Darren Pierre’s new The Invitation to Love: Recognizing the Gift Despite Pain, Fear, and Resistance is a surprising book offering gentle and heartfelt ways to look at some of the most difficult aspects of being human—our relationships with others and our relationship with ourselves.
While Pierre is himself a gay, black man with a Ph.D., his words will speak to every reader, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, education, class, religion, or any of the other designations we tend to use to separate us. At the end of the day, we are all human, and to be human means to be imperfect. Pierre’s book meets us at that point of imperfection and guides us in how to move beyond it so we can communicate effectively with one another.
Throughout The Invitation to Love, Pierre draws upon his own relationship issues such as his formerly estranged father, his failed romantic relationships, and his friendships as examples of how we all have moments when we are thoughtless toward others, we tend to be angry and overreact, we hold grudges, and we are judgmental; and also, how we all experience these negative forms of behavior from others. He offers insight into all of these situations, and while sometimes the insights are really just common sense, we all need to remember our common sense when we get riled up or hurt by another. Other times, the insights truly make us step into the other person’s shoes and understand why he is behaving the way he is. One of my favorite points that Pierre makes is that no one can treat us like garbage unless that person has already been treated that way first.
Perhaps forgiveness is the most powerful and healing message in these pages, but I also really appreciated how Pierre asks us to take responsibility for ourselves. He talks about the false stories we tell ourselves, placing blame on others for our situations. For example, “And then here is where the story begins: You start to say, ‘If only my parents had not divorced, I could be happy, or I would have finished school, or I would be on a more lucrative career path.’” Pierre makes us realize we can’t let the past control our present or stop us from making a better future.
Nor can we surrender our power to others. We often hold grudges, but in doing so, we allow someone else to have power and control over us. “The pathway to forgiveness invites a healing of the soul. In other words, forgiveness results when we come to understand that power should never involuntarily be given to another.” Pierre illustrates this point with personal examples of how he gave his power over to his father and various other people throughout his life.
We all want to be loved, but all our relationships have the potential to be marred by a fear of rejection, a fear of not being loved. When people fear rejection, they treat us poorly. We then retaliate, and before we know it, we are not showing love to those we truly do love. Says Pierre, “The truth I have begun to understand is that consistent behavior supports the dissolution of fear. In other words, our consistent practice of expressing love effectively serves as the best conduit to release the fear of love within another.”
We need to be consistent in how we love, while understanding how people struggle with loving themselves, which makes it difficult for them to love us. It all comes down to what Pierre calls the “Fab Five” of relationships: a person’s relationship with him- or herself, a person’s relationship with his or her parents, a person’s relationship with money, a person’s relationship with his or her home, and a person’s relationship with food. Understanding those relationships and seeing how people treat themselves within those relationships will teach us what to be prepared for when we enter into a relationship with them. “In a world riddled with fear and insecurity, people can only celebrate others up to the point that they can celebrate themselves.”
The Invitation to Love is an invitation to us to learn to love ourselves, which in turn leads to our ability to love others and receive their love free from fear. While no book can solve all the world’s problems or heal all relationships, in difficult times, we can turn to An Invitation to Love and find that Pierre’s reassuring voice will remind us to pause in the midst of our emotional anxiety and chaos, see things from a different perspective, and discover the true meaning of love and its application. This is a book to read more than once, a book to turn to when we need a reminder of how to treat others, a book to set on the shelf next to works by Marianne Williamson and A Course in Miracles. A book to apply to our lives so we will see small miracles begin to transform our relationships and ourselves.
For more information about Darren Pierre and The Invitation to Love, visit the author’s website.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1940984866]