“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Friday, 14 February 2014

In the Spirit of Love

Brian Cavanaugh's Ten Commandments for Human Relations really sum up what it means to live your life in the spirit of love; whether the people concerned are your family, your friends, your church / chapel community, your work colleagues, or just people you meet in the street or the shop:

1. Speak to people. There is nothing as nice as a cheerful word of greeting.
2. Smile at people. It takes 72 muscles to frown, only four to smile.
3. Call people by name. The sweetest music to anyone's ear is the sound of their own name.
4. Be friendly and helpful. If you would have friends, be friendly.
5. Be genuinely interested in people. You can like almost everybody if you try. 
6. Be generous with praise, cautious with criticism.
7. Be considerate with feelings of others. There are usually three sides to a controversy: yours, the other person's, and the right one.
8. Be alert to give service. What counts most in life is what we do for others.
9. Learn to trust people, for trust builds lasting relationships.
10. Add to this a good sense of humour, a big dose of patience, and a dash of humility, and you will be rewarded many fold.

My favourite is number 5: “Be genuinely interested in people – you can like almost everybody if you try.” And yet it is probably one of the hardest things to do. We are all individuals, with different personalities and quirks, and will naturally be drawn to those people with whom we have something in common, or with whom we can empathise. Liking almost everybody is quite a tall order. I suppose it’s another way of saying that we should recognise that of God in everyone.

The other hard thing about living your life in a spirit of love, is that it has to be unconditional. You can never say “I’ll love you if …”  Instead, you have to say “I love you in spite of …” Joyce Grenfell coined the phrase “loving in spite of human imperfection”, and I think that that is the best kind. But it’s not easy. 

The parable of the prodigal son is a salutary one here. We all know the story; the youngest son demands his half of his inheritance, goes off and squanders it on wine, women and song, and is reduced to herding pigs, who are better fed than his father’s servants. He realises the error of his ways, and goes back home, with the idea of asking his father if he could be a servant in the house. But when he gets there, his father is overjoyed; he dresses him in a fine robe, puts a ring on his finger, and kills the fatted calf in rejoicing. As it says in the Gospel of Luke: “While he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” That is loving in spite of human imperfection. That is living your life in the spirit of love.

Happy Valentine's Day! 


  1. I have truly enjoyed reading your blog. Like Unitarians we Quakers also struggle to find the right words when asked what do you believe?

    In some ways it's a little bit easier for Quakers because we can simply say we believe in God who lives and speaks in the hearts of all people. Which is the basis of Quaker worship. "Listening to God" Knowing that there are some Quakers who find the word God problematic. But overall God continues to be a household word in the Religious Society Friends.

    These words, we believe in God are such powerful symbols. I wonder how effects outreach?

    You can talk about values or liberty of conscience in faith. But when God is put into the equation there's a different expression on the faces of many new seekers. Being non creedal its a God without any particular definition. It's an ultimate reality becomes the apex of a faith community.

  2. Thank you Paul - I agree. I (as you know) am a Quakerly-inclined Unitarian, so have no problem with the word God. My understanding of Him/Her is fairly close to the Quaker one - I definitely believe in there being that of God in everyone, and that each one of us is unique, precious, a child of God. But I know that I cannot speak for my fellow Unitarians. Which is both a joy and a problem!