From March 1998
“It hurts like hell; and then, one day, it doesn’t.”
-Ari Eastman’s mother.
From I PROMISED YOU
I WOULDN’T WRITE THIS.
Learning to love again takes everything you’ve got. You have to relearn trust, transparency, touch, and to risk speaking truth. You have to remember love is more giving than taking; that people are not perfect; that flaws and faults always come with the territory.
“11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” [1 Corinthians 13:11. NKJV]
Learning to love again is a matter of maturity, fortitude, and determination. It does not “just happen.” It is a decision based on ongoing healing and forming new relationships. It is time to take a chance with new experiences that confirm trustworthiness. It is involves making a commitment to dropping your protective shields and allowing another to know you more fully. It is an adult thing to do. Children simply get mad or sullen, but only for a time. Some adults I have known never move beyond. They wallow in hurt, spite, and revenge. They never forgive, or forget. Somehow, they fester vile to feed their anger; what they do not realize is that this venom is slowly poisoning them from within, like a cancer. Let it go!
To overcome your fear and bitterness, your isolation, you will need to awaken these 4 qualities—
- Trust (risk). We live in community, not separation.
- Faith. More likely than not relying on God is a much better idea than stubborn independence.
- Heart. Activating your passions, your emotions, and fear are worth the risk. Learn to feel again.
- Commitment. Make a decision to commit is stepping out of your comfort zone. You will have to do it sooner or later. To NOT decide, to NOT commit is a decision to die.
Failure to embrace these 4 qualities will leave you in emotional and relational limbo, encased in the darkness of your soul. It will take work to emerge from your cocoon a new butterfly rather than rotting within a decaying caterpillar shell.
Learning to love again will take real effort on your part. Do not love simply as a response to someone else’s love for you. Initiate love from within. Sponges in the ocean have little more function than to suck up the impurities around them. You are not a sponge.
Again, love is a give and take, not the other way around. You must be proactive, not passive.
This concludes our series Learning to love, maybe again or for the first time. Where would like us to go next?
Awaiting with baited breath,
Being in love is not for the faint of heart. Loving has become a dangerous enterprise in Western Culture. Expressing love, no matter how up-front or innocent, is open to interpretations of manipulation, harassment and aggression.
Let’s start with our own love-wounds. If you have not been hurt through love, you have not loved, or allowed another to love you. Hurt is part of life: it gives joy its perspective. So if you are guarding your heart, sadly, you also have given up hope of ever trusting or loving at another time. The longer this continues the harder it will be for you to ever love, or be loved, again.
Some of those I’ve counseled have constructed such a protective shell about them that they can barely bring themselves to speak. Fear overtakes their lives and they retreat even deeper into their reclusive shell. Others shut down all and any emotion; no sadness, no elation, no joy, no sorrow. They become the living-dead.
If you are tired of feeling no pain, no joy, no love, try implementing one of these action plans.
- Find a friend. Anyone. They need to be someone with whom you feel safe, more at ease.
- Spend time in sunlight. No, seriously. Vitamin D works wonders on the soul. Take a walk while you’re at it. The exercise will rid your body of the toxins that accompany the pain.
- Talk with a counselor about any abuse. Remember, neglect is abuse too. Whether from a father, a sibling, or a bully, or a spouse, your scars run deep. Don’t let them fester and feed your dark side.
- Find an empowerment group. You’re not the only one who’s been hurt. Others have been through the same or even worse pain. Bond together with them for mutual building. [Not bitching.]
- Come along side someone who has been hurt. That’s right; in your misery reach out a caring hand to someone else. It may do more for you than it does for them.
- Cut back on sugar. Sugar is probably one of the most poisonous substances in our diet, causing everything from depression, to heart disease, to early dementia. Eat fruit. I am dead serious.
- If possible, confront the cause(s) of your pain. Not alone. Take an advocate or an arbiter; especially if the cause is an abuser. Actually, with an abuser, the best course of action may be a simple old snail-mail with no return address. If the cause is a former boyfriend/girlfriend…, well, they probably will not want to meet with you. There is always email, though. Be kind…, and truthful.
For future encounters, please keep in mind that love is always a risk, even more so in these early decades of the Twenty-first Century. It beckons you to put out a little, and then a little more. Reciprocation will tell you if you are on the right path. Do be careful. But do take the risk. Yes, you may be hurt again. But you will be wiser and stronger to handle it this time around.
On a personal note, I have been hurt by people so much in life that I have lost track. And that is a good thing. If I hung on for resolution of every painful experience in life, I would be a useless blot on the DNA scan of the Universe. So now I struggle to live without resolution, yes, but with great hope and trust in the God of my faith. He has always proven to be faithful, safe, and, for me, a little dangerous. It’s just hard sometime.
NEXT DISCUSSION: Learning to Love Again.
Healing from the hurt,
Love is a peculiar thing. Every individual has their own Love Language. Gary Chapman categorized The Five Love Languages (1995) for us—
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving (giving) Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
Most of us fit into one (or more) of these five ways of wanting to be loved.
Our personalities have a great deal to do with the way we want to be loved…, and how we love. [If you have not thought much about your personality I encourage to take these two “personality identifier” tests. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test (the MBTI) here— http://www.personalitypathways.com/type_inventory.html, and the DISC test here— https://discpersonalitytesting.com/free-disc-test/ . They are great fun and quite informative. Enjoy! And don’t copy.] Learning how to love another person is just as important as actually loving them.
If you truly want to know how to love another person put your agenda aside and observe the other; a.k.a.- learn their ways. What do you see? Do they like heat? Chocolate? Tech stuff? Promptness? Silence? A good book? Vegan? A good steak? Honesty and transparency? Time alone? Or, time outside…, wandering? Putting out some effort to discover how another person wants to be loved is one of the clearest indications of genuine love.
When my wife and I were first married, I would often buy her quite nice articles of clothing. No response. It took me a good five years to learn that she did not care that much for clothes, style, “outfits,” etc. She loved books. Once I even snatched a bundle of her books, took them to a book store and asked “What are these and do you have any more like them?” I bought her a book. She was elated!
I was loving her the way I would want to be loved, not the way she wanted to be loved. The same goes for friends and fellow employees. Before you give your friend a box of Havana’s, better find out if he smokes. If you want to give your boss a nice pen, better find out if she even uses one…, or constantly loses them.
Our personalities and preferences hold great sway over the way we love other people. We need to learn how to love them the way they want to be loved— in a safe other-centered way. Furthermore, if I might add, do not love expecting anything in return. For if you love to provoke a love-response from the other you are, in truth, loving yourself. You may want or need their love but do not love them to get it. Love them selflessly, expecting nothing in return. That is truly LOVE.
Your personality does have a lot to do with the way you love people, how you love them. Get a grip on your personality. If you do not want to take a test, ask your friends the brutally honest question, “How do I come across to you? To other people?” Give some diligent consideration to what they say. O, hell, take the test anyway. It’s fun. Do it in a group with goodies to munch during the subsequent discussion.
You truly ARE how you love. Learn what that means.
NEXT DISCUSSION: LOVE HURTS!
Now buying my wife British murder-mystery novels,
Try to imagine your world without love? Hard to do, isn’t it. Most of us have been wounded in a relationship. It hurt. Some of us have lost a husband, a wife, or a child. That pain is unbearable; a gut-wrenching vacuum that nothing can fill. If you have God in your life you have a great resource for strength & solace; if not…, how do you ever deal with the agony?!?
Back to my original question— Why does love even exist? Frankly, love is something we all take for granted. It’s just part of the fabric of life. But for some of us love is rather close to an impossibility. Either we’ve lost the ability to love from some past experience, or we are simply incapable of loving or accepting love. We fear love for…, whatever reason. So we always have our guard up, protecting our hearts.
Scientists have concluded that love is an inner chemical response to some external stimulus. Really! So why do we love some people and not others? And why do we not loveeverybody? Equally? Some other species on this planet form what appears to be a lovingfamily entity. Is it? And, unlike humans, they commit for life. Humm.
