Decide to Love
Decide to Love
One of the greatest pearls of advice my mom ever gave me was that love is often a decision, not a feeling. Throughout my career, as well as in my everyday life, I have often thought about this wisdom. I have thought about it even more in the last two years as many of us have dealt with trials and tribulations that may have taken the love from areas where it is normally vibrant.
I see the “feeling” of doing replaced by the “decision” of doing most with the young people I am fortunate enough to lead and be led by. They have had so much taken from them and have so often had to adapt to stay the course. To say our young people are resilient is a tragic understatement. They have adjusted, made tough decisions and continued to give certainty that our university is in the business of growing world-changers. They are magic.
I find myself referring to my mom’s wisdom and trying to make sure my decisions are led by love, even when the feeling is absent. I think we all can resonate with that pursuit. As staff and faculty, it is our task to find ways to lead through chaos and show love in our decision making, even if it is not something we feel in the moment.
Here are a few ways that I/we can challenge ourselves to decide to love:
- Validate our young people’s feelings and encourage them to validate their own. They do enough invalidating of their own feelings daily. They need people in their life that care about what they are feeling, regardless whether you understand or not. Mental health is vital and assisting our young people in seeking help and confirming their emotions is essential. Just because their classmate, roommate, teammate or family member does not feel the way they do does not mean their feelings are less real.
One of my student-athletes was struggling last week and said, “I don’t know why I’m so emotional, it’s stupid that I’m crying over this.” These types of interactions happen all too often, and my response is always something like “don’t minimize your emotions. If you are feeling this way, it is okay and it is valid. Let’s work through it together.”
- Help our young people navigate the difficulties in decision making and the identification of the “why’s” behind their decisions. Sometimes the hardest decision is the right decision, but when times are tough, the hardest decisions can seem wrong merely because of the difficulty. This is where we can help them understand that deciding to do something is often more important than wanting or feeling like doing something.
- Create and nurture an environment of safety and inclusion. I would argue this is one of our most important jobs. Everybody deserves to have a safe space to feel heard and to be loved. We can do a better job of this on our campus. It is all our jobs. It is simple, God calls us to love. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. One thing I know about FPU is that good people, doing magnificent work, reside here. Every student that comes here will have multiple staff and faculty invest in them. I do not believe students go unseen but that is not enough. We must love those that need our love.
A student-athlete of mine told me last fall, “I don’t feel like I can authentically be myself anywhere but here with our team.” I have thought about this a lot since, and I have never been prouder of our program and the kind of people we have creating in that safe and loving space. I will continue striving to build that environment.
- Decide to invest in and encourage the dreams of our young people. The self-actualization phase of life as a college student can be a wild ride. Finding and pursuing your passion is difficult in the easiest of times. We must continue to encourage, ignite and fight for dreams to be identified, pursued and realized. The dream chasers we get the chance to affect now will make the world a better place for generations to come. We must make decisions based upon love so we do not give a lesser version of ourselves in the pursuit of helping young people find the passion that sets their soul on fire. The true art of leadership is serving that which is being created knowing that the outcome of this service is much greater than oneself. If you are doing God’s work, it will always be bigger than you. It is not just about your dream; it is about the dreams you ignite along the way.
Two of my student-athletes who graduated two years ago called to tell me they got full-time teaching jobs this last summer. Getting those types of calls to share their excitement and the realization of their dreams keeps me ignited to support my current students dream chase. The work we do matters.
I encourage all staff and faculty to spend time in prayer, meditation or however you recharge. Take stock of where you are, and what the pandemic has changed in you. Center yourself on God’s will in your life. We might all have different pursuits, but the wonderful thing is we all have one in common—empowering our youth. I am challenging myself to approach this semester with an ignited passion for the work I am blessed to be a part of. Let us be ignited with enthusiasm and love as we serve that which is being created.