From gangs to glory: special interview with Father Gregory Boyle, founder of homeboy industries

It was my privilege to have on Love University Podcast the esteemed Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest and founder of Homeboy Industries. Father Boyle has dedicated his life to providing former gang members with the opportunity to transform their lives and give back to the community.  Here are some of the profound nuggets of wisdom he offered Love University Listeners:

*We Need to Create a Community of Tenderness:  This is the highest form of spiritual maturity. When we are tender and kind—even to those who are hurtful—we elevate love from an idea stuck in our heads to a “connective tissue”—a part of our everyday DNA. When do this, we no longer separate the world into “us and “them”—we enter a zone of Exquisite Mutuality, where we inhabit our own nobility and goodness, and encourage others to do the same.  Now we see others as part of us, and us as part of them.  We are one, and that one is only love.

*Higher Love Can Dismantle the Messages of Shame and Disgrace. When we do something wrong or self-harming such as addictions, bad habits, or self-destructive behaviors, we feel shame and disgrace. That shame and disgrace further weakens us and makes us want to repeat the same negative behavior because we don’t think we can do any better (or deserve any better).  Higher Love (from God or nature) is what forgives our mistakes and allows us to forgive ourselves with self-compassion. The more self-compassionate we are, the less likely we are to repeat the same self-defeating actions.

*Catch People (and Yourself) Doing the Right Thing:  Often, we are quick to judge and condemn others (and ourselves) for making a mistake. Although we can learn from mistakes, it is often far better to catch people and ourselves doing the right thing. Praise others and yourself when acting rightly (speaking up against injustice; expressing honesty; saying “No” to a bully). The bottom line: We all want to be loved and appreciated. When we reinforce the good in others (and ourselves), we find the noble divinity within, and this goodness grows and blossoms.

*Narrow Your Focus on Love: It is said that narrow is the road that leads to “life” (peace and love). However, instead of focusing on the narrow (how hard it is to be a highly spiritual person), we need to narrow the focus: Concentrate on loving “being loving.”  Many people impatiently wait on outcomes and success, and they become frustrated and disappointed when they don’t get that financial goal (or win that person’s heart). Instead, our focus needs to be on being loving—extending loving energy without expectation. That by itself is enough to bring us peace and joy and attract all the good things we truly need.

It’s true: Higher Love can turn woundedness into health, deformity into beauty, and embarrassment into laugher. In the end, this love can help us belong to each other on the Earth an

d create a spiritual kinship with our fellow human travelers in life—elevating us and leaving the world a little better than when we entered it.

For more on the wisdom and compassion of Father Boyle, listen to Love University’s Podcast, FROM GANGS TO GLORY: SPECIAL INTERVIEW WITH FATHER GREGORY BOYLE, FOUNDER OF HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES