When I was a child I used to equate love with the feeling of warmth. Being cuddled and appreciated.
When I was a teenager I used to see love as a special gift from God, as a power to influence the life of others.
As a young adult, I saw love as a power of transformation. I was able to discriminate between falling in love and being in love.
When I got married I understood that love was a choice.
When I became a mother I understood that love was responsibility.
My understanding of love has evolved a lot over the years. However, it was only when I have become a mother that I looked deeper. In all the years I have seen love as a relation. And in a sense, it is.
Love is a relation with myself. It begins inside.
Love is self-acceptance.
Let me explain.
In the famous 1st letter to the Corinthians, in the Bible, NIV, we read:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Think about this now.
If I accept myself, who I am, without any pride or disgrace, I have no need to prove myself to others. I don’t need to gain respect from others or please others. Love (self-acceptance) sets me free. I give myself permission to be the way I am, odd or weird, either norm or deception. It does not matter.
I do not bother if others like me or reject me as I do not need the approval of others. It is nice to have it but if I appreciate myself, I am OK with life. As I am content with who I am, I stand for the truth.
When I accept myself I become responsible for who I am. It is about knowing myself, all my sides, the glorious one and the ugly one.
I can love (accept) another person if I am free to give and receive. I used to see love as a relation to another person, my kids, my mother or my countrymen, but this aspect is secondary. The primary aspect is to know whom I am and accept myself. When I do this, I become mature. The love to another emerges naturally from the love to self, as I am capable to stand up and create a partnership relation.
This sets me free from dependencies and conditionals. “I love you, because …” , “I love you, but …” This sets me free from expectations. “If only you do this or become that…”
This gives me personal power in any relation, because my relation is a reflection of my relation to self. So, if things do not go well, I am in charge to change myself in order to change the relation. So, to love means to accept myself, and to love means to accept the other in my co-operative relation.
When we read another famous quote from Mark 12:30-31, NIV:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
So I am to love God, accept the graceful hand in my life, and I am to accept my neighbors as myself.
Once I accept myself I am able to take responsibility for myself and my decisions. So, indeed, love is a choice, a transformational power.
It is also worth to say that in this context a child cannot love, simply because he is not shaped yet to be in a position to take charge of who he is. Of course kids fall in love with parents. He is nice, sweet, cute and adorable. It is great to give them cuddles and receive them. But in reality kids are dependent on parents, the social must’s and do’s, school life and so on. The child is not free to take responsibility of who he is. Not yet.
But a child is growing in love to learn what love is. It is therefore of a paramount importance for a parent to radiate own self-acceptance and create an environment of trust for the kids to grow.
Kids do things to please themselves, please their parents or sometimes because they are afraid of punishment. At some point, with age, they will get angry about the dependence they hold to the parents. They will rebel the norms and attempt to establish their own identity. This can be a painful process, as we know, where the Self is vulnerable to be heavily influenced by peers and external circumstances.
The crisis so prevalent nowadays with low self-esteem of kids and young adults reflects the lack of role models who loved themselves and the others.
Let us appreciate who we are. Let us be the role models for kids to learn to love.