Could You Love Your Neighbor As Much As You Love Your Kids?


kidsplaymarinefallujah 234x300 Could You Love Your Neighbor As Much As You Love Your Kids?“Donovan Campbell is a decorated military officer and a young Fortune 500 executive whose lessons about leadership and teamwork came the hard way, through three combat deployments—two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.”

I recently had the privilege of sharing the stage with Donovan Campbell. And I was struck by his description of true military leadership — how it involves feeling that you’d rather die yourself than lose one of your soldiers.

This is just what parents feel for their children, and most of us assume that this feeling is unique to parenthood. Yet here was Campbell saying that good military leaders feel this routinely.

How does this happen? How do ordinary mortals learn to love others as selflessly as they love their kids?

Another interesting note from his talk: During his training, he was required, before he went to sleep, to say:

“Today I have given all that I have — and that which I have kept, I have lost forever.”

At the time, he said he didn’t understand what this mantra meant, but later on the meaning of these words became crystal clear.

Campbell %C2%A9 Wheeler SparksWEB Could You Love Your Neighbor As Much As You Love Your Kids?

Donovan Campbell


Donovan Campbell is the NYT bestselling author of “Joker One: A Marine Platoon’s Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood“, and of the forthcoming “The Leader’s Code.”

share this Could You Love Your Neighbor As Much As You Love Your Kids?


  1. Monique on 06.03.2013 at 13:25 (Reply)

    I’m not sure why we started thinking that this kind of love was reserved only for our children. Nor am I in the least bit surprised that good military commanders feel this way. At its heart, love is selfless. To be so loved is the greatest of gifts.

    There is an excellent example of it in literature that comes to mind immediately. Sam and Frodo from Lord of the Rings. It is the same thing.

    1. red dog on 06.03.2013 at 22:45 (Reply)

      Actually it comes from Christ’s (“second’)commandment to “love your neighbor as you would yourself”. Unfortunately, most people don’t love themselves, so it comes as no surprise that they cannot act in a neighborly way.

      Susan quoted:
      Another interesting note from his talk: During his training, he was required, before he went to sleep, to say:

      “Today I have given all that I have — and that which I have kept, I have lost forever.”

      That’s indoctrination, not wisdom. It’s neither logical nor profound.

      If you treat your children the same as you do your neighbor, you have no hierarchy of values or priorities. To paraphrase another famous Biblical quote: render unto your neighbor neighborliness, and render unto your children good parenting. ;-)

  2. Bryahnn on 06.03.2013 at 18:48 (Reply)

    As a teacher, I would rather put myself in harms way than have my students harmed. Every day.

  3. Rich Day on 06.03.2013 at 20:35 (Reply)

    I have met a few people in my life who seem by their very nature to be altruistic. Only a few who seem to do this naturally, like breathing is natural. They seem to appear before me like angels in our midst.

    I think what gives us our infinite value (being a self, conscious, perceiving, willing), is also our achilles heal. The self that makes us valuable is also the self that makes us self interested. I believe this is bedrock human nature, and a tension most people feel.

    However, I do not believe this reflects our potential, nor our destiny, nor morally who we are intended to be. We come to a point of decision when confronted with another self, or other selves. We make a decision at this moment, and if we choose to see them, and act in their behalf, our basic nature begins to change, from flawed, to becoming who we are supposed to be. Martin Buber spoke of identity in word pair, I-it, I-I, I and thou. What he meant be “thou” was to be confronted by another “I”, and the I that we are when this happens is fundamentally different, qualitatively different. But we shrink back from this, we are to some degree afraid of it…it is a bit like feeling that part of us will die, and many times we may choose not to move forward. In reality we only give up being truly alone within ourselves, we only give up narcissism. And when we do go forward, we find not the death of self, but the liberation of self to truly live in communion with others, not alone, but together with them. There is in the Christian tradition, the story of Gethsemany, where Jesus wrestled with his coming death, and he prayed, “If at all possible, let this cup pass from me”. This story is for me, a metaphor of the “death to self” decision we are called to make when confronted with the reality of other selves. The metaphor goes on in the Christian tradition that he did decide to die, but experienced new spiritual life after his death, he rose again perfected. I am not asking you to be within the Christian tradition, but rather to consider the metaphor.
    Willing to act on behalf of another is not a matter of responding to an inner emotional feeling to do so, it may start simply as a willing decision to act, and emotions may follow after. On a recent trip to Mexico to help build houses for the poor down there, the friend who invited me to join her told me, “I really hope you will enjoy this”. And I told her, “I think I will, but here’s the thing, even if I hate the experience the family who had no house before I got there, will have one forever after I leave.” To me, we see a need and act, and as a result, we begin to escape a nature we may have been born with, and begin to become who we are intended to be.

  4. Caseu Dué on 06.03.2013 at 21:10 (Reply)

    The articulation of the intensity of the bond between fighting comrades as that of a parent and child is as old as the Homeric Iliad. A colleague and I have published an article about this in the 2012 issue of the Journal of War, Literature, and the Arts, but you can also see my blog post at: My initial blog post and the subsequent article were inspired by an interview on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, in which Stewart interviewed a medal of honor winner from Afghanistan named Sgt. First Class Leroy Petry. Stewart asked Petry how it was possible for him, after being wounded in both legs (and later after his hand was blown off by a grenade), to be able to maintain his leadership role and continue to protect the other men and also communicate back with his commanders. In his spontaneous response he almost choked up, saying that his fellow soldiers were like brothers to him, but that it was even more than that. He said that the way he felt about the other guys is like how a bird cares for its young. We may compare the words of Achilles in Iliad 9: (Iliad 9.323-327)

    Like a bird that brings food to her fledgling young
    in her bill, whenever she finds any, even if she herself fares poorly,
    so I passed many sleepless nights,
    and spent many bloody days in battle,
    contending with men for the sake of their wives.

  5. Video in print on 08.03.2013 at 02:04 (Reply)

    As a teacher, I would rather put myself in harms way than have my students harmed. Every day.

  6. Kathleen W Curry on 08.03.2013 at 13:29 (Reply)

    The mantra sounds like the talents parable from the Bible. The man who buried his talents was punished and cursed, the man who shared his talents was lauded.

    Talents have been likened to money in Western culture for a very long time.

  7. Rich Day on 08.03.2013 at 13:44 (Reply)

    I simply love the post above by Caseu Due’. Amazing and wonderful!

  8. Mike on 09.03.2013 at 21:05 (Reply)

    Oh boy! Now I have 196 books on my ‘to-read’ list at Goodreads!

    Seriously I have always found the bond between soldiers and the challenge of leadership in battle conditions to be a fascinating part of the unique experience of humanity. I missed the experience myself and whether that is a good influence or a bad influence on my life is for others to decide. But it is unique (as far as I know) to being human, and while some may question the ‘uniquely human’ experience of large-scale wars to settle things, this is certainly one of the nobler outcomes.

    1. red dog on 09.03.2013 at 22:36 (Reply)

      Yes, the bond you mention is “fascinating”. Perhaps it is a substitute for the natural bond of family.

      You say missed the experience of warfare and question whether that is a good or bad influence on your life. I suggest that you go volunteer to join the armed forces to find what you are missing.

      That which you describe is not unique to humans. Dogs can be trained to protect their masters - and although domesticated, they are not of human species.

      Wars are another matter, and “settling things” through physical conflict is barbaric. I’d hardly call the foment of war or judging humanity by its willing participation in warfare and conditions of battle a “noble” pursuit - despite the history of mankind being based upon power and conquest. That’s how ‘nobility’ got to be nobility - they fought until they realized they could induce others to carry out the dirty work of engaging in warfare for them…

  9. Miriam on 16.03.2013 at 17:27 (Reply)

    For what it’s worth, within the religion I grew up with (Judaism with a focus on the Kabbalistic tradition) I was taught that the primary war we each fight is against our own selfishness, or ego, and that each of us needs to be as self-diciplined as a soldier in that war, and every other person is a comrade to be loved and supported. Sometimes we just have to guard ourselves from others who are losing their war on the ego in a way that could damage us, we don’t accept victimhood or enabling of others’ egos. It’s interesting to note that a lot of research is showing that the ability to fighting one’s own tendencies - essentially to practise self-control- seems to be a strong predictor of success in life, here is one key study on the subject

    I’m doing my own research on this now for a BSc. dissertation. If anybody feels like taking part in the survey - anonymous, 15 min - it’s here.

    1. red dog on 16.03.2013 at 22:20 (Reply)

      Where does learning self-discipline come from, if not from one’s family, including culture and religion? (It certainly doesn’t come from the current influences of modern society and popular culture.)

      Why is having self-control being framed as being in a state of war with oneself? Isn’t that perspective also a cultural bias? How is accepting your human nature, including one’s own ego which is an essential part of being human, a bad thing?

      Are those who have self-control perpetually at war with themselves, or are they actually at peace with themselves and others?

  10. Brian on 19.03.2013 at 18:41 (Reply)

    I don’t want to sound like a Smart-Alec, but I need to answer this question with another question: if you cannot love your neighbor as much as your kids than are you really showing your kids what love looks like? And have you ask yourself why?

Leave a comment

Quiet: The Book

- Wall Street Journal

Bill Gates names "The Power of Introverts" one of his all-time favorite TED Talks.

Best Nonfiction Book of 2012

QUIET has been voted the best nonfiction book of 2012


1. There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers.

2. Our culture rightly admires risk-takers, but we need our “heed-takers” more than ever.

3. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.

Read More

Join the Quiet Revolution
Susan on Facebook