It’s Time to Retire “Sending Love & Light”

Why do we need to give up sending love and light? Because too often this is a response that is used to project individual pathology on to systemic oppression.

To My Fellow Well-Meaning White Ladies,

I think it’s time to consider retiring the phrase “sending you love and light”. So many of us are using it in a tone-deaf, un-self-aware, harmful way that I think it would behoove all of us to just let this phrase go.

Too often this is a response that is used when we are projecting individual pathology on to systemic oppression. Good lord, what does that even mean? This looks like a BIPOC person sharing the suffering they are experiencing as a result of systemic or institutional violence/harm/injustice. And because we as white people are generally blind to these systems of oppression and the various tendrils of harm/violence/injustice that they produce, we offer the type of comfort or support (sending love and light) that is more appropriate for an individual who is suffering from a really hard experience (oh I’m so sorry your cat died, sending you love and light) than for an individual who has once again been hurt and marginalized by the forces of dominance that shape our society (oh I’m so sorry the police harassed and intimidated you, sending you love and light).

Whiteness individuates as opposed to collectivizing. So, while our intention is to offer a gesture of care, our impact is to erase the lived experience and reality of the BIPOC folks we are intending to comfort. I believe that we are genuine in our desires to offer care. Where I think we are missing the mark is how we offer that care — not just this particular turn of phrase, but more generally how we show up. If we genuinely care, if we are genuinely sorry, then what are we doing to shift the culture, institutions, and systems that are causing harm and perpetuating dominance, injustice, and violence?

On top of all of this, we don’t need to send love and light! We’ve got other choices. Just like all other forms of intentionally or unintentionally oppressive language, we are called to build some new muscles and try on some new words. Alternatives to “sending love & light” include:

  • You’re on my mind.
  • You’re in my heart.
  • You’re in my prayers. (I know that this language doesn’t work for a lot of folks for a lot of reasons — but neither does sending love and light!)
  • Sending you ________ energy. (healing, nourishing, resilient, loving, peaceful, powerful, whatever!)
  • I’ll be thinking about you.

What new muscles are you building? In what ways are you reconsidering language? How are you doing the hard work of shifting habits and behaviors so that your actions are aligned with your values?

I am a consultant & facilitator in the Deep South dedicated to collective liberation, rooted in systems thinking and deep equity.