This feels like the Universe’s big exam before many of us graduate to the next level of awareness.  

We’re worn down, antsy, more than a bit depressed by the COVID containment. The majority of us didn’t vote for Trump the first time, are horrified by his presidency, and look anxiously at the upcoming election.  

He behaves despicably, as do many of his followers, and the possibility of four more years of having our values trampled upon is totally disheartening.  

Some of us can’t breathe because of the smoke in the air. Others are without electricity because of the storm. What’s happening to our planet? 

Then, a champion, the protective lioness, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dies. Before we’ve had the chance to digest the news, the Republican head of the Senate announces he’ll ensure that Trump’s nominee to fill the seat is voted on before the end of his term. 

“Wait. Wait!” we think. “That’s hypocrisy. That’s not what you did when Obama was president.” He doesn’t care. Neither do the needed majority of Republican senators. “My party, right or wrong, my party.” 

We prepare ourselves, to the best of our ability, for the emotional roller coaster of the confirmation hearings, and of the election, the latter of which might drag on for days, weeks, and maybe months. Every email asks us for money.  

We walk and drive-by Trump flags, signs, hats and masks. We want to scream, “Are you insane?”  

So, what do we do? How do we respond to the challenges that keep coming up, one after another, during this most difficult time? What’s the correct answer to the examination?  

“Love, and do what you will,” St. Augustine. 

What does that mean? I think it means, if you love the Universe/God/the Creator with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind, and if you love your neighbor as you love yourself, your thoughts, words and deeds will follow accordingly. 

“Love and do as you will” is a kick-ass imperative. I’ve asked for guidance from God my whole life, and I was, and am, a powerful human and spiritual warrior who, as a young man, took on the Catholic Church, went on a hunger strike, guided the Mayor of Boston, created the initial Massachusetts response to AIDS, and helped transform the workplace globally. Don’t imagine that love makes us soft. 

Love is an action verb. It allows for many possibilities, as long as the sincere intent is love. I choose to love with social action toward equality. I walked picket lines, participated in sit-ins, marched on Washington, wrote editorials for magazines and newspapers, put out a gay newspaper, wrote letters to the editor, hosted fundraisers, provided secret refuge for the victimized, hosted dinner for people with AIDS when no one would touch them, and counseled closeted bishops and politicians.  

I have never not voted. I have never not spoken up. Love wouldn’t allow it. 

Why resort to violence when love always wins? Always. Love is ending the “isms” that make us separate. It ends wars. It is much harder to bring love to a political rally than it is a loaded gun, but it’s a much more powerful weapon. 

Was Gandhi powerful? Successful? What about Nelson Mandela? Rosa Parks?  

We, who choose to love, may lose battles, but never the war. Maybe we don’t see monumental success in our lifetimes, but we have helped build and fortify an army of lovers who will continue to hunger and thirst for the sake of justice, for freedom, for peace. 

Choosing to do battle with ignorance, hatred, envy, fear, and greed calls for constant vigilance. We daily look for opportunities to make a difference. We step forward. Get involved.  

Am I frightened? You bet I am. I’m scared, doubtful, angry, hurt, confused, and distracted. I think about running away, leaving the mess, isolating. But, my mind and heart are not newcomers to battle. I allow myself to be human. And, then, I am reminded by every fiber in my being that I am simply an instrument of God, and God is love.  

See the big picture. These dramas are short scenes in the full story that is long from being over. We have roles to play. We’re not actors but acters.  

So act, sticking to the script to love.

Brian McNaught has been a leading educator on LGBTQ issues globally since 1974. He has made his many books and DVDs available for free at The New York Times named him “The Godfather of gay diversity training."