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Agape: Love that Transforms, Heals Divides | 2024 Word of the Year

Updated: Mar 13

The guiding word of the year that I have chosen is 'Agape.' This ancient Greek term, rich in history and depth (defined in this audio excerpt by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), reflects my personal ethos and, in many ways, holds the potential to heal and renew our fragmented society and civic culture.

Today, the pulse of our communities is waning. Too many are battered by the relentless stress of modern life, weakened by frayed social ties, and burdened by uncertainty and hardship. A pervasive loss of hope shadows our collective spirit. In such times, Agape can emerges as a light on the path of renewal and resilience.

Agape is more than just a sentiment; it is an active, selfless love that empowers us to 'love our neighbour'; seek the common good; extend compassion even to those we struggle to like.

It's a love that transcends personal preferences and biases, reaching out to embrace everyone in its fold, including our adversaries. Martin Luther King Jr. articulated this beautifully:

When we rise to love on the agape level, we rise to the position of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does.

This kind of love is transformative. It's what enables us to love our enemies and seek their well-being. It's the foundation of resilience, allowing us to persevere through trials and tribulations, fostering forgiveness and healing.

But how do we cultivate such a heart? How do we renew our spirit to embody Agapeic love?

The journey begins within, through introspection and mindful practice. It's about consciously choosing empathy over apathy, understanding over judgment, and service over self-interest. It's about nurturing our capacity to love unconditionally, to serve without expectation, and to find joy in the well-being of others.

In interactions, it helps to ask ourselves three questions to both advance and reflect Agapeic love:

1. How can I understand and empathize with this person's perspective?

2. What can I do in this moment to serve or uplift this person?

3. How can this interaction promote healing and forgiveness?

Servant leadership is inherently tied to Agape. It involves leading with a heart that seeks to serve first, prioritizing the well-being of others, and guiding actions and policies with compassion and empathy. This approach to leadership is transformative, promoting unity and understanding in our communities and beyond.

It is also vital to recognize that Agape is not a license for passivity in the face of harm. Erecting boundaries against those who intend to do us, our families, or our communities harm is not only prudent but necessary. Agapeic love involves protecting and preserving the well-being of ourselves and others, even as we refrain from hatred and maintain a spirit of compassion.

We've tried numerous approaches to address the challenges of our modern cities – technological advancements, policy reforms, economic incentives. While these are all important pieces of the puzzle, the fundamental issue persists: a crisis of the human heart.

Agape offers a path forward. By rebuilding people, we can rebuild cities. It's about rekindling the spirit of community, fostering connections, and nurturing a culture of compassion and empathy.

In 2024, I invite you to join in embracing Agape as a profound, guiding principle that overcomes societal divisions, inspiring empathetic and equitable action in both personal and political contexts. If you are interested, join me on this journey here.

Agape can guide our interactions, decisions, and our collective journey towards a more unified, compassionate society, led by the principles of servant leadership.

What will your guiding word be for 2024? Consider choosing one that not only fosters personal growth but also contributes to healing and strengthening our communities.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

~ Diane Kalen-Sukra


Recommended Reading: Strength to Love by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Explore Dr. Martin Luther King's always relevant wisdom in this comprehensive, must-read narrative addressing civil rights and social justice.

Strength to Love is more than a blueprint, it is a template for personal authenticity in a time when social and economic change depend on personal integrity.

The insight, luminously conveyed in this classic text hints at a personal transformation at the root of social transformation. Dr. King states, "By reaching into and beyond ourselves and tapping the transcendent moral ethic of love, we shall overcome these evils."

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