A mentor’s words that leave the deepest impression don’t happen in passing, and the most important lessons we learn don’t happen by accident. These words and lessons take root when a person intentionally lives out the values that matter most.
My mentor, William Sloane Coffin, Jr., was a social activist and minister fond of saying, “Love measures our stature: the more we love, the bigger we are.”
Bill Coffin was a larger-than-life person whose life story reflected his many talents and accomplishments. In these years since his death in 2006, I’m still flabbergasted he made space in his life for me and took such an interest in my work in Memphis.
But he did. Because he believed and lived the things he said. The more we love, the bigger we are. We are as we love. This is a simple fact of life.
These days, I hear Bill’s words echoing through my mind for all sorts of reasons.
This is the time of year when we attend holiday gatherings one right after another—gatherings that can challenge us to demonstrate love to those we love in our hearts. It’s also a contentious time with the world’s current events. Unfortunately, a lot of time and energy go into having the “right” idea or “acceptable” beliefs to find our footing in the world. But when we step back, we know that’s wrong. That’s not love.
Love, in all its forms, breathes life into our very beings. What we love should not suck energy from our souls. All too often, our interactions with other people and our environment are exhausting. Why is this? All too often, fear, and not love, rules the day.
In almost aspect of our lives, fear drives what happens to us: fear of not having enough patience, fear of not having enough money, fear that someone else’s decision will change our lives. Too often, we fear losing and loss.
And fear is the opposite of love.
Fear gives way to greed, and then love is lost.
Greed harms all that love hopes to build.
In this season of holiday gatherings and parties, I also think of children. They’re always watching and listening. What do they see lived out?
I hope we can show them the true stature of a human being by standing tall in the full richness of love.