In the summer of 2018 I started listening a lot to Oprah's Super Soul Sunday podcast and this last week I heard a quote that I wanted to share with you all. Oprah was interviewing Wintley Phipps. He is a world renowned vocal artist, education activist, motivational speaker, pastor and CEO and founder of the U.S. Dream Academy.
It is kind of my thing to listen to books and podcasts while I am running around. Although I am working my way through Becoming (by Michelle Obama) right now by turning actualpages, most of the time I prefer to audio books and podcasts these days. So here I am, driving around town, rushing home with a car full of Costco stuff hoping I get there in time for the school bus drop off. And then, as they are talking, Wintley states a definition of love that I thought was remarkable. I wish I had thought of it first and included it in my book... But I didn't.
What he had to say is exactly what I needed in that moment. It hit me like a rock and has stayed with me since. He said,
Love is when you choose to be at your best,
when the other person is not at their best.
- Wintley Phipps
Isn't that just it? There is so much to unpack in that. Love is a choice. Sure it is a nice feeling that is warm and fuzzy. But the kind of love that the world needs more of is the kind that we choose to put on. The kind of love that I feel called to in our home, is a choice. It is when we actively and consciously choose to be at our best, that we are truly loving those around us. So if we say that we love them, we must choose to be at our best for them. Not in a perfectionist kind of way. We are allowed to fall apart and be tired. But in a, "I'm going to bring my best for you" kind of way. I'm going to choose to be at my best, because that is what will help you. That is what will help you move forward, that is what will help you find strength, that is what will help you calm down, that is what will help you feel loved. Because that is love. Showing up for one another. Not just being in the same house and providing for needs, but being our best. That is love.
What might that look like for me today?
It might mean that I am going to be gentle, and kind and patient. It might mean that even though my home feels busy and chaotic I will not join in the crisis, but will take some deep breaths and use a calm voice. It might mean that I don't freak out about being someone making me late again, but I wait.
It might mean that I am a clear communicator and listener. That I prioritize our relationship over my to do list and I am present in the conversation.
It might mean that I am going to choose to see joy in this situation and be grateful for what I have. It might mean that I am going to be a peacemaker in my home and guide everyone to get along a bit better. It might mean that I follow through on my promises even though no one is being friendly or kind to me. It will mean that I am actively choosing how I am speaking and behaving in order to promote peace and love and not to further pain and trauma.
The struggle is that in my house we have a frequent pattern of not being at our best. You might have that as well. You might be more relaxed in your speech or attitude after the garage door closes. But this is calling us to choose to be at our best, even when those around us are not. Even when they are far from their potential.
I see such potential in the kiddos that have lived in our home. I have seen them at their best, and it is beautiful. But they don't always live there. They don't always have the perseverance to maintain that level of emotional health. And so we often see them in their struggle. We often see on the outside how they feel on the inside.
And so today, I will once again follow this calling on my life. I truly believe that today I am supposed to be in this home, with this family, and I am called to love them. So today the words that will run through my head are a challenge to stay at my best, even though the people around me might not be at their best. That is love.
If you are struggling with loving on those in your life and feel you need a bit of extra support, consider scheduling an online coaching session. We can spend an hour together talking through your challenges and come up with some ideas you can use tomorrow. Let's chat, firstname.lastname@example.org