Acceptance, Love

True Love: To Be Loved Just As We Are

I believe there is a deep human need to be loved and accepted exactly the way we are. We all need someone in our lives to tell us that we are worthy, we are enough, and we are loved. I believe this is the kind of love that Fred Rogers was referring to when he ended his program with “I like you just the way you are.” He was saying you don’t need to do anything special to be worthy of love, you are loved just as you are at this moment.

This is the kind of love many of us get from our parents (and rightfully so). And – if we are lucky – we might just find someone who loves us this way to get married to and make a family with. I am fortunate enough to say that I am one of the lucky ones who is loved this way by my wife. I often say that it was my wife who taught me what love really was. By this, I mean a romantic love that is deeper than romantic love so often can be.

Before I met and fell in love with my wife I had girlfriends who might at some point in our relationship reach a point where they said they loved me, but that love always seemed to come with conditions. They might say things like, “I love you, because of the way you look at me.” or “I love you, because you treat me so well.” Their love also often felt like they loved me a certain amount, but they would love me even more if I could simply manage to change this one thing about me or that one thing.

My wife was the first woman who ever loved me just the way I was. And what was even more wonderful about her love was that the more she got to know the real me the more she loved me. She even loved me for things that I saw as weaknesses about myself, such as my sensitivity. She was able to look at those parts of me that I didn’t so much love and say, “You’re being too hard on yourself.” We all need that kind of love in our lives, don’t we?

I believe the kind of love and acceptance I have received from my wife has probably helped me grow into a better person than I might have otherwise been. That’s what acceptance can do. It helps us see the best in ourselves and think the best of ourselves and want grow to be even better – by strengthening our finer qualities. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but she knows this about me and loves me anyway. And that’s the point.

If my kids ever one day ask me what they should look for in a partner I will say this: “Look for someone who loves you for who you are and supports you in who you want to become.” To me, that seems like real love. True love. Love that can last a lifetime.

So, this Valentine’s Day I am grateful for my Valentine. Like her love for me, I love her just the way she is. And this Valentine’s Day and every day I wish for that kind of love for you – whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey. I wish you love that accepts you the way you are and wants you to grow in all of the ways you wish to grow. Happy Valentines Day.

With Love,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, RECK, respect, Uncategorized

We Need a Revolution of Connection

Do you ever feel a longing for connection? Real connection? More than another text or email, or even another casual conversation? In our fast-paced, screen-time-heavy world, it seems like we are drifting further and further apart from one another.

This is not to say that we have ever been that socially connected in my lifetime. A child of the 80’s, I feel like I was practically raised by the television – long before smart phones came along demanding our attention.

Perhaps there was a time when communities were closer knit, but it hasn’t been in my lifetime. Essentially, I find myself longing for some Utopian past I never knew. Or perhaps it never really existed to begin with. Who knows.

But here’s the thing. It sure does seem like we could reduce the amount of conflict in the world if people would just sit down and talk to one another. How are we ever going to work out our differences if we keep splitting ourselves into smaller and smaller factions?

We need a revolution of connection! Meaningful connection – deep conversations where we work through our misunderstandings and disagreements. This is the kind of connection where trust is built and where genuine community takes shape.

Our fast-paced, cold, indifferent world needs reflection on connection, a Renaissance of nuance, and a renewed unity of community!

And of course I feel compelled to add that as we undergo this revolution of connection, we must strive to treat one another with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. Honestly, I find these qualities lacking in our modern world as well. We are all perfectly capable of treating one another better, but it takes self control and a determination of will. It begins with us wanting to do better.

So, find ways to connect with others in a meaningful way. Unplug. Get real face-to-face time with others. Schedule unstructured time with your family with no screens and lots of conversation. Go out for lunch and coffee with friends. Make time for connection.

Join a church, social organization or bowling league. Heck, join a group you disagree with and work towards changing them from the inside. Just get out there!

Real connection takes real effort, and it is worth it. It pays big dividends with regard to improved mental and emotional health.

So, answer your inner call – your yearning – for connection. Let the revolution begin! And you’ll be glad you did.

Love to you, always.

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, Obliterate Hate, RECK, respect

The Antidote to Hate

In my last blog post, I made the argument that we humans as a species need to evolve beyond hate. Hatred simply does not serve us anymore. It causes death and destruction, and ultimately holds us back from ever achieving any kind of lasting peace.

When it comes to finding ways to reduce hate, we must be students of respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness (RECK). When combined, these values can help us to reduce the hatred within ourselves and between individuals, societies, and cultures. RECK can, essentially, be an antidote to hate.

Let’s start with respect. While it is true that humans often respect their enemies, that kind of respect comes from fear of an enemy’s power. That’s not the kind of respect that I’m referring to. I’m referring to respect for life. We must first acknowledge that all life is sacred. All life has value. It is wrong to kill. We must have a basic level of respect for all human beings that makes us respect and value life. We must be able to say that everyone has the right to live in peace – even people with whom we disagree. This level of respect will help us reduce our hatred by at least a little bit, by at least enough that we don’t want to kill our enemies or those for whom we feel hatred.

