Tough Love

“What if love is the mightiest word?”

Praise Song for the Day by Elizabeth Alexander

(A poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration)

(Watch Elizabeth Alexander Video here)

Love. A word so frequently and casually tossed around, it is in danger of losing its meaning.

In her book, Becoming Wise, Krista Tippet refers to love as something muscular. What if, as Elizabeth Alexander wonders in her poem, love is the mightiest word? And what would it mean if it is not only the mightiest word, but is also muscular and robust, tenacious and tough? It would mean that love isn’t just something we experience, but something we actively do. Something we work at, and like our muscles, the more we love, the stronger our love becomes.

For muscles to be strong and healthy we have to actively work them on a regular basis. We stretch them so that they remain supple and resilient. We strengthen them, adding more repetitions, weight, and resistance. We increase stamina by working them for longer periods of time, and at higher levels of intensity.

What if we approached love like that?

When we only love in ways that are easy and familiar, love that could be supple and resilient grows tight and constricted.

When we only hold affection for those who are easy to love, and for those who are like us, love that could be sturdy becomes soft.

When we only love when it doesn’t push us, love that could persevere over the long haul runs out of breath.

What if love is the mightiest word?

What would that mean for me? For you? For all of us?