Tis the season for Hallmark holiday movies.  I confess I have at least 10 of them saved on my DVR right now.  It seems this time of year I gravitate toward these seasonal chick flicks.  Nothing like a Hallmark “take me away” by the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa.  Or perhaps a cup of tea.   Or a glass of wine.  There’s always the usual Hallmark values – you know, the stuff Hallmark cards are made of – romance, sentiment, nostalgia, tradition, reflection, humor, magic, faith, hope, beauty, and love.

Death, tragedy, loss, disease, war, financial hardship, and estranged relationships – these are often part of the story.  Real life issues that the characters deal with and resolve in idealized settings.

Whatever the adversity, fear, loss or struggle, there’s always a message and always a happy ending.

The ending usually includes romance.  Sigh.  But the message(s) actually have some substance from time to time.  The consistent threads include the importance of courage, reflection, hope, faith, and always – love.

In my work, I’m in the trenches throughout the week, helping people with fear, pain, and loss.  That’s what I do.  It’s an honor, and it takes a lot of energy and focus.  With over 30 years experience in the trenches, I know one thing for sure.  No lasting change, healing, shift, or transformation ever occurs without love.

May I repeat that? Absolutely no lasting change, healing, shift, or transformation ever occurs without love.

The first essential ingredient necessary for change is love.  The opposite of love is fear, and seldom does healing or lasting change occur from fear.  Behavior may shift with fear (or shame or guilt).  But deep in-the-gut commitment to change is fueled and best sustained by love.

Sometimes love has to be strong and tough and resilient.  Sometimes it has to be tender and soft and quiet.  Sometimes love roars like lion, and sometimes love purrs like a kitten.  But always, always, always, love is essential for change, healing, shift, or transformation.

And the second ingredient?  Relationship.  Always.

Change, healing, shift, and transformation always occur in the context of relationship – never in isolation.  Isolation breeds fear and shame.  Relinquish your island.   I recently saw an interview with James Taylor in which he said, “You have to be willing to be rescued.”

So if love and relationship are the two essential ingredients for change, then I guess Hallmark has had it right all along.