Next, we must tap into our empathy. We must try to empathize with people for whom we feel hateful feelings in order to try to understand what it is about them that makes them perhaps hate us or feel malice toward us. Often, when we stop to think about why someone might hold negative feelings towards us, we think that surely it must be because they misunderstand us or our intentions. Perhaps we misunderstand them too! Perhaps if we got to know them better then we would not hate them. Upon reflection, we would probably conclude that they are ultimately not that different from us. They probably want many of the same things we want. Things like peace, life, love, happiness, security, and well being for themselves and their loved ones.

Now, we move on to compassion. Surely, we can recognize that all living beings suffer. And if we suffer then the people we feel hatred towards surely experience suffering too. Think about what kind of suffering they might have. It may be possible that we have done something to cause their suffering. We need to search within our hearts, and through our empathy connect with the suffering people with whom we disagree might be feeling. Our compassion can move us to want to relieve this suffering. Perhaps there is something we can do to help this person or these people so that they will not suffer so badly. If we help to reduce their suffering then they might no longer feel malice towards us. Or at least not as much. Compassion can help us to feel less hatred. Compassion can help us turn hatred into love.

Finally, let’s look to kindness. There is an interesting quality to kindness. It is this: when we are kind to people it makes us like them more. Have you ever noticed this? It’s true. When we behave kindly towards people we dislike or even hate, we come to like them better. Also, when we are kind to others it increases the chances that they will be kind to us in return. Kindness begets kindness. And so it goes, on and on, and kind acts build relationship and good feelings.

This is how RECK can serve as an antidote to hate. We must teach our children to have RECK for all, and by doing so, we can help them to love all people and help them not to hate. Also, if we practice RECK, it might help other adults to practice RECK in turn. And over time these positive acts will grow and multiply. Over time… years and even decades… we can continue to reduce the hate in the world until we have wiped it away for good. It will take time and practice, but it can be done.

Practice RECK for all. And you will see positive results in your life and in the world around you.

Peace.

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

Love, Obliterate Hate

Obliterate Hate!

It’s time for the human species to evolve beyond hate. Historically speaking, there was probably a time when hate made sense as a defense mechanism. When we were tribal cultures, hate against our enemies probably helped to keep us vigilant and thus safer. Hate generated safety.

But now, when hate drives us to the brink of nuclear annihilation, I must ask quite simply: What’s the point? Hate seems to produce nothing but suffering, death, and destruction. In the interconnected world in which we now live, hate quite simply makes no sense.

Now is the time to turn the page on hate. It’s time to make it a thing of the past. Because the truth of the matter is this: If we can’t end hatred, then we will never have peace.

Differences can be resolved. People with dark intentions can be counseled and educated away from that path. There is no reason to go on hating. If we have problems with others, then let’s work them out. I mean this interpersonally and internationally. Let’s work our shit out!

Come on people! Let’s be honest. Hate is absurd. What good does it do you to go on hating others? Let it go! Find some inner freaking peace for goodness sake. There are 7.7 billion of us living on this blue marble and hating one another simply isn’t making life here more tolerable.

So, search your heart. Search your soul. Find ways to love through difference. Find ways to work it out. Because hate won’t do. Hate doesn’t get it done. Hate fixes nothing.

We need to turn to love and keep turning to love until all hate has been obliterated. And not just in others, but in our own hearts and minds. We can do this. We can build a better and brighter tomorrow.

Love to you. Always.

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, respect

All You Need is RECK

Have you ever come home after a hard day in the grumpiest of moods? You walk in the door, greet your family with a grumble, and then proceed to bark, snap, and maybe even yell at them for the rest of the evening?

Once you are feeling better, you might wonder why you treated them that way. After all, they are the ones you love the most and you might have treated them worse than you treated anyone else all day. “Next time,” you think, “I resolve to do better.”

Love is a wonderful thing. We are fortunate when we have people in our lives whom we love and who love us in return. But there aren’t really any ground rules to love, are there? We sort of have to make it up as we go along and we can probably think of some examples of times when we feel like maybe we weren’t loved properly. Perhaps our parents loved us, but they were highly judgmental of us. Or perhaps we had a romantic partner who loved us, but was controlling.

We need to be careful about love, because love done improperly can be harmful and a source of pain. This is where RECK comes in. RECK stands for respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. It can be helpful to roll those four values over in your mind while you are thinking about how you want to treat the people you love.

Personally, I believe that we should treat all people with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. And I believe most strongly that we should treat the people we love this way. This way, we will love them in a way that is tender and caring. We will love them in a way that heals and does not harm.

If you resolved to treat your family – the people you love the most – with RECK, then even when you come home on your very worst day in the grumpiest of moods, you will still be respectful, empathetic, compassionate, and kind towards them. You will still seek first to be gentle, because kindness and compassion call us to be gentle. You will not yell, or bark, or snap, you will give hugs and support.

The beauty of RECK is that it doesn’t simply say “love one another,” it tells us how to love one another. First, be respectful – don’t trample all over people’s feelings and concerns, have respect for them. Next, be empathetic – treat the people you love the way you sense they need to be treated, try to get an idea of what is going on with them. Then, have compassion – maybe the people you love had hard days too, maybe they need some tenderness and affection. Finally, and at all times, be kind – it can be challenging to be kind when we are in a bad mood, but it is possible – we need to learn to control our emotions instead of letting our emotions control us.

This is RECK. This is what it’s all about. Keep those four values at the front of your mind and I promise you that they will not let you down. They will help you build a better life – both for yourself and for the people you love.

With love,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion