I grew up with two different expressions of what love meant. One was a natural love. I didn’t need to earn it. There were boundaries, of course, and guidance, wisdom and mentoring. There was support and care.
The other version could sometimes feel a bit scary, with-holding of approval, and also at times, competitive. Additionally, I witnessed it as hardworking, dutiful and as being a good provider. In this case, I was obsessed with discovering how I might earn love.
I grew up fearing my dad and bonding ever closer every day to my mom. I’m sure, without a doubt, I chose my parents for what I wanted to learn about love this lifetime. And, I did learn, and continue to learn, so much about love. Loving well is a lifetime study.
We learn love from our parents and caretakers, our elementary school teachers and our religions. We learn love from our early community influences. We learn love from our animals, plants, gold fishes, you name it. Even certain gem stones emanate love.
I’ve heard new friends, when saying goodbye to my husband and I, after a fun dinner, declare, “I love you guys!” What it probably means in this case is, I like you a lot and I had a great time. This is love of a shared experience and quality time together.
When I say ‘I love you’ to the children in our lives, I mean I want the world to be good to you, I care about your life and purpose. I care about your emotional health and well-being.
I don’t mean… I will do it all for you, or will give to you in some unbalanced, over-giving or controlling way. I don’t want to foster dependency or victim mentality or a belief in lack, or reward a sense of helplessness.
When it comes to the special friends in my life my friend Kim always knows where I am in the world. She keeps track of my travel schedule in her calendar and sends me a text on travel days. My friend Liz repeats back in a neutral, kind voice all that she hears me say, without judgment. I do the same for them. These behaviors represent love languages I appreciate very much.
Unconditional love in the real world is elusive. I have been blessed to experience easy, natural love and have learned to identify when it is present, and when not. I understand that, logically speaking, a person cannot give what they do not have. Therefore, I’ve learned to not expect love or loving behavior from someone who cannot give it.
If I could give every family in the world one thing, it would be the gift of a sense of plenty of love to go around for everyone. If each person could foster love within themselves, there would be no need to compete for it.
When natural love is present, we instinctively want to encourage others to own their own brilliance and abilities. We trust them with their own life to make it purposeful. We encourage them to trust their own intuition and to make their own choices.
Further, I have come to appreciate that natural love is not coercive or seductive. It is not conquering, nor judgmental. It cares about an honest and equal give and receive; equal respect and equal consideration. It meets you where you are and cares about holding space so you can be and do your best.
Natural love doesn’t try to get others to love you. It focuses on the only life you truly can and should control – your own. When natural love prays through you, it keeps you focused on the highest path that doesn’t require anyone else to change. It keeps you attentive to your own behavior, to keep your word and actions as impeccable and honest as you possibly can, without harm.
Thank you, Mom and Dad, for both examples of love. Without the contrast of both I would have learned next to nothing.
The above insights are some of my love lessons. What are your love patterns and love languages? What does love mean to you? Where and with whom do you feel most loved? How do you show your love? Who have been your influencers of love? What activities help you to experience love? For whom do you have a natural, effortless love?
Finally, I believe that nurturing your own emotional and spiritual love life is the most loving thing you can give to the world.
Here’s a call to go toward the higher, more natural loves within and without to keep living a more loving, balanced life.
Julie Matheson is a holistic mental health counselor and author. Her new book is on Amazon in paperback, Kindle, Audible and in bookstores near you – Lotus Flower Living: A Journaling Practice for Deep Discovery and Lasting Peace: Untangle Your Mind and Heart Once and For All. You may listen to the Introduction at LotusFlowerLiving.com/book.