I’ve gone back and forth labeling myself. Ultimately labels are pretty useless. They are helpful in offering a quick snapshot of the positions we take on important issues. So sometimes I’m conservative, sometimes liberal, usually progressive, and sometimes even reactionary. Each of these labels need contexts since no one label describes the breadth of a person’s experience.
For example, some people are liberal in their use of salt in cooking pasta and conservative with salt when making salad. Some are liberal in their use of various disciplines in guiding their children and conservative regarding the matter of extra-marital affairs. Environmental activists are usually considered liberal and are actually very conservative in their attitude toward nature.
The great statesman and Unitarian, Adlai Stevenson, said it best: “Here lies the power of the liberal way…in helping ourselves and others to see some of the possibilities inherent in viewpoints other than one’s own; in encouraging the free interchange of ideas; in welcoming fresh approaches to the problems of life; in urging the fullest, most vigorous use of critical self-examination.”
There are definite limitations to being a liberal. The Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley writes that the classical liberal vision seeks “to make free, to provide opportunities for individuals to realize freedom, but stops short of confronting systems that stand in the way of freedom.”
Ultimately if you are a liberal then the next logical step is to be a liberationist. As Bowens-Wheatley writes: “The liberationist vision sees structures of oppression as inhibitors of freedom and seeks new relationships that lead to freedom from oppression. The liberationist goal, therefore, is to call society into account for social injustice and to transform oppressive social structures.”
Promoting liberation is therefore very different from simply promoting liberalism. Liberation is a hallmark of being fully evolved. It is a call to change the world so that every person is accommodated, accepted, and engaged in the promotion of the common good.
How do we become true liberationists? We must begin within the individual heart. It’s got to be motivated by radical love and not merely rhetoric. We start by loving ourselves enough to liberate our desire to love others.
Yet there is much groundwork to be laid first. We have to liberate ourselves from hurts, resentments, entitlement, and expectations. We need to let go of personal prerogatives in favor of the essential needs of humankind. In this way, by setting ourselves free, we liberate others to be who they are, to enjoy their highest dignity as unique individuals with a great purpose for their lives.
It’s a kind of alchemy. We mix together service, kindness, good manners, positive affirmations, respect, direct speech, patience, and a generous spirit to produce an ineffable bond called love. We then extend that alchemy to our families of choice, our spiritual communities, the people who inspire us to be better versions of ourselves. From there we reach out into the world.
Yet what holds us back is when we’re being merely tolerant. We tolerate authority figures and refuse to engage them in dialogue. We tolerate those in our midst who are new or different yet hold them at arm’s length. We tolerate ideas, visions, or proposals that seem new or strange yet not offer viable alternatives. We tolerate the status quo and would rather complain than to act constructively.
We truly love when we go beyond toleration to full acceptance, even when it makes us squirm. Call it having “skin in the game” or investing our lives rather than merely donating a little time or money to the A.C.L.U.. Liberation that starts with love and service and positive change can flow only when we’re convinced that we’re in the right place, at the right time, for the right reasons. Anything short of that and we’re enslaving love and preventing it from bringing radical liberation.
So what is the quality of your love for each person you meet? Who in your community is being liberated or simply drowning in liberal rhetoric? How do you express your love consciously as unconditional, deliberate, and sacrificial?
© Copyright Michael Parise 2018
Portions excerpted from Michael’s book: Life Interrupted, Taking Charge After Everything Has Changed
Since 1979 Michael has worked with individuals and groups to take full advantage interruptions and changes to balance responsibilities, simplify their lives, and find greater productivity and peace.
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