I have said before that if you want more love in your life, become more loving. It's really the only way. Because anything else relies on others, and we have little control over that.
But how about loving the hard to love? The difficult people in our life. The hard to forgive. This is certainly a challenge.
what if there's somebody in your life who's done you wrong, stolen your sandwich from the lunch room, called you fat, cheated on you? Do we love that person? If so, how?
Ultimately, loving is about self compassion
Learning to love and become more loving is about personal evolution. It is a part of growth. Including the difficult to love in that circle of people who we love is challenging for sure. But it's an incredibly important part of our personal development
Loving more, loving more fully is a path to mind, body, spirit development.
It's important to remember what love is. It's important to remember what love is not.
So what is love?
Love is acceptance. It is accepting others for who they are, flaws and all.
But let's talk about acceptance for minute. Acceptance does not mean that you lower your standards for how you should be treated. Acceptance does not mean that you do not offer help when it is appropriate to do so.
What acceptance means is that you accept the other even when their personal habits annoy you. You accept them and who they are even if they are mean, addicted, or hold beliefs different than yours.
This does not mean that you allow people to be mean to you. It does not mean you support their addiction. It does not mean you take on their beliefs.
It simply means that despite these impediments to being loved, you love and accept them.
Now I understand how difficult this is. It is very difficult for me to accept people who have been abusive towards me. But I'm working towards this, while continuing to protect myself from further abuse.
There is this kind of misconception out there that forgiveness means forgetting. This is just not the case. You can forgive someone, meaning you remove a lot of the negative emotional impact they had on you, and still not invite them over for dinner. You can accept that they are human being deserving of love, without welcoming their behavior that may be harmful towards you.
What love is not
love is not control. I had a spiritual teacher once used to say, "wanting to control is wanting to kill." This is a pretty extreme statement. But on some level it's true. If I want control over you, I essentially want power over your life. And while I would never actually kill someone, it is the same kind of impulse.
This is an important concept that many people miss in so-called loving relationships. A controlling romantic partner is often a sign of emotional abuse. Loving is not control.
Sometimes caretakers get this mixed up. As a parent I can tell you that this is a difficult line. There's a balancing act between setting boundaries on behavior, and wanting to control your children. I won't pretend that this isn't a difficult line to walk. As a parent I am always wondering when to give space and when to set boundaries. However, I feel like at least pondering the question allows me to be a more mindful parent. And loving my children is about accepting them in their own paths.
Love is not becoming a doormat. Loving someone and accepting them does not mean that you allow them to behave in harmful ways towards you. Again, this is about boundary setting. And sure, this is difficult. Romantic relationships can become entangled when people's egos take the forefront.
Love is not subordinate or absorbing. Ideal loving relationships develop all of those involved. Abusive relationships frequently have one partner subjugated by the other. One person begins to define themselves in terms of the other. This is ego absorption not a healthy blending of two people into one couple.
So how do you become more loving?
It takes practice.
First, it begins with self compassion. You must love and accept yourself even during moments of suffering. Especially during moments of suffering. When you feel angry, or jealous, or petty it is important to recognize but these are moments of human suffering. You must let go of judging yourself for having an experience that is common to all people. You must be kind and nurture your own emotional needs.
When you do this, you begin to grow in spirit. You begin to grow emotionally. You begin to self nurture.
You stop judging yourself
As the center of your own loving universe. You are then more capable of extending that love and acceptance to others. Once your ego needs are met you will take the hurtful actions of others less personally.
There are of course lots of ways to practice compassion for others. There is the Buddhist practice of imagining that everyone you come into contact with has, in one lifetime, then your mother. And so you develop a loving feeling, a compassionate feeling towards other living beings.
But it's also important to understand the concept that hurt people hurt people. When someone is unkind for hurtful is because they are hurting. People who feel whole, complete, and loving just don't hurt others. And so again, becoming loving can start with this compassionate understanding.
I think of someone who abuse me as a child. Now the torment that he caused me may be inexcusable. However, I know that it never would've happened if he wasn't tormented himself. I can feel a great deal of compassion for what he must've gone through. I can accept how painful his life must have been. I can accept him as a soul with a pure spiritWho is complex and suffering. I do not have to invite him back into my life.
And so loving the unlovable requires work. It's hard work. This is deep stuff that touches us at our core.
But I believe that is ultimately extremely rewarding. I believe that it's a force that propels us through spiritual evolution. I believe it makes us healthier in mind, body, and spirit.