The Hard Work of Love

There’s this electronic sign that belongs to the church on 18th and Colorado here in Denver. I look at it every day because I drive right by it to get into my neighborhood. While some churches are known for the cheesy puns on their signs, this one features some pretty incredible sayings. There’s one in particular that shows up every so often that has resonated with me over the last few months. It says, “May we do the hard work of love.”

May we do the hard work of love.

The phrases “we should love one another” or “love cures all” or a thousand other love phrases are thrown around all the time. It seems like there is this feeling that if we “love,” everything will be okay.

But as we enter 2022, I think we can all agree that simply saying “we should love one another” isn’t going to solve the myriad issues and collective anger we’re facing.

People are mad these days. Their fuses are very short, and incivility—even violent incivility in some cases—is high. As reported by the New York Times in their recent article “A Nation on Hold Wants to Speak With a Manager,” people are having temper tantrums because stores don’t have the expensive imported cheese they want. People feel “nearly homicidal rage at the credit card company representative who has just informed you that, having failed to correctly answer the security questions, you have been locked out of your own account.” One of the article’s interviewees said, “It’s like, instead of saying, ‘This really inconvenienced me,’ they say, ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ It’s a different scale of mean.”

I’m recognizing this change in myself. I’m feeling anger when I go to the store and face the ever-changing rules for when and how I can enter. I struggle more than before to moderate my response to some unexpected inconvenience or other. And I feel frustration over the collective anxiety I witness every day.

The data is backing this up as well. According to the article, in a study of 1,000 American adults, only 39% of respondents believes America’s tone is civil. Interestingly, those people whose jobs require them to be around the public and customers were overall much less happy than those people who don’t have to regularly interact directly with consumers.

People are mad, sad, and don’t feel much hope.

Most people reading this are in the tech world. You’re building products, services, and culture(s) that have or will have drastic impacts on the lives of others.

It’s an incredible opportunity.

One that’s reinforced when we look at the influence of many of our tech leaders today who are building products, services, and cultures we all use. Yet, if you stop and think about today’s leaders, what are the first thoughts about them that come to mind?

Typically, it’s something along the lines of their ability to scale, grow, and build.

They’re known for what they produce. We celebrate them tremendously for that. In many cases, they should be celebrated tremendously for that.

But if you ask people how much they believe our leaders in tech actually are creating a better world, you’ll probably get a bunch of eye rolls. Watch the Netflix film Don’t Look Up or this Silicon Valley montage to see pop culture poke fun at whether people really believe our tech leaders are making the world a better place.

Put all these things together and it seems like this could reveal the real opportunity before us as we enter 2022—

To do something different than just scale, grow, and build.

That opportunity comes down to doing the hard work of love.

And to do that, I believe two things need to happen.

First, we need to define what we mean by “love.”

At GAN, this means building a more “Whole Economy.” An economy in which our systems are responsive to the needs, potential, and dignity of all people.

Practically, that means:

  • Building rapport and connection among our team
  • Coming alongside our clients, both personally and professionally, when they need us most
  • Showing up for our local community and whatever needs they have
  • Forgoing some profits to ensure that our team is healthy
  • Taking the time to understand the potentially negative secondary effects of our products and company culture
  • Creating products that build human connection and flourishing

And secondly, we need to realize that loving will be hard.

The GAN team came up with a manifesto for working together, because we know that as we “love” one another, it’s not always easy. If you think about any marriage or partnership, there will inevitably be conflict. But our manifesto helps us a) realize that this work will be hard and b) establish the ways in which we can work through those difficult situations.

Doing the hard work of love may not solve all the anger or problems in the world, but at least we, as leaders in tech, can start being known much more for our love, even more than for the products we’re putting out to the world.

This is the real way for leaving the legacy we’re hoping for—love that isn’t just a pithy saying. But rather, real love that is messy, difficult, time-consuming, costly, and, in the long run, what the world needs right now.

In 2022, may we do the hard work of love.

Happy New Year.