“Love is what transforms our work from endless to-do lists to passionate engagement; from the civil requirements of tolerance to overflowing love and empathy.”
What does love have to do with network leadership and the collective work of networks? In short, everything!
This is a powerful question to consider as a community or network leader seeking change and transformation because love is at the heart of any great change or transformation.
Love Is What Transforms Us and Our Work
In Ephesians 4:15-16, the Apostle Paul describes the church as His body with Christ as the head, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, growing and built up in love, as each part does its work. In similar fashion, our communities, networks, and partnerships grow and are built up in love. It is the essential ingredient for growth and impact.
Love is what transforms our work from endless to-do lists to passionate engagement; from the civil requirements of tolerance to overflowing love and empathy. It is the foundation for a trust in one another that lets us try something new, the basis for restored relationships, the joyous freedom of reconciliation, and the source of our courage to collectively envision with God a radically different world.
Restored Relationships: the Heart of Effective Partnerships
View this three minute video from the Partnership Essentials Series by Phill Butler.
In I Cor 13: 1- 4, the Apostle Paul boldy challenges us to ensure love is at the center of our faith and relationships. Without it, all our efforts come to nothing.
“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Reread this list and reflect on your network. How evident is the power and spirit of love? Does it animate and fuel the work of your network? Or, is love and hope in decline and in need of restoration?
The Power of Love and “Network Effects”
Network scientists would agree on the power of love to change and transform the toughest communities and challenges. See, for example, the work of Christakis and Fowler, network scientists who have been looking at how “network effects” can amplify positive emotions and actions. Here’s what they say in a more scientific way:
“Cooperative and pro-social behaviors and emotions cascade in human social networks.”
In other words, love has an amplifying cascade effect within a network and the community it seeks to reach — helping to empower, heal, and generate new possibilities. In networks, love in the essential ingredient that can transform and unleash every relationship, resource, talent and vision.
“The same could be said, of course, of negative emotions and activity. Fear begets fear and shrinks who we are and possibility. Love begets love, and expands who we are and possibility, and it can seemingly work magic through the vast and often invisible or unacknowledged connections and flows of which we are a part.”
Love casts out fear. Love begets love. We love because God first loved us. It is what empowers us to bless, care, love, and serve others as we have been loved. And, as we are transformed by its power, it flows out from us in a thousand visible and invisible actions, exchanges, gestures, and kindnesses that transform our network and our view of what is possible.
What Love Looks Like in a Network
Curtis Ogden, a consultant working with educational and social networks collected a list of network practices that communicate love in a network context.
- Building trust with one another through informal conversation/breaking bread
- Sharing our truths and stories with one another
- Connecting more holistically through mind/heart/spirit
- Cultivating a shared sense of purpose
- Honoring difference and the complexity of ourselves and one another
- Developing collective courage to challenge entrenched power and behaviors
- Staying curious about what different people need and what they have to offer
- Displaying an ongoing ethic of welcome, hosting and care to all
- Cultivating creativity and vulnerability – singing and dancing, improv(ising)
- Working/talking/meeting equitably outside of cultural comfort zones
- Leaning into deep mutual learning, saying “I don’t know,” and staying open to change
- Celebrating/appreciating one another and one another’s successes
To this list, we would add the power of community prayer, the joy of worship, the confession of sins that have become barriers to collaboration, and the blessing of grace and forgiveness.
There is little in this world more irresistible and powerful than a loving, unified community in action. If you want a network that that changes lives, it has to start with our love for God and our love for one another. Only then can the fruits of that love flow outside into the world.
Note: This blogpost drew heavily from Curtis Ogden’s April 23, 2019 blogpost “What’s Love Got to do with it” at the Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC) website.
- Review the list from I Corinthians. How are you showing love as a network leader?
- How is your network reflecting and giving love to one another and those outside your network? Can you think of examples and stories of love in action? Of situations where love was missing?
- What impact would it have on a network to collaborate with the kind of generous and responsive love described by the Apostle Paul?
- Curtis Ogden. What’s Love Got to Do with it? IISC Blog. April 23, 2019.