Evolutionists will insist that love, even if only an internal chemical reaction, is there for the preservation of our species. That doesn’t ring true for me. Love exists for so much more than that. It’s what binds people together; it is the bond of trust, comradery, brotherhood, friendship, parenting, caring for the dying, sticking with someone through thick and thin, remaining faithful.
The evolutionary theory has it all wrong. Love is a gift from our Creator. It fulfills us as human beings. It brings joy at the end of sorrow, peace after suffering, release in finality. It brings elation at that first kiss, and the second, the third…, lalalala. Love exists to force us to define boundaries that are appropriate to the nature of the relationship we hold with each other person, or people, or nation. Love is an inner ethereal reach for meaning and connection to something, someone, outside of ourselves. It is Devine and human at the same time. A “chemical response” can no more define the reason love exists than a bumble bee could describe the Universe.
Love exists, simply, for us. It was built into our beings at the beginning. Period. Please, argue with me.
NEXT DISCUSSION: How does love affect us?
We live in a culture where love has been lifted up to the highest pinnacle of experience…, and then we complicate it with sex, romance, and shattered relationships. We’ve lost something— a depth of love and any ability to love another selflessly. It’s always about me. Genuine love should be about the other.
We need to learn to love again— with a rich love, a deep love. I’m not talking simply about romantic love…, but a love that is empowering— for our wives, husbands, our parents, our children, neighbors, and our workmates.
Love cannot be merely a word or a feeling: it must be an attitude toward living, an underlying approach to everyone around us. Only then will we begin to grasp the wild stability found in selfless love.
So if you’ve been hurt by love, or simply forgotten how to love, I invite you to join me over the next 6-7 weeks in this discussion about love. Invite your friends into the discussion too. Great fun lies ahead.
~ Dr. Gary Davis
[ALL OF THE STARS, Ed Sheeran— https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkqVm5aiC28 ]
Some of the facets of love we will be discussing are—
- Learning Love. What are the different kinds of love? Why does love even exist? To what extent does loving and being loved affect our lives? And what are the effects of NOT being loved, or NOT loving other people.
- Love Games. What are they? Why do we play them? What do they do to our relationships?
- Your Personality and Love. Your individual personality has a lot to do with your interactions with other people. It influences how and who you love too.
- Love Hurts. Surprise! Giving love that expects nothing in return can lead to deep wounds. How do I recover from them? Giving love expecting something in return is even more dangerous. How are we to recover from love’s life discouragements? Learning to love again is one of the most difficult challenges we will ever face.
- Trust. Loving anyone involves a measure of trust that lets go of personal protection and says My life is in your hands. How do we learn to “trust?” What are the ingredients of trust?
More issues will probably arise as we move through our discussion. There’s no right or wrong here; only open, honest options for us to knock around.
Let’s make love an action verb,
The first step in bringing people to faith in Christ is to get to know them. BUT before that, we need to understand how they see is. One of the ways I find out what people think about us it to ask them.
Here’s a video of just such conversations.
So when you leave your computer/phone, immerse yourself in the lives of your friends and workmates. Start by ASKING questions like:
1.What do you enjoy most about your life?
2. What is the most fun thing you’ve ever done?
3. What was it like growing up?
4. What has been your experience with Christianity, good and bad?
5. Describe your religious beliefs now. What does your spirituality offer you that Christianity does not?
6. To what extent do your beliefs influence your decisions and life motivations?
7.What problems do you have with the Church and/or Christianity?
8. How do you feel when a Christian tries to convert you?
9.How would you like Christians to treat you?
10. If you could change anything about the church, christians or Christianity what would you change?
11. How do you know that you are loved by someone?
Then after you have won the right to be heard, (maybe months or even years later) tell them about the God who created them, who loves them and who wants to give them everything He has to offer. Tell them about the God who offers his forgiveness to them for all the times they dishonored him. Tell them about the God who wants to make them WHOLE persons again.