Monday, 10 May 2021

Listening, loving and more – pro-life pioneer puts years of serving women into groundwork for building, mending relationships

The basis for pro-life ministry – embodying Christ’s love to others – is now laid out in a new problem-solving and relationship-building tool. 

The L.O.V.E. Approach, a successful longtime core training resource for Heartbeat International, has been further cultivated into a book for all people of faith, those serving in the pregnancy help movement and beyond, who desire to build relationships in a loving fashion.

“The book is geared for all Christian people who love the Lord,” Dr. Peggy Hartshorn told Pregnancy Help News.

Hartshorn, pro-life forerunner and the venerable former president of Heartbeat International, developed the The L.O.V.E. Approach’s four steps through her many years of efforts – and struggles - to be a better Christian in each of her numerous roles in life. 

Because she had benefited from the approach in her own life as wife, mother, college professor, friend, peer counselor and pro-life leader, Hartshorn first put the approach into practice when training pregnancy help organizations to serve women in need.

After more than a decade of use in Heartbeat training, The L.O.V.E. Approach was developed it into a manual in 1994 that has been used internationally since by countless individuals working in pregnancy help, both person-to-person and on-line as well. 

“The L.O.V.E. Approach book distills all of my many experiences of relationship-building,” she said, “many years working with women, respecting them and their dignity as a person.”

After witnessing the commitment to the approach of those many pregnancy help servants who have employed it, Hartshorn desired to extend the L.O.V.E Approach and make it available to everyone in their lives. 

The four steps comprising the L.O.V.E. acronym in the book’s title are L (Listen and Learn), O (Open Options), V (Vision and Value) and E (Extend and Empower). 

A tool for dealing with situations lovingly 

Hartshorn expanded the steps for her book to go beyond the original manual compiled specifically for pregnancy help, to now apply to anyone desiring a mechanism for problem-solving and fostering relationships. She tells a story in the book using four different people in their individual perspectives to illustrate the approach.

While its first incarnation was developed particularly for pregnancy help over the movement’s early years, Hartshorn is confident the approach can be applied across the spectrum of human interaction, no matter the time or issue at hand.

“What I hope the book will accomplish concerns the difficulty and divisiveness of many issues that we are facing now in our families and among those we interact with in the Christian community,” she said. “The book gives us a tool for dealing lovingly with these situations, topics and issues that might be new to us and otherwise divisive.” 

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The origins of Hartshorn’s Christ-centered approach to resolving issues and nurturing relationships in a life-affirming way go back 40-plus years.

“Time just goes so fast,” she mused of her years in pro-life ministry and other life experiences contributing to The L.O.V.E Approach.

Hartshorn said when she was a newly married Christian wife, she and her husband Mike, who had known each other since first grade, were surprised to learn that they could be better at communicating.

They didn’t encounter big problems in their courtship, she recalled, and so got married unequipped to solve such problems. 

“I didn’t know The L.O.V.E. Approach when I first started out as a wife and mother,” she said.

Marriage preparation was not what it is today, she said, and people plunged into these lifelong commitments without a whole lot of preparation.

The first few years after they were married were very difficult with lots of normal life stressors, said Hartshorn, and making it through at times occurred owing to the fact it was a lifetime commitment.

Feelings are neither right nor wrong

Nine years into their marriage the couple attended a Marriage Encounter Weekend where they learned a form of couple communication involving dialoguing. It encouraged couples to write for 10 minutes focused on a feeling they’d had that day. 

“Feelings are neither right nor wrong,” said Hartshorn. “It’s what you do with the feelings. Even negative feelings can be shared in a loving way.”

Getting into couple communications was a breakthrough for them, she said.

Building trust and communication was the basis for being able to communicate with each other, she recalled, key for them and for every couple who went to the encounter. They became facilitators for the program.

“In intimate couple communication we really focused together on our marriage and on relationship building,” said Hartshorn. “That spilled into every other aspect of our lives and the lives of others. Because now we communicated this way with others outside the relationship.”

This experience coincided with the early days of the pro-life movement.

Even a good problem-solver can’t tell someone else what to do

Hartshorn observed that many people, herself included, when they face an issue or problem they tend to focus on results, which means they can jump to conclusions, often the wrong ones, and get stymied.

Around this time, she and her husband began housing pregnant girls. One girl was in a real quandary, said Hartshorn, and listening to her, she was so confused, processing her own struggle, was eye-opening. 

As a pragmatic problem solver, Hartshorn struggled, because, “I could not say, “Here’s what you should do.”

“That was a real powerful learning experience for me,” she said.

“I realized for the first time that sometimes even a good problem-solver can’t tell someone else what to do,” she said. “They have to wrestle through many different thoughts, feelings, they have to look at their resources.”

“I had to realize this was not simple, this was not easy,” she added.

It takes time and patience to help the other person process their situation themselves, she said.  

In that period Hartshorn was also a college English professor, and there too she began to value relationships more deeply and put them first, as well as applying this in the context of her teaching, after learning the hard way that she had not been.

Take time to let people know that you are focused on them

“I was so focused on my students learning,” she said, “then I got a student evaluation saying, “She doesn’t care about me,” and I came to realize I was doing something to cause the people I cared about to get the idea that I did not care about them.”

Hartshorn then began to work harder to connect and build relationships.

