Tough Love

Here’s a little Valentine’s essay for all the caring change-makers out there, especially those whose efforts are ignored or misunderstood. ~ Al

Marrying love with justice isn’t for the faint of heart.

It takes an open heart to fall in love with the mystery and brokenness of your challenges and to make, as the author Anne Michaels suggests, “beauty necessary and a necessity out of beauty,” especially amidst ugliness, pain and desecration.

It takes a brave heart to pursue the boldest rendition of the world you want even though you are unsure how to get there and to maintain your humanity while joining with those who have been denied theirs.

It takes a clear heart to have faith in the caring values of others, regardless of their political position; to listen with understanding rather than judgment and to recognize your own behaviour in the behaviour of others, particularly those that you disagree with.

It takes a whole heart to convert your anger, fear and despair into loving actions and to sit down with those you believe are responsible for the messes, violations and abuses.

Revealing what’s in your heart – its aches, imagination and bewilderment – creates vulnerability.  Doing so risks rejection from some in your tribe, perhaps even from those closest to you. You may be mocked for your naiveté or your softness. Or accused of disloyalty because you want to make the world whole.

Pursuing peace, justice and equity doesn’t have to be a call to arms or a war manoeuvre. You don’t have to fight for those values. You can be loving instead. Advocacy goes better with love. So does resistance, persistence and tenacity.


All of us are better when we’re loved. (Alistair MacLeod)

Musical accompaniment this post, Wild Heart by Desirée Dawson.

Re-posted by permission from Image here and home page Le Yeti

About the Lead Author

Al Etmanski
Al Etmanski
Al Etmanski is a community organizer, social entrepreneur and author. ( (@aletmanski ) His latest books are Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation and The Power of Disability: 10 Lessons for Surviving, Thriving and Changing the World. He is a faculty member of the Asset Based Community Development Institute (ABCD), an Ashoka fellow, senior fellow Social Innovation Generation and Co-Chair of BC Partners for Social Impact. Al is co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN), a family run social enterprise assisting families address the financial and social well-being of their relative with a disability, particularly after their parents die. He proposed and led the successful campaign to establish the world’s first savings plan for people with disabilities, the Registered Disability Savings Plan. John McKnight endorsed Al's book Impact by saying: Impact is a chronicle of the wisdom Etmanski has gained in exploring the keys to long-term social change. His findings lead us out of the past and onto a pathway for progress in the 21st century. Once describing Al as an Abundant Community Pioneer, Peter Block wrote: Al Etmanski is one of North America's best social inventors. He has looked beyond traditional institituions and their failures to create new means of achieving a better life. His analysis of the forms of organization that enable local communities while avoiding rigid hierarchies is groundbreaking. His book A Good Life is a wonderful and practical guide to the potential for neighbors to grow strong through the power of hospitality. Michael J. Fox said of Al's latest book, The Power of Disability: This book reminds us of what we have in common: the power to create a good life for ourselves and for others, no matter what the world has in store for us.

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