How to Tell the Truth About Love
I used to be one of those people who would be quick to tell you that something didn’t bother me when deep down inside it did. That was how I had learned to cope. I was even proud of how I had mastered this version of pridefulness. But it was this dishonest methodology that led to my health problems, relationship discord and financial challenges.
We are in a relationship with everything — with people, with our health and even with our finances. Experience is our teacher. When the fruit of our labors is health, relationship or financial discord, it is a heads-up that we may have encountered an insane coping skill such as pridefulness. Insane, because it is incapable of providing us with the results our hearts are seeking.
“You cannot evaluate an insane belief system from within it,” states the Foundation for Inner Peace’s edition of A Course in Miracles. Truths about love are tucked away in memories from our childhood. Redeeming these truths transforms us from victim to visionary.
A Tale of Two Dads
Annalee was a month shy of seven and learning to ride a two-wheeler on the street where Uncle James lived. “I should already be riding a two-wheeler,” Annalee was thinking. All her friends were. She had been begging her dad to teach her for months.
This day was actually her uncle’s idea. Taylor Street was flat and Annalee lived on a hill so it made sense to learn here. Uncle James was there with his daughter, Peggy, and Anna was with her dad. Annalee was six months older than Peggy, a year older in school, and a head taller.
Peggy was already mastering the whole bike thing, but Annalee was struggling. “My bike is too big for me,” Anna pouted. Her parents had bought her one that she would grow into, but that didn’t help her at all with her learning. Peggy’s bike was just her size, just what she needed.
Annalee secretly wished that Uncle James were her dad. There were many days that this secret wish haunted her. Uncle James was a cool dad. He did things with his kids. You could tell that he really enjoyed them and he enjoyed Annalee. She could feel it in her heart.
After another failed attempt at riding, disgusted with her dad and fuming at God, Anna silently demanded of Him, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this dad?” It felt as though her dad was always wishing she’d hurry and grow up already, as the bigger bike implied. Annalee wasn’t having fun or feeling enjoyed, but Dad put on a good show that day on Taylor Street just as he always did.
Forty years later Annalee recounts this memory and sees the contrast between authentic love and synthetic love. Authentic love is like a beam of light that comes from within and radiates outward, warming the hearts of those in its path. Uncle James had loved her authentically, enjoyed his time with her and warmed her with his glow.
There was no warmth from her own dad on that day. There was no authentic love that accompanied doing a fatherly duty to uphold a fatherly image because it was a pursuit to be in the spotlight rather than the source of the beam. That was synthetic love — it looked like love but it didn’t feel like love.
Is It Loving Or Is It Selfish?
I thought the difference between being loving and being selfish was obvious. Aren’t they opposites? Well, they may actually be the opposite of what you think. Learned behaviors and beliefs about love modeled during childhood become our love habits as adults, so what you have been practicing may warrant a second glance.
When I laid my beliefs out on the table for reevaluation, some of them made no sense. Some of what I was practicing as love created frustration for me.
How could love create frustration?
I didn’t think it could, so I dedicated a period of time to reevaluating and redefining my definition of love. If peace of mind, integrity and authenticity are virtues you seek, I urge you to undertake such a reevaluation yourself.
We all enter this world with a longing to love and be loved; the means to this end is where it gets confusing. Genuinely loving thoughts, words and deeds, must come from a place that is pure-of-heart. Pure-of-heart as in absent-of-fear. It takes openness, brutal honesty and a willingness to consume lots of humble pie in order to distinguish what is loving from what is selfishness.
Some religions and societies profess that it is noble and saintly, indeed loving, to put one’s self last. In an effort to mimic saints who came from a loving place that was pure-of-heart, many have misguidedly resorted to manipulative and controlling tactics with selfish motives. Actions that can appear honorable and noble on the surface can conceal fear-based intentions beneath. When the intentions match the actions it is love. “As above, so below” you might say.
When someone asks a favor of us and we comply, even though we are already spread too thin, what we feel is not aligned with what we do. “As above is not so below.”
Would you want to be on the receiving end of someone’s help if you knew it meant that they had to suffer to be there for you? Probably not. Suffering doesn’t prove that someone loves us. And it isn’t even necessary.
Suffering more likely indicates:
• a fear of the consequences of saying “no.”
• a desire to monopolize the attention, admiration or sympathy of those they profess to be helping.
• an inflated sense of self-importance — a false belief that they are indispensable.
• a lack of faith and trust that there is someone else who will step up in their absence.
These kinds of behaviors are actually selfish because they are born of fear and block out divine intervention.
The selfish-of-heart have a strong desire to love and be loved, but have been misguided. They don’t understand the process and can be destructive and even arrogant in their refusal to own their motivations. You can give someone the shirt off your back as long as it doesn’t cause harm anywhere else.
If you will freeze or have to ask someone else for their shirt, are you really helping anyone?
Hidden Love Agendas
Fear-based motivations promote intentions that are selfish rather than loving. They include fear of not being loved for being honest, fear of what others will think and fear of going to hell. Ironically, when selfish-of-heart we expend a lot more energy in our attempts to get others to believe that we are pure-of-heart, than those who are pure-of-heart spend on being loving.
When fearful we manipulate. We try to earn love rather than express love; we attempt to prove that we love rather than trust in the power of love. When tactics fail to produce a desired outcome it leaves us frustrated. Authentic love does not create frustration, so when we find ourselves frustrated because someone does not appreciate our loving efforts, it is likely we were manipulating rather than loving. When pure-of-heart we have nothing to prove, nothing to hide, and no need to defend or justify, only a desire to love and be honest.
If we are too busy to be there for someone when their life is going well, but would be there in a heartbeat if they were in crisis, our motives may be worth reexamining.
Would you want a person like that near you during a time of need?
The selfish want to be there for us if they can benefit in some way, so an opportunity to be a hero is enticing. When we are feeling undervalued we are in need, so it would be more loving to address our own issues than to go on a help mission to feed our lack of self-worth with someone else’s misfortune. People sometimes use their misfortune to get attention. That is selfish too.
The key is that being compassionate with someone out of love carries no strings. Being there for someone out of fear or need — to assure they are in our debt in case we need a favor down the road, or to be able to play the role of hero — carries strings (hidden agendas). This is a love tainted with insecurities (fears) at best. True love cannot be earned, or bought.
Sometimes we can genuinely be loving and sometimes we can’t. When we can’t it is time to purify our hearts by taking responsibility for the reasons that are preventing or blocking our ability to love. Healing in its truest sense involves changing some of our deepest and most basic limiting attitudes about love.
Reprinted with permission from Why Me? Why Now? Why Not? Finding Opportunity in Your Obstacles by Trish Whynot.
Trish Whynot, D.C.Ed, is a holistic counselor, Doctor of Core Education, speaker and writer with a private counseling practice in Middleton, MA. She enjoys the outdoors, art, books, photography and the seasons with her family, friends and pets. Visit www.TrishWhynot.com or call (978) 314-4545.