What does it mean to love?
Written by: Robyn Mills
When I think about loving another person, It is easier to understand what love might look like. When I think about how I treat someone that I know I truly love, my grandchildren come to mind immediately. When I am around them my heart feels softer, I am kind and understanding, I can’t wait to embrace them, and I certainly afford them graces easily and forgive them when they make mistakes. I love them when they are well behaved and I love them equally when they are behaving poorly. I treat my grandchildren, with kindness and patience. I am happy to repeat something many times while they are learning. I accept that they make mistakes and I teach them how I want to be treated and tell them how to respect me. I make sure there is fun and laughter between us and that there is always time to just BE together.
Where does “I love you” come into this conversation. Most people can say “I love you”, but just ‘saying’ you love someone isn’t enough. You can say it 20 times a day and still treat someone in aggressive ways or be mean to them. Love in this way is more a repetition of empty words than a feeling in the heart that vibrates love. It is important to back up your words of love with behaviours that show love towards the other person.
Be clear, that I am not saying that we all have to be saints and that we don’t react when something irritates you. But shortly after reacting, you take yourself back to a state of love.
Let us look at the love we share with our grandchildren. In a state of love, you are surrounding your grandchild with a safe, loving environment where he/she knows and feels that love. Of course when they are giving you a cuddle, you can feel their unconditional love come towards you and you to them. The key here is to embrace that feeling of love and take it into your heart, that is where the patience and the ability to tolerate the disruptions comes from. Love is like a buffer creating resilience to the daily stressors of being in relationship.
Imagine for a moment you go down the street and a stranger looks at you in disgust and yells at you or calls you names. Your hackles rise quickly and you either runaway or get angry and retaliate. With no prior relationship, no love, it is going to be very hard to be calm and loving towards this person. But a grandchild gives you an angry look and says I hate you, you are still shocked, but you try to understand whatever in the world is going on with them in that moment. Love acts like a buffer, like a shock absorber, creating a filter that helps you view incidents in a more understanding way.
I must say, that it can be easier to love a child because your expectations of them are far less than the adults in your life. We know they are learning and we give them a safe space where learning can take place. I have given a grandchild as an example, because it is this love that we want to be able to cultivate and replicate with the adults in our lives.
In my case, the love I have for my grandchildren has softened me in ways I would never have imagined possible and dissolved barriers that I had built around my heart to shelter me from past emotional wounds.
The question that this raises is how then do you also love the adults in your life with the same unconditional and pervasive love that you share with your grandchildren.
As I have said, our expectations of our grandchildren are far less than that of an adult. Especially when you think of tiny babies that just need feeding, changing and cuddling. Mostly you know what they want and you are happy to give it to them. Even sleep deprived parents are still able to flood their newborn with love.
As children get older and their demands get higher, particularly a two to three year old, who answers back and stomps their feet at you, yelling ‘Nooooo”, your expression of love can often be hindered by overwhelming feelings of frustration. I don’t believe you can feel two emotions at once. Especially polar opposites like anger and love.
We talk about unconditional love as being something that goes beyond behaviour or demands of another, as always being there, as an infinite resource between parents and their children, and grandparents and their grandchildren and of adults you are in relationship with. That for me is true. But…what I am exploring here is the expression of love, so that you feel it and your child/grandchild feels it. How many of us grew up not knowing if we were loved, yet if we asked our parents they would say “of course I loved you”.
This raises the question of whether the expression of love in the everyday interactions with others is the key. I am not talking about saying ‘I love you’, or writing beautiful cards on valentines day, or a bouquet of roses, which of course enhances feelings of love and is a wonderful part of love. I am talking about the caring, sharing, forgiving and the inclusion of someone into your life, love isexpressed in the everyday moments of life. Love requires being present to yourself and the other. It is easy to be distracted in our fast paced world of technology, not just for teenagers, but for people of all ages, from babies to grandparents, technology consumes and diverts us away from focusing on love. Whether it is television, mobile phones, Ipad or computers, we are all guilty of being distracted from being totally present to the people that we love. We can be experts at multitasking getting many different things done at once and maybe achieving great success in them. But love is different, it can’t be slotted into a multitude of other tasks and distractions. It deserves full attention.
It only takes a moment to express love and to feel love. My grandchildren are teaching me that love is in the little moments, the times when you have eye contact and smile from your heart. Little Emily, is still an infant, and when she gains eye contact and a smile from someone, her face lights up and she smiles back. It reminds me of a pure love. She is responding to love with love. The older grandchildren give and receive love too, in many different ways. They say “I love you” all the time without being prompted, they just feel it and express it. If I am ever feeling a bit stressed or under the pump and they ask if there is anything they can do to help, I instantly feel their love by by their thoughts and actions. They sense that I’m not on my “A” game and they step in without hesitation. Likewise, when they want to play something and they want me to join them, I say yes as often as I can. We are teaching each other that the love is in the moments that you choose to share with one another.
As adults, we can learn a lot from children and the way they love. Moments of connection throughout the day seem to be enough to build a deep relationship with them. Not just when you are trying to get them to bed and to sleep, but throughout their day. They easily ask for what they want when they want it and they bring their joy and love into the adults world without hesitation. I wonder, how many of these moments we can create with the adults we love. In such a task orientated world, how can we build significant moments of love into our primary relationships. Some might say we are time poor and therefore can’t stop what we are doing to think about the other person. Yet, it only takes a smile, a touch, a kind word for love to be built.
In the adult world, sometimes love can seem like a finite resource. You start with a cup of love that’s overflowing and then over time when rejection and hurt take their toll, little by little, the glass is emptied and eventually dries up. That feeling of being unloved can certainly feel dried up and empty. I prefer to think about love on a continuum, where unloved is a feeling at one end and totally loved is feeling at the other. For some people, who may not have experienced love as a child or have been wounded in some way that has shut them down, love has to be rebuilt and they need to be helped move along the continuum. Thinking about love on a continuum can give us awareness of what behaviours and thoughts you have that move you along the continuum towards love and what behaviours and thoughts move you away from love.
Likewise, the behaviours and thoughts that you have with your loved ones can also take you towards love or away from love.
Of course there is a balance here, it is not the other persons responsibility to make you feel loved or push you along the continuum, however, your interpretation of their thoughts and behaviours towards you will take you towards love or away from love
Other Blogs Written by Robyn Mills
2) Who You are Really Matters
3) Grandparenting: The gift the circle of life brings back to you.
4) What Does it Mean to Love?
5) Inspirational Mentor
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