Many Santa Barbara Independent readers have sent comments and questions in response to my columns, so today I am answering a few. Regarding Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled, Monica writes:
Among your many warm and deeply insightful thoughts, I especially like “we grow stronger in love together.” I find connecting with others always brings more love in my life — which means, more to share.—Monica
The words you highlight are vital for not only couples and families but also for whole communities, nations, and the planet. In fact, mounting evidence shows that love is critical to our overall health and longevity.
Dean Ornish, a physician known for his work in reversing heart disease, acknowledges love as a medicine. He says, “I am aware of no other factors in medicine — not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not even surgery — that has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidences of illness, and premature death from all causes” than the power of love!
When we love and feel loved, we trust life more, we feel valued, blessed, and full of worth, and we experience that sense of unity and connectedness to others that even in the midst of hard and trying times helps us find hope. Psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger also writes, “Love cures — both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.” When we reach out to love others, even when we do not feel like it, those positive endorphins are released that speed up healing. We are literally stronger when we love!
Relationships Matter was a very thought-provoking article. My question is … how does one love a family member, who is toxic?— MS
That, in today’s economy, is the one-million-dollar question! How do we love friends, spouses, siblings, parents, other family members, neighbors, or coworkers who wound us? How do we handle poisonous people? It’s funny, if I asked you how you would handle a poisonous snake, most of us would not hesitate to say, “Don’t go near it!”
But sometimes we cannot avoid contact with the people in our world who are toxic. Therefore, we must learn to handle toxic people with caution, consciousness, and care! When we know someone who deliberately or carelessly hurts us, we must follow the label for all unavoidable poisons — use with caution! We must consciously guard our hearts and minds by remembering that we are loved, even if the toxic person does not love us nor anyone else, including themselves.
When our hearts are being wounded with words, attitudes, or even looks, we must be careful not to allow venom to shatter our sense of self-worth and value. On the other hand, we must handle toxic people with generosity, too, not allowing their toxins to define them nor to veil the valued dimensions of their beings. Many toxic people actually feel unloved by everyone, even themselves.
We must handle all people with awe and individuality because we are all unique and special, made in the image of Love, and divinely loved and appreciated. Therefore, with generosity and love, carefully, cautiously, and consciously be in the presence of toxic people. However, if a person is life-threatening and dangerous — run! And never look back!
Akivah Northern is a certified Family Wellness Trainer and holds a Master in Divinity from Yale. Her biweekly column explores the deeper heart in all its dimensions. She welcomes heartfelt questions from readers of all ages at firstname.lastname@example.org.