In my last post, I talked about the work involved in creating a bridge of love between us and our children that can create a strong and lifelong relationship. If you missed it you can read it here.
The common expression we have all heard, “love is not enough”, has a little truth to it. However, love really needs to be tied to some type of deeper personal commitment in order to have any significant nourishment or power. Otherwise, it is flat, shallow, and significantly less meaningful.
Actually, love to me is a little bit like the properties of light, which is a fundamental and life-required entity. I don’t think life as we know it would exist without it. Basic physics considers light as both a ‘particle’ and a ‘wavelength’. I feel that love, a little like light, operates as both a ‘state’ and an ‘action’. The state is our emotional commitment energetically and our action is its projection. There are many ways that we connect our ‘state’ of love to another person. Patience, affection, support, and service are just a few. Love is actually a combination of many virtues and expressions depending on the person and the need of any specific experience.
Expressions of Love
Choosing the specific expressions of love in any given situation is part of the work. This can and should happen on all levels of relationships. Most of us make a conscious and sincere attempt to express our love especially with our direct family members and our close friends. Even though these relationships are the most obvious opportunities and likely the most important, we often find this loving process difficult for a myriad of reasons.
Many find love very hard at times, and not surprisingly, very easy at others. How hard is it to love a puppy as it wags its little tail furiously as it runs up to you for lots of pets? How hard is it to love your 5-year-old who is sitting in the grocery aisle screaming at the top of his or her lungs because you told them they could not have the candy?
Love has extraordinary range. And our job is to first find it inside ourselves as a state (we have to really want it…), and then choose carefully in what form to express it. This is where both the work is and the beauty lies. This is also where we have not only the choice to choose a form, but a responsibility to pick one (or more) and put it into play. There is a difference between a responsibility and a burden, and this is our choice – to which to identify.
Personally, I found it important to identify with this effort (often very difficult and necessitating some personal sacrifice) as my responsibility and part of what is required to build a meaningful relationship both as a parent and a friend. I also learned that many times this is surprisingly often hard to accomplish.
Life is hard and can make us hard. I push back on that as much as I can, especially with my children and in my more meaningful relationships.
I don’t have a definitive sense as to whether we are in fact born with love or we learn it from our parents or some close relative. It seems however that no matter which, most of us have it or know we want it at a very early age. It is also a little difficult to think about what a life would be like without love – although I am aware that a lack of love in some people’s lives does indeed exist. It seems a bit improbable though that a person would not experience genuine and purposeful love throughout their entire lifetime on at least some occasions. How could we not run into it at some point? The thing here is that the person expressing the love has to make it recognizable.
So, to me, to practice consciously putting love into our lives and into the lives of other people important to us seems like a very worthy endeavor…actually maybe even a necessary endeavor. I do not believe love is complicated, but I do know that it is incredibly difficult for nearly everybody at some point and it requires a lot of practice.
There is so much of both obvious and subtle kinds of energy in love that it keeps most of us doing things that nothing else can do. It truly does impact our lives significantly. The work of learning and practicing how to express love can and will grow us as humans. The capacity to love and be loved does indeed separate us from all other life on this planet – that and our ability to put time and consciousness into our understanding.
All You Need is Love?
“All You Need is Love” was a famous and very popular Beatles song in the late 60s. In fact, that one line was repeated more than 50 times in that simple and beautiful song! It’s no wonder it became an informal mantra for many young people at the time…it was heard by an entire generation.
Unfortunately, I feel that it was a bit misleading. Just having love is not enough. We need to work to build a path for it once we create it in our system and tie it to our commitment. We might have some natural capacity to love but when we make it conscious and purposeful it becomes very impactful.
Ideally, we need to try to be in (or at least desiring to be in) the ‘state’ of love when we are trying to build a deep and meaningful relationship, especially with our children. By ‘state’ I mean we need to have the desire of love in our minds, hearts, and souls so that when we do something as I mentioned above – like helping our children with their homework or coaching their soccer game or even disciplining them – we are building lifetime relationships.
The ‘state’ of love can and should be present first and then the structure we chose to use in order to connect it can carry this state of love with it. We shouldn’t have to wait for a puppy to awaken us or some unintended serious drama to catalyze it.
As I have mentioned, love as a ‘state’ needs a vehicle to transfer into action in most cases. However sometimes it can simply just be present floating in the air for someone to grab. We probably all do need to practice this work more consciously and more often…even if we believe we already have strong sense of what love is for us and its delivery. It can only be deepened.
Opportunities to practice are plentiful and can help us be better parents and better friends if we take advantage of them. After enough practice and time in our daily and functional experiences, love can begin to be more simply expressed with perhaps even just a look. I imagine that we have all seen this and probably felt this with our children or life partners. Sometimes we can just look at the other person and this ‘state’ of love is simply, quietly, and directly transferred because we truly know what it feels like, we have experienced it before, we know it is genuine, and we have confidence in it.
Real Love Takes Time and Patience
This takes a lot of time and endless practice, but to me it is extraordinarily valuable. As you can ascertain from this post, I hold love in very high regard and do not consider it as a natural right or automatic in our lives. So, when it is diminished by casual overuse and without much awareness or consciousness, I find it dis-heartening. I believe that we all can love with more care and look for more opportunities than we are currently doing. But, again, it does take work (and often a great deal of work) to express a real sense of loving and a real sense of being loved. And it definitely takes desire, depth, and commitment from the get-go.
The last page of the fourth chapter in my book, The Dad Connection, I write, “Love them first and all else second”. It became my mindset…and it still is today. Once it became my mindset, it became a lot less work!