“There were some profound experiences along the way,” she said.

This led to the first development of the “L” in The L.O.V.E. Approach; Listen and Learn.

To do this, “You have to take time to let people know that you are focused on them,” she explained.

It was also about this time in the late 1970s when Hartshorn had vowed to start a pregnancy center. In her considering how to prepare pregnancy center personnel to serve young women, the beginning of The L.O.V.E. Approach took root. 

Hartshorn said she asked herself, “How do I train other people to help these girls make a decision that was good for them and good for their babies?”

She developed a communications course based on this relationship model of learning and listening. 

Next after listening and learning comes the “O” step.

“Now we’re faced with what are her options?” Hartshorn said. 

The options all relate to her situation, Hartshorn said, perhaps she is without support or her support may be limited. But by listening and learning, the door is opened to helping someone navigate those options.

Looking back, Hartshorn is confident that the varying relationships she had at the time, whether personal, with her students, or with the pregnant girls she and her husband were helping, were all before her for a reason.

“God put all these things there happening at the same time,” she said, “then when I was faced with training people on how to help these girls, it was based on what I’d learned.”

Listening to the other person’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs and desires are key, she said, because this brings the options into focus.

“The options really open up once you really listen to the other person,” said Hartshorn.

In telling the story shared in the book, Hartshorn strives for the reader to identify with one or more of the four characters, so then each of the four steps in the approach, including V (Vision and Value) and E (Extend and Empower), will be brought home for practical use.

“Love is patient, love is kind”

A foundational premise of The L.O.V.E. Approach book is 1 Corinthians 13, which contains the definition of love, beginning with, “Love is patient, love is kind …” 

This Scripture passage has been a favorite of Hartshorn’s since high school.

“I guess God knew that was when I needed a challenge,” she said.

Hartshorn said the noisy gong or clanging cymbal from the earlier part of the passage aptly describes the approach of simply jumping in to try solving something without listening first, something she was originally hardwired to do.

“If it doesn’t come from a place of love and if they don’t hear it as love,” she explained, “then you’re just imposing it on the other person.”

You can help guide the process, but you cannot impose it on another person, she said.

Hartshorn said her book can be used to process one’s own thoughts or feelings with others, and it can also be used to reflect with other people, individually or in small groups.

“It helps them, and it helps you,” she said.

Hartshorn developed The L.O.V.E. Approach in a systematic way, going back and reviewing all that she had learned about relationships and problem solving, and meshing it with 1 Corinthians 13.

“It was always from the love that was within us from the Lord,” she stated.

After she became president of Heartbeat International, Hartshorn began hearing from pregnancy centers saying that they needed a manual. She had a friend review an early draft of her idea, the friend recommending developing the approach into an easy way to remember acronym.

“Then I realized that when I expressed the steps, rephrased, the L.O.V.E. came,” she said. “Those were always the steps, they didn’t’ always spell L.O.V.E.”

Hartshorn referenced the ending of 1 Corinthians 13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

“So, no matter what you do it’s not going to work if it’s not based in love,” she said.

Tweet This: “So, no matter what you do it’s not going to work if it’s not based in love.”

In the early days of the pro-life movement it was not okay to show explicitly Christian values, said Hartshorn.

However, the manifestation of these values as seen in The L.O.V.E. Approach really has been a fundamental theme for the pregnancy help movement all along, said Hartshorn.

“Our primary motive is to love them,” she said, “when you love someone, you do want them to understand their worth.”

Tweet This: “Our primary motive in pregnancy help is to love them. When you love someone, you do want them to understand their worth.”

“Christian love is an essential motive for our work,” said Hartshorn.

In pregnancy help, as with other situations, many times there is only a small window of opportunity to utilize the approach, she continued.  

“It may have to be only planting a seed,” Hartshorn advised.

This can still take work to accept, she added, but God has taught her that her first priority is not so much to solve the problems of a young woman in unexpected pregnancy, rather to show her love, and plant the seeds wherever you can.

The L.O.V.E. Approach can be applied with brief encounters or to enhance the relationships we already have in place, she said.

A “life-saver”

After more than 50 years of marriage, Hartshorn, mother of two adopted children and grandmother to five, is tremendously encouraged by the affirmation for her book from numerous people whom she admires greatly.

The book comes packed with many endorsements from leaders in the pro-life, academic, political and business communities, some reviews calling it a “gem,” and “indispensable resource,” “powerful,” and a “life-saver.”

She hopes the book will be used by individuals, couples, families, small groups, ministries and churches.

Her hope is for readers to put the approach into practice to where it becomes second nature for them, and a lot more loving, productive relationships result.

“If there ever was a time when we need more ways for people to be able share more intimately with each other,” Hartshorn said, “now is the time”

To order The L.O.V.E. Approach book, click HERE. To schedule a media interview with Peggy Hartshorn, click HERE.

Editor’s note: Pregnancy Help News is managed by Heartbeat International.

Lisa Bourne

Lisa Bourne is Managing Editor of Pregnancy Help News and Content Writer for Heartbeat International. She has worked in journalism and communication for the pro-life community, the Catholic Church, other Christian denominations and secular media for several years. She is married to Chris, and is the mother of three children here on earth, along with their two siblings in heaven. Lisa writes and manages Pregnancy Help News from Central Iowa. 

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