I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. What it is, what it looks like, but mostly what it feels like.
For part of my life I lived in a world where feelings were not merely dismissed as unimportant, they were regarded as dangerous and thus religiously suppressed. “Love” (kindness, affection, praise) was a control mechanism, only given to those who were obedient and submissive, who fit the model of behavior that was declared acceptable by those in authority. Those who did not fit that model were denied love and instead subjected to public humiliation, shunning, and silent treatment.
Love was a reward that could be taken away at a moments notice and held as ransom until the required behavior was exhibited.
It bred deep fear and insecurity, and obliterated any feelings of worth. We ceased to matter and a culture of performance, insincerity, and smothering of independent thought and personality flourished.
I’ve since learned that such behavior is not love at all. It is a cruel, twisted way to control others. It is evil.
Since leaving that world I’ve had to relearn what love is. I read about it, think about it, and find myself watching people a lot to see how they love each other.
I’ve learned so much.
Love, real love, does not try to control, it frees.
It does not try to suppress, but reaches down and pulls up, giving a boost until the struggling person can see light again.
It does not diminish or cut down, it highlights the good things and praises any sort of progress.
It does not discourage with I-told-you-so’s and if-you’d-only-listened-to-me’s, it hugs tight, heartens crumpled spirits and says, “No worries, mate, you’ll do better next time”.
It does not take advantage of fear or insecurity, but emboldens the quavering soul and reminds them of their strength and courage.
It doesn’t leave someone hanging in distress. No. It does whatever it can to assist and support.
It does not try to smother or mold the character or personality of another, instead it looks for opportunities to liberate from oppression and cheer wildly when false beliefs lose their power.
It does not try to force someone to grow or heal or process at a pace faster than they can handle or in a way that is more comfortable to them. No way. Real love accepts people right where they are, comforts them when they’re weepy, validates when they’re angry, soothes when they’re exhausted, and YAHOOS enthusiastically when battles are fought and victories won.
It does not pretend and it is not fickle. It is faithful and dependable. Even when it wavers because of fatigue or illness or plain ol’ selfishness, it owns up to it, says sorry, and starts over.
Most of all I’ve learned that Love cannot last if it doesn’t start with our own dear selves. We all matter. So much. Our happiness matters, our health, our peace, our safety, our well-being and freedom of thought, lifestyle and belief. It all matters. If we don’t believe that we deserve Love, eventually we’re not going to believe that others deserve Love either. It must start with us so it can bubble over to everyone we meet.
I really like this quote by Marilyn Monroe:
“Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself,
because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie?
So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly,
because life’s a beautiful thing
and there’s so much to smile about.”
Love makes life beautiful. Even when we’re sick or broke or sad or lonely or unemployed, if we’ve got love for ourselves and love for others, we’re rich as kings.
I’m so very, very grateful for the real love I’ve experienced in my life, both in my past and in my present. So thankful for the amazing people who have lived love before my eyes and shown me how wonderful it is.
What is something that makes you feel loved?