Word count: 1100 = 5 min read
I have really had to look at this thing we call love recently. It really is a word that is thrown around and overused to such a degree, that ‘love’ is hardly recognizable anymore. It has become so diluted that we can (and do) use the same word to describe how we feel about a piece of cake as we do to describe the feeling someone has who sacrifices his life for another by donating a kidney. Is it the same feeling? Really? The same sensation, just a different intensity?
I also notice how we get swept up with titles like mother, father, husband, daughter and assume that whatever those people are doing to us, must be part of this thing called love. And sometimes the phrase is so habitual we say the words (I love you) even if we don’t really feel it, but it seems like the right thing to do. We use the word ‘love’ like a noun, like it is a tangible thing that exists. And we give our love to people, and then we take it away, and we hold on to love, and we can’t live without love. Love is hot property.
How can we know for sure if someone loves us or whether they are using the words because it is the appropriate, normal and habitual thing to do? When we hear a mother say that she loves her son and then physically and/or sexually abuses him – is she really loving him? What about when a husband beats his wife of 10 years, his wife that he ‘loves’ very much? And what about a sister who tires of being in her siblings shadow and who intentionally sabotages her brother’s career? I hear the words ‘I love’ all the time. I hear couples express love to each other, and individuals talking about the families they love. Sometimes, they say it just before they expose the fact that one of them has been having affair.
The problem I see is that there is no distinction between all these different experiences. So what is love really and how can it be measured? If we want to use ‘love’ as a noun, then Love is a term used to describe a particular frequency of energy. This energy field vibrates at very high levels and when we act in accordance to this frequency we are behaving in a loving way. When we say or do things that vibrate from this expansive place, in that moment we are being loving. If I am pedantic about it, ‘Love’ is actually a verb. It is what you are doing when your actions resonate or vibrate from a particular frequency. When you are offering or giving something from a place of compassion, caring, tenderness, kindness, joy, support, encouragement and empowerment and expecting nothing in return, that is the verb of ‘Love’. If it’s not those things, it’s not love.
Most often it is manipulation, pride, ego, power and control. If we give something so that we can get something in return, it’s not love. If we say something that intentionally hurts someone, that’s not love. If our actions diminish or leave the other person in a worse state than they were prior to our presence, it’s not love. If in your interactions you only have your best interests at heart, again, not love. If we are honest with ourselves, many of the things we do and say in our close relationships are not ‘loving’. And yet, we are convinced we love someone, despite how badly we treat them.
And pay attention to how badly we treat ourselves. When we love ourselves, we don’t allow people to hurt us. Do we show ourselves any kindness or tenderness when we expose ourselves to people who hurt us? Are we loving and gentle when we allow someone to abuse us. Boundary setting is the first step to loving yourself. Saying “No, I will not tolerate the intolerable” can be the greatest act of love you show another and yourself. By not allowing someone to engage in hurtful/destructive/disrespectful behaviour, you are teaching them how both of you deserve to be treated. Showing yourself love is not selfish.
Any action toward oneself or another that resonates from that higher frequency; with the intention to empower, uplift, encourage, expand and grow the individual, is by definition ‘loving’. It cannot be selfish. It can only be perceived as selfish. A mother, who has her thieving addict son arrested, loves him. Can we perceive she has the intention of keeping him out of harm’s way?
A husband, who leaves his anorexic wife because he has done everything he can to stop her from self destructing, is loving her. Can we understand his refusal to stand by and watch her self- hatred destroy their family and his kids is a loving action? And a couple who get divorced because they recognize their relationship no longer supports each other to become the best-version-of themselves, are loving each other. Can our society come to accept that sometimes separation is the next most loving step?
So what are we doing then in our relationships and to ourselves? How many of us feel a climate of love in our relationships (even summer has rainy days). How many of us create the conditions for loving behaviour? How many of us behave in lovable ways? Are we easy to love or do we make it difficult for those around us to be loving? My observations are that we do a lot of talking about it. We declare and insist we ‘love’ one another yet I observe it less often.
In conclusion, two points. First, if we are unable to demonstrate what love looks like -starting with self love- we are awful role models for our children. These children then grow up also not really understanding what love is, and how to recognize it when it is present -or not.
And two, because we hear the words ‘I love you’ followed by an act of unkindness/cruelty/abuse/humiliation/manipulation/fill in your own hurtful behavior, we ourselves have become immune to recognizing and associating the real deal ‘love’ with the imposter ‘love’. We have become fooled. Lip service (saying I love you) has replaced observation (noticing someone doing loving things).
My advice is to start paying attention. Life is too short to give our precious time to people who continually demonstrate they do not love us. People with titles or not. Love doesn’t hurt. It can’t. Energetically speaking, it doesn’t have the capacity or the potential to do harm. If we want more of it in our lives, generate a climate for love to exist. Be kind to yourself first. And then treat others well.