Author and Facebook sensation Scott Stabile’s parents were murdered when he was fourteen. Nine years later, his brother died of a heroin overdose. Soon after that, Scott joined a cult that dominated his life for thirteen years. Through it all, he became evermore committed to living his life from love. In this interview, Scott answers questions about his new book, Big Love: The Power of Living with a Wide-Open Heart.
In each chapter of his new book, Scott shares a personal experience that pulled him from his center and the ways in which he brought himself back to peace, and to love. While some of his experiences are extraordinary, like extricating himself from a cult after 13 years, most of the stories reflect on everyday challenges we can all relate to, like the weight of shame, the search for happiness, and the struggle to be authentic.
In Big Love you say, “Nothing stands to transform us, our relationships, and the world, more than a commitment to live our lives from love.” Please tell us more about that.
I see love as the base note for everything good in our world. Kindness, compassion, authenticity and forgiveness are all examples of love in action. The deeper we commit ourselves to act from love, no matter the circumstance, the more likely we are to transform our lives and the lives of others. Love is the great healer — it always has been and always will be — and there is no downside to choosing love as often and as deeply as possible. The upsides are limitless.
You also say that we can all be love-spreaders. What would that look like on a daily basis?
On a daily basis, it would look like being more aware of how we show up in the world. If there’s an opportunity to be kind, be kind. Be compassionate. Connect with people, share stories, empathize. Be aware of those moments when we’re acting cruel or judgmental or self-righteous. Acknowledge them and do our best to shift back into a loving space, one that allows for connection rather than division. Countless moments each day offer us the chance to spread some love. We just have to choose to do it.
Your parents were murdered when you were 14. How did losing them in such a violent way, at such a young age, impact your life, and your dedication to live your life from love?
I’m sure I still don’t even know all the ways in which my parents’ murder has affected my life. I think I was in shock for years. I buried the reality of their deaths, as well as their lives, somewhere deep inside where I could ignore the pain of it all. Only when I started to face that pain did I begin to feel freer and more present in my life. I think one of the great gifts that came from losing them was learning that I am stronger and more resilient than I imagined myself to be. The heartbreak and pain I’ve experienced over their death has also made me a more empathetic and compassionate human being, that’s for sure. There are gifts in darkness, too. We just have to be willing to see them.
How were you ultimately able to forgive the man who murdered your parents?
I could never have found forgiveness if I hadn’t learned to empathize with the man who murdered my parents. Only when I was able to connect with him as another human being with human pain and struggles, only when I was able to acknowledge that no one who felt safe, or seen, or loved, could ever do something so terrible, was I able to forgive his actions. With empathy and compassion, I found forgiveness. Actually, through empathy and compassion, forgiveness found me.
You spent 13 years in what you described as a cult. What compelled you to be a part of it, and why did you finally decide to walk away?
I joined the cult because I was longing for deeper spirituality and a greater sense of community in my life, and I met a charismatic spiritual teacher who offered a “faster track” to enlightenment. In the cult I found a family, and in the leader I found a best friend and father figure. I left the cult because I no longer felt connected to the ways in which my former teacher shared his path, and no longer believed him to be the enlightened man he guaranteed he was.
What have you learned about moving beyond shame?
Shame thrives on secrecy, and the only way I’ve learned to move beyond it is to announce those things I’m ashamed of. Find a friend, a therapist, a support group, anyone you can trust, and begin to share your shame. The sense of relief is instant, as is, much of the time, the realization that you are not alone in whatever it is that has caused your shame. Shame can’t withstand one’s brave dedication to live an honest life, and there are few things as fulfilling as a life lived in truth and authenticity.
Will you talk a little bit about writing as a tool to process pain?
We all lock pain away at times, and bury the hard truths we don’t want to face. But the pain doesn’t go away, and it’s likely to affect us in myriad unhealthy ways — emotionally and physically. Writing down the hard truths not only invites us to look at and process them differently, but also helps to clear that locked away, blocked energy out of our system. Writing can be purging, if we use it that way.
You write a lot about fear. What steps have you taken to become less fearful in your life?
I don’t know that I’m less fearful, but I’m certainly more courageous than I’ve ever been. I remind myself that my fear is only trying to protect me, but that it’s not very emotionally intelligent. My fear wants to protect me from a difficult conversation with the same fervor it uses to keep me from sprinting into traffic. So I give my fear a say without giving it its way, and I do my best to move forward in my life, despite my fears. The more we do this, the easier it becomes to do — not because the fear goes away, but because we get used to seeing ourselves ignore it and take positive action anyway.
How does the fact that you’re gay impact the messages you share with your fans?
I don’t think most of my fans care one way or another about my sexuality, but I do believe my openness about being gay may make it easier for some gay people to be more open about their sexuality. That’s a great thing. If my being gay encourages those with prejudices against gay people to take a deeper look at those prejudices and open themselves to acceptance of others, no matter their sexuality, then that’s another big bonus.
What do you most hope readers will take away from your Big Love?
I hope readers will be reminded that they are not alone in their struggles, that we are all working our butts off to make sense of this unpredictable and often difficult reality, and that choosing love, no matter what, is the most powerful choice we can make — for ourselves, and for our world. I hope the book makes them laugh a lot, too.
Scott Stabile is the author of Big Love. His inspirational posts and videos have attracted a huge and devoted social media following, including over 350K Facebook fans and counting. A regular contributor to the Huffington Post, he lives in Michigan and conducts personal empowerment workshops around the world. Visit him online at http://www.scottstabile.com.