As a senior in high school, Chad Ford wanted to be the next George Lucas.

The aspiring young filmmaker lacked the financial resources, but his school counselor suggested his father’s status as a disabled veteran would qualify him for government scholarships that could help pay for his college education. This was his ticket to Hollywood.

But Ford’s dreams were crushed when he discovered months later that his father had written to the Veterans Administration the previous year without telling anyone and requested that all his benefits be terminated because he believed his physical disability existed before he joined the Army and served in Vietnam.

“He felt it was dishonest, but as a selfish 18-year-old who was counting on those scholarships I was furious with my father, and we got into a major conflict,” Ford said. “But instead of getting angry with me, trying to teach me a lesson or question my integrity, he did something else extraordinary.”

The experience not only transformed Ford’s relationship with his father but played a role in his career path, which led him to recently publish a new book titled, “Dangerous Love: Transforming Fear and Conflict at Home, at Work, and in the World.”

In “Dangerous Love,” released earlier this fall, the former NBA draft expert for ESPN compiled everything he has learned over 15 years of experience and knowledge gained as an international conflict mediator, as BYU-Hawaii’s director of the David O. McKay Center for Intercultural Understanding, and as a husband, father and family member. His work has also been deeply influenced by his faith as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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ESPN NBA draft expert Chad Ford is also a BYU-Hawaii professor

Originally, Ford intended to create a textbook for students, then realized the message could benefit a wider audience. His hope is that “Dangerous Love” can be a resource for everyone.

“What I really wanted to do was help everyday people be able to resolve their conflicts at home, at work or in their communities, especially with everything that’s going on right now,” he said. “We’re really trying to figure out how do we spread peace, and in an easy, readable, how-to book.”

What is ‘Dangerous Love’?

Ford opens the book with a simple definition of conflict: “Our inability to collaboratively solve problems with other people.”

“For so many people, their issue isn’t that they don’t want to collaboratively problem solve, they just don’t know how,” Ford said. “They feel like it’s impossible.”

Chad Ford is the author of “Dangerous Love.” | Chad Ford

The secret to transforming conflict, Ford said, is turning toward others, putting down our physical and emotional weapons, and loving those we are in conflict with. It’s dangerous because it’s a “love that overcomes fear in the face of conflict.”

Displaying this kind of love is risky and leaves one vulnerable with no guarantees that the other person will do the same, Ford described in one passage of the book.

“Dangerous love is a love that allows us to see the humanity of others so clearly that their needs and desires matter as much to us as our own, regardless of how they see us. It is the opposite of easy love. It is choosing love over fear in the face of conflict. It is choosing we over me.”

For many the word “love” means romantic love or people think about it in terms of loving a favorite food or loving to hang out with friends. That type of love is “easy love,” Ford said.

One lesson his Latter-day Saint faith has taught Ford is that there’s another way to think about love. What he is talking about is the unselfish, unconditional, charitable love described by Jesus Christ in his parable of the good Samaritan.

“It’s the sort of love that seeketh not its own. It’s the sort of love that says ‘I love you, not because of what you do for me, or because you are great, but I love you for who you are,’” Ford said. “That is the sort of love that we need to generate to get through our most difficult conflicts. My faith has taught me that love is possible.”

Chad Ford, BYU-Hawaii’s director of the David O. McKay Center for International Cultural Understanding, in his “Star Wars” “Force for Good” T-shirt in 2016. | Trent Toone, Deseret News

Peace by peanut butter

What happened with Ford’s father is one powerful example of dangerous love.

Forced to abandon his dream of going to film school, Ford still made plans to go to college. He hadn’t spoken to his father in months, but was prodded by his mother to say goodbye. When Ford arrived at his father’s apartment, he was shocked to see his disabled, wheelchair-bound father had sold virtually everything he owned to be able to hand his son an envelope with several hundred dollars. He apologized for disrupting his scholarship plans.

“The way we respond to conflict is not to pour fire on fire, but to meet fire with water, to meet hate with kindness.” — Chad Ford

To top it off, the father opened his refrigerator, revealing nothing but bread, grape jelly and peanut butter.

In their previous argument, Ford had said he hated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but that’s all he would be able to afford to eat at college.

Ford explained that our most natural instinct in conflict is our want to see someone else change, to apologize to us and admit they are wrong. When they do, then we can feel peace, forgive and move forward. Ford’s father could have taken that route because his son was wronging him. Instead, his father “turned first.”

“I was being dramatic. My dad said as long as that’s what you have to eat, that’s what I’ll eat too,” Ford said. “It was one of those moments when it just sunk into me that the way we respond to conflict is not to pour fire on fire, but to meet fire with water, to meet hate with kindness.”

Lessons from ‘Star Wars’

One chapter that was cut from the book detailed peace-building connections and parallels that Ford had observed in the popular “Star Wars” series. He incorporated the omitted material into his blog.

As a boy, Ford’s initial takeaway from the original “Star Wars” was good defeats evil by blowing up “death stars.”

A scene aboard the Millennium Falcon in the hit 1977 film “Star Wars: A New Hope.”
From left to right, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Obi Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) are aboard the Millennium Falcon in the hit 1977 film “Star Wars: A New Hope.” | Lucasfilm

Then in the final scenes of “Return of the Jedi,” Luke decides to defeat his father, Darth Vader, and the emperor, not through violence, but with love. He turns himself in and gives up his weapon.

After the emperor is defeated, Luke tries to move his father to safety but Darth Vader asks him to remove his mask. Luke disagrees, telling the former bad guy he wants to save him. Darth Vader tells his son he already has.

“For me, that was this sort of powerful start to this idea of dangerous love and the origins of conflict resolution,” Ford said. “What Luke did was way more dangerous, crazy. He goes and tries to use persuasion, love and kindness as a way of turning Darth Vader instead of using a lightsaber. And it just blew my mind that there’s alternatives to blowing up death stars.”

The Anti-Nephi-Lehis

Although Ford doesn’t include it in his book, he is moved by the Book of Mormon story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis as another prime example of dangerous love.

“It’s the only instance I know in the entire Book of Mormon where a war ends in conversion,” he said. “There are many battles ... but this is the only instance where something much more powerful and transformative happens.”

The Anti-Nephi-Lehis were Lamanites who converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, buried their weapons in the ground and made a covenant to never kill or participate in war again. When enemy Lamanites attacked, instead of fleeing or digging up their weapons, they stepped onto the battlefield unarmed and peacefully kneeled before them.

The Lamanites start to kill the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, but then stop. Their hearts change.

“It’s not a strategy that in the beginning is working but that’s the interesting thing about Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek,” Ford said. “Every time that someone strikes us on the cheek and we don’t retaliate, but give them the other cheek in love, it takes away their justification to strike again.”

“Dangerous Love” is available for purchase at dangerouslovebook.com.