Is there any more hopeless feeling than watching day after day of news coverage on the war in Ukraine? It’s a soul-wrenching experience and like me, you may have wondered: What can I do?
First, the obvious: Like me, you may not be of the ilk to enlist in the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine (though apparently, thousands of non-Ukrainians have). There’s prayer. And, if you have the ability, you can give to charity. Charity Watch is a great source for knowing where to donate and their list includes the International Rescue Committee, Catholic Relief Services and Doctors without Borders.
Now the not-so-obvious. Some valuable ideas come from the techno-marketing blogger Christopher S. Penn. He recommends that we become more vocal on social media and to like, comment and share what we feel in our hearts. It’s a way to acknowledge to the world, and perhaps some Ukrainians, that you see their suffering and that we are in this battle together. Penn also believes it’s a good time to let our creativity shine, explaining:
When you feel powerless in a situation – any situation – and you want that feeling to go away, create. Create something. Create anything. Write a song. Paint a canvas. Sing. Write a paragraph. Draw. Dance. Speak. Express yourself. Bring what’s inside your head out into the world in a tangible form so that other people can benefit from it, be it 5 people or 5 billion people.
Another option to soothe the war-weary soul: Turn hate into agape.
We can sit, cry and wallow in the funk that all this depressing news puts us in. OR we can choose to counter the hate and heartache that has entered our personal space like second-hand smoke—with a form of love known as agape.
Agape (pronounced ah-gah-pay) is different from erotic or romantic love in that it exists on a higher spiritual plane. It has to with spreading love to those around you and I don’t mean just your immediate family. I’m talking about everyone else you encounter in your daily life. It’s love simply for the sake of loving while expecting nothing in return.
In our society, love often includes an implied “if I love you, you have to love me back” pre-condition, which comes from a need for security. In the book Writing in the Sand, Thomas Moore describes it as “a banker’s idea of love. If you don’t get as much out as you put in, you are being cheated.” But agape is different, as it has nothing to with the actions of someone else.
Agape is often associated Jesus and his unconditional love of humankind.
While Jesus spread agape to all he encountered, the concept is said to originate with the ancient Greeks who believed that it came from an exterior source. This source, which I see as God, offers an endless supply of agape to all of us, at every moment and without preconditions. John Templeton, in his book Pure Unlimited Love, states it this way:
Agape is the holy, unconditional love that God gives us regardless of what we look like, how much money we have, how smart we are, and even regardless of how unloving our actions may sometimes be.
No matter how unworthy or unlovable we may feel, God offers us a consistent outpouring of love. Of course, the most difficult part of agape is the reciprocal side—taking the love we receive and turning around and putting it out into the universe. As Templeton points out:
The great challenge is not in getting love but in giving it. Agape demands that we give others the freedom to return or not to return our love. And because it is unlimited, it keeps on giving even when love is not returned.
The process starts by doing something for another person, whether you know them personally or not. Templeton advises us to try and “radiate unlimited love,” which means reflecting the love you receive like a mirror. You then set up a feedback loop, by which the more you extend love outward to the world “the more you become flooded by waves of love from others and from God.”
The benefits of this endless loop of love are many. As Templeton puts it, “When we practice agape, it becomes easier to love our enemies, to tolerate those who annoy us, and to find something we appreciate in every person we meet.” He also points out that this unlimited love “encourages strength and freedom and empowers a person rather than fosters dependency or weakness.”
No matter how and when you use agape, there’s no downside. Even the briefest of encounters with another person become an opportunity to reflect this unlimited love. It’s a power we all possess and it can be used at any time. Why not start today? It may help shed a little light on the darkness that seems to be omnipresent these days.
When the power of love is greater than the love of power, the world will know peace. ~Jimi Hendrix