All You Need is Love: Loving Others
Love is an emotion that people often describe as...difficult. I find that love is a pretty simple concept, however our behaviors make it more challenging! To me, to love someone is to have a strong concern and care for their well-being. The desire is stronger than superficial lust, and it has strongholds that keep it committed even if the loved person or thing isn't always meeting their needs.
We can love a challenging job, we can love a challenging child, we can love our own challenged selves.
This is what I believe makes love difficult. When our actions don't match. We say we love ourselves but engage in self-harm, emotionally abusing, and making negative decisions. We say we love our partners but criticize and abuse them. We say we love our children, but humiliate and frighten them in hopes of getting them to "respect" us. We say we love our spouse - but then pursue outside intimacy or withdraw from the relationship.
I used to teach a substance abuse class with women whose addiction have created conflict with their children. We'd review some areas of our lives that addiction changes, one of them being love. Most women would initially and confidently state they loved their children even throughout their use. I'd affirm that they indeed care and have great concern for their children...but I'd also point out that their actions said otherwise. I'd gently provide some insight into how their all night drug use, dishonesty, unwillingness to prioritize child's needs, actually could be observed as a lack of real selfless love. I'll be honest this concept is often rejected, but over time, women who made positive progress could identify this and make healthier changes.
People say, well it's complicated. Hmm, not so much my friend. What's complicated is saying I love you out of one side of our mouth's and using conflicted behaviors at the same time. Then taking it a step further - is thinking we love someone who mistreats us but yet feeling torn about staying in a hurtful or unhealthy relationship. (silently drops mics for those of us who struggle with this)
(Quickly picks up mic to continue)
To love others requires that not only do we understand that love means more than ourselves, but that we treat those that we love with that same respect of loving ourselves. Are we taking care of their needs? Are we serving them? Are we engaging in encouraging and loving words?
As you probably notice and I've said before - if you are running low in your own love cup - it will be challenging to fill others with love. And you may even become 'resentful' of their constant need for love from you. This is typically when I notice I see couples in counseling. When one person has exhausted their resources in love, has challenges loving themselves or believes that in order to love themselves they need someone to constantly pour into them (co-dependency, anyone?) To love others can sometimes mean putting boundaries and consequences in order to be healthier. The parent who says they love their child, but allows the child to engage in unhealthy and risky behaviors? The wife who loves her husband but allows him to emotionally abuse the family? The mother who loves her son but provides the financial means for him to continue a chemical addiction?
I say all of the above to simply say, Love is simple, but it's our behaviors that need to match our commitment, service, compassion and importantly our actions to successfully love others. Think about those you have the deep concern for? How do your actions match what you say? How do they differ? What changes can you make to be more consistent? Choose some time today to reflect on these things and think about where you need to grow or work on to better love yourself and others.