them to do because you’re afraid? Or because you don’t trust them? What’s the worst that could happen if you just let them do their thing?

Surrender to the feelings. Feel the physical sensations in the body. Breathe deeply. When the sensations subside, choose to let go.

If it helps, imagine that you’re not there. For whatever reason, your loved one is doing something, and you’re thousands of miles away, and no one told you. How would you feel and react?

Imagine a world where we all loved and allowed others to be who they are. We’d live in heaven.

True love is freedom from expectations. It’s unconditional kindness and compassion. And it’s within our reach. We can start right now with the people we love the most.

“The first place to practice love is at home with the family. We should try to love our family more and more by granting them the right to be the way they are, more and more.” ~Lester Levenson