The Extraordinary Power of Love
- Unconditional love is our greatest need, greatest desire and greatest power.
- The same force that spins the earth, grows the grass and holds the stars in place awaits you in every moment.
- Love is a fearless energy available in every human heart, and when mobilized, brings incredible courage and fearlessness.
“Find a place within yourself where success and failure don’t matter, the place where you can compete in battle without compromise.” – Jim Steen, Kenyon College swim coach, 31 consecutive national championships
There’s going to come a time in your life when you’re going to be called on to do something you’re not sure you can do. It will be hard and expectations (perhaps mostly from others) will be high. You’re going to be afraid. Will you do it?
How will you get through it?
You might search your soul–do you run or face the fear? At the end of the searching is a gut check and a question: Where does your strength come from?
It comes from a place within your heart, that place where success and failure don’t matter, where you can compete in battle without compromise.
History has countless examples, whether with firefighters or police officers, Red Cross volunteers or White Helmet aid workers, all who’ve risked their own lives to save others.
What causes people to confront the most dangerous situations when everyone else runs the other way?
When I spent the day with the Navy Seals (during my five years of research for the book Inner Excellence) one of the Seals told me he got through BUD/S (aka hell week) focusing on his teammates, not wanting to let his team down. He said he could push himself harder for them than he could for himself.
Every single situation described above has one thing in common: a desire to do something, to risk everything, for a purpose or person other than themselves.
It’s the greatest force on earth. It’s love.
Let’s think about how this might work in performance. One of the greatest abilities an athlete, performer, or the rest of us can have is the ability to be a good problem solver. The great end in problem-solving is creativity. Creativity comes from curiosity and resources, especially the five skills of Inner Excellence: belief, passion, focus, relaxation and resilience.
All five skills are based (when they’re at their highest level) on love. Love is our greatest human need, our greatest desire, and greatest power. And not just any old love. Not romantic love (which is conditional on having a partner that loves you back). It’s love that is much more powerful: the unconditional kind.
This kind of love bears any burden, sacrifices any comfort, gives up every attachment for this one purpose (sometimes which is to save another’s life like in the examples above).
Getting back to the skills, the skill of passion is the skill of living and playing with freedom and joy. The word passion comes from the Latin meaning to suffer, endure. We endure when we have strong internal motivation, beyond “success.”
The power of unconditional love is that it is the one thing that is willing to sacrifice anything, at any cost, even your very life.
When I went to the Sonoran desert in 2003, I went to find myself. Or rather, I went to find a purpose that I could devote my life to, a purpose that I was willing to live and die for–something I did not have at the time.
When you have a purpose beyond yourself that you’re willing to sacrifice your life for, then courage becomes much more accessible. A parent doesn’t have to think twice if their baby is in danger. It’s this kind of unconditional love that creates a fearlessness that expands the world of those who have it.
So how can you harness this power?
Four ways to harness the power of unconditional love
1. Examine your loves.
What you love most directs your life. You can tell what you love most by what has made you most anxious, what you’ve worried about most. Your heart will be as stable as that which you love most. Say it’s the happiness of a child. Then you’ll be as stable as that person is. However if you switch what you love most (their happiness) to their growth as a person, then perhaps you’ll realize that the greatest thing you can do for them is to grow as a person yourself, to learn to unconditionally love others, so you can be fearless.
2. Reorder your loves.
Most of my life success was what society told me it was–to climb the ladder of athletic achievement and financial accumulation. I’ve since realized that what I wanted most was a different kind of success; it was to feel fully alive, to live with absolute fullness of life. This sort of life (zoe) is based on giving up your life, becoming sort of a living sacrifice, for the good of others. The greatest security and greatest freedom is to be ready at any given moment to fully experience an amazing moment, while at the same time to be ready to give up your life, and all your desires, for the life of another person. Selfless is fearless.
3. Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.
Dallas Willard shared with us that hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life (any life that is lived fully alive is a spiritual one–one lived from the heart). John Ortberg (a disciple of Willard) taught us that hurry is not a disordered schedule, it’s a disordered heart.
4. Tighten your boundaries
The one who loves unconditionally is the one who has strict boundaries. Just like a parent would never let a small child play alone on a busy street, unconditional love means giving someone what they need sometimes over what they want.
Tight boundaries means closely guarding what you let into your mind and heart–how you arrange your environment, what you watch and listen to, what you read and who you spend time with. Spend time watching or listening to people who are angry and you too will become angry.
One last thing: If you give up everything for love–to walk in love–for love itself, because that’s the most important thing in your life, and you’re ready to give up your life for it, to be a living sacrifice, then you’ll gain a fearlessness that can change the world.
Let me know how it goes!
To those of you who took a moment to give an Amazon review, thank you so much! If you haven’t, would you mind taking 5 seconds to click on this link and give it your star rating, or if you have 55 seconds, give it a written review as well. Thank you!
Update on my life: St. Louis was a wonderful gift with amazing people. After the IX retreat in St. Louis I flew immediately to Vancouver, BC (first time since April 2020!) to spend the weekend with Trinity Western University women’s volleyball. Another amazing gift! When you read this, I’ll be in San Diego golfing (hopefully!), then potentially heading to YWAM Ensenada to see what kind of amazing things they’re doing down there. After that I’ll be driving up the coast back to Seattle/Snohomish. I’ll spend a few days with family and then get back to work on the audio version of the Inner Excellence book.
Coach keeps truths and swim titles flowing.NY Times. Crouse, K. Feb. 24, 2009.
Who are the White helmets? The Atlantic. Serhan, Y. Sept. 30, 2016.
You are What You Love. Smith, James K. A. 2016.
St. Augustine’s Concept of Disordered Love. Naugle, D. 1993. white paper.
How Hurry is Incompatible with Love. Voskamp, A. www.annvoskamp.com