This week’s focus is probably one of the most challenging that I have explored. If I were to ask each one of you what love meant, I would likely get as many different answers as there are people being asked. The definition of love is so misunderstood and enigmatic that the Greeks have six distinct words to differentiate between the separate meanings of love. For instance, the love you have for your spouse is different than the kind of love you might have for your favorite ice cream. And that is different still from the love you have for a friend or family member.
However, I would like to offer a more simple meaning of love.
Marshall Rosenberg in his exploration of nonviolent communication teaches a brilliant concept that lends itself so well to understanding love. He says that nonviolent communication allows us to connect in a way that makes natural giving possible. Honestly, I cannot think of a better definition of love.
Let me rephrase. Love is what allows us to connect in a way that makes natural giving possible.
This definition and concept is not dependent on the type of relationship or what the act is. It is not conditional where there is a quid pro quo. It doesn’t work out of obligation or duty, nor out of punishment and reward, nor guilt and shame. It is simply an energy that lends itself to giving naturally of oneself.
Think for a moment about a time when you noticed someone in need and you immediately met that person’s needs. There was no premeditation or agreement made. You just simply met the need by giving of yourself in the most natural way possible. That, whatever it was and to whomever, was an act of love. It was an energy of natural giving as a direct response to another person’s need.
If love becomes more complicated than that, then it gets twisted and confused with a whole host of other energies, intentions, and feelings. Unfortunately, that’s how many of us experience and express love.
Learning how to spot someone else’s needs is the key to learning how to love. Spotting a person’s needs can be complicated and challenging at times, especially if the request is coming out sideways in the form of sarcasm or anger. Those are energies that make the natural giving process harder to do.
How do we know when a person’s needs are NOT getting met? How do we know when our own needs are NOT getting met? Well, we feel anger, depression, guilt, or shame. When we are angry, we are making moralistic judgements about another person or situation. When we’re depressed, guilty or in shame, we are making those moralistic judgments about ourselves or our own situation. Further, these moralistic judgments, the ones that determine right and wrong, are simply tragic expressions of unmet needs.
This is not to say that we should stop making judgements. But instead of making moralistic judgments, we make need-based judgments. We judge whether something is meeting our needs or not. We don’t moralistically judge a person or for what they did, or ourselves for what we did.
I would suggest that you begin this practice on yourself first. The next time you’re feeling angry, depressed, guilty or shameful, simply ask yourself what need you have that is unmet. That’s it for now. Just try to identify your unmet needs. This takes time and practice. But, it is so worth it because the clearer you become with this process for yourself, the more available you will become to respond naturally to the needs of others. You will quite literally become more loving. And the more loving you become, the more love you will feel.
Love is one of the themes I will be exploring in my Lenten Series Online On-demand Course. I developed the 40 Day course to help you find a practice that works for you. Every day a new lesson and practice will be made available to you to explore as you like.
What will we cover? Some of the topics will cover:
By the end of this Lenten season, you’ll have an entire set of practices that will actually deepen your spiritual life, with a new richness and wholeness, no matter if you are Christian or not. This is just for people in the Christian tradition, it’s for everyone.
I offer this as a Pay What You Can model. I know that many are struggling to make ends meet right now. And, these teachings are too important to let money get in the way. So, please feel free to sign up for any level of offering you’re called to.
Love and blessing to you all,