If only the “soft” stuff wasn’t so hard. Or do we just make it that way? So many times, in organizations, I think the hardest elements of leadership have been relegated to the “soft” category in an unintended (and sometimes intended) degradation of the most important. The most misunderstood. Likely, the least experienced.

But it’s not just in leadership. It’s in management, it’s with team players, it’s with vendors and competitors. It’s with friendship. It’s with family – and, of course, it is especially with those we might consider to be an “enemy.” Sometimes “the soft” can feel so unnatural because we’ve let the things, we consider to be the “hard” things, harden us to the really “soft” things.

Love, itself, may be the perfect example. Actually, it isn’t hard to love. We are wired for love. It is actually hard work to hate … yet, like gossip, it can feel so good and justified until it doesn’t. Like me, I trust you understand what I mean by this – through personal experience!

Hate is not the opposite of love. It is the absence of it.

Most often, hate doesn’t show-up like a vile, nasty, oozing wound. Although it certainly can. And at times can manifest itself that way in horrific situations. Yet, it never starts there – rather it’s a subtle suction … of incremental proportions.

This absence of love can’t be conceived in terms of volume, but more in terms of the force of suction the void of a black hole creates. Like a vacuum, hate sucks life. Wherever there is a lack of accountability to love, there is fertile ground for the void to take hold. The good news is that the goal isn’t to stop hating.

It is to start loving.

When I have coached top executives that struggle with filler words in their presentations (the ums and ahs … and the more subtle fillers like “right?” and “ok”), I tell them they will never get rid of their filler words by trying to stop using them. The reason communicators use filler words is because they don’t appreciate the gift of silence … the pause between the words. I simply say: Fall in love with silence … the pause … and you will eliminate your filler words almost overnight.

Hate, animosity, contention, hostility, and judgment are all like filler words. Yet, worse. Because in their voidness, they don’t fill anything. They don’t lead to distraction – they lead to destruction … initially in subtle ways and then eventually in ways not so subtle.

Yet, like filler words, the void of love creeps in. The key isn’t getting rid of hate – yet rather, falling in love with love. The problem starts when I lose sight of my accountability to love. Instead of asking how I can be less judgmental, less opinionated, or less of anything else for that matter … perhaps I would be better served by asking: How can I be more loving?

Love pours forth. Love gives life.

In my work in helping individuals rediscover integrity, I find one of the blinding distractions is the ongoing focus on making integrity about good behaviors. No doubt, good behavior is a wonderful lagging indicator of integrity – but it is not integrity. In fact, good behaviors can be about so many other things other than integrity. Often, good behaviors can have more to do with how I’m seen or what people think of me – or my compliant response.

Beyond saying that integrity is not about good behaviors … I’ve pushed further by saying that integrity is not even a core value.

Integrity is the fabric of every core value.

A couple years ago, Alec (a very wise twenty-something) was participating in one of my Circles of Integrity. We were all having this discussion of integrity not being a core value. He raised his hand and said: You know how you say that integrity is the fabric of every value. I like that. Now, I’m starting to wonder if love is the fabric of integrity.

It is a statement worth pondering for a good long while.

If gratitude is seen as the fabric of Thanksgiving … maybe love could best be seen as the fabric of Christmas. So often you will hear the mantra: Keep Christ in Christmas. It’s the perfect mantra for me to lovingly consider in front of my own mirror and not to launch at someone else. What I may need to further consider is how I put more love into my everyday life. For when I genuinely begin to make myself more accountable to love, then I have no doubt, that Christmas will be just fine … and so will most of the other challenges we face in leadership, in management, with team players, with vendors and competitors. And yes … with friends and family. Who knows, if I lean into love long enough and deep enough, there just might not be an enemy to be found.

Oh, if only the “soft stuff” wasn’t so hard. But then again, it’s only the soft stuff!. As always, I would love for you to share your thoughts below.

Wishing you much love, and the happiest of Holidays!