Recently at SheEO HQ and among the women-led Ventures who have been funded by the global group of radically generous women we call Activators, we have been talking about how at its very core, the SheEO model is based on love—love of nature, of social and economic justice, of human wellness and thriving–that fuels so many of the missions of our startups. And love of one another as we support, encourage and rage together during this most challenging time.
Some of us shrink from using love in a business context, concerned with its reference to romantic love. In the SheEO context, we are talking about agape, the Greek concept of love for all-beings. CS Lewis called it “gift love,” while Buddhists refer to it as mettā or “universal loving kindness.” But it’s true that it’s not commonly talked about in business.
That’s why I was so surprised to read an article in Forbes recently about why entrepreneurs should lead with love rather than fear. And another saying the very worst thing a leader can do right now is come from fear and not love. A Google search revealed a growing trend.
It reminded me of a teaching I learned decades ago—that at the bottom of all our emotions, there are only two roots—fear and love. Examining my own mind, I found it was true. Beneath whatever I was feeling was either fear or love. And every moment of every day, I had a choice which to act from. The more I came from love, the less fearful I was. And having been a fearful, anxious person my whole life, that was no small change.
In their amazing book Life Lessons about what they learned accompanying people on their death journeys, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler explain it this way: “All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt…..[W]e cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.”
This lesson seems more urgent than ever as we seek wise responses to the complexity of the world around us. “We have to make a decision to be in one place or the other,” they wrote. “There is no neutrality in this. If you don’t actively choose love, you will find yourself in a place of either fear or one of its component feelings. Every moment offers the choice to choose one or the other. And we must continually make these choices, especially in difficult circumstances when our commitment to love, instead of fear, is challenged.
“Having chosen love, doesn’t mean you will never fear again. In fact, it means that many of your fears will come up to finally be healed. This is an ongoing process. Remember that you will become fearful after you’ve chosen love, just as we become hungry after we eat. We must continually choose love in order to nourish our souls and drive away fear, just as we eat to nourish our bodies and drive away hunger.”
Right now, in the midst of everything that has been stirred up, all the anger, hatred, divisiveness that fear mongering has created, can we choose love moment by moment—fierce love, compassionate love, the love that seeks the best not just for ourselves, but for all beings? How differently would you, would I, live? At least for me, it feels like a profound and necessary choice.
Written by MJ Ryan
Photo by Bram.