Love is one of those words that captures all the positive elements of less expansive words: hope, delight, patience, endurance, faithfulness, constancy, sacrifice, promise, advocacy, generosity, gratitude, attention, listening, compassion, empathy, care, thoughtfulness, gentleness, celebration, as only a partial list.
There is so much that stands in the way of our ability or willingness to love: fear, doubt, ignorance, distrust, lack of skill, lack of faith, greed, lust of money or power, selfishness and laziness, as only a partial list.
We all have an habitual way of “showing up” when we encounter others. Our “relational styles” like our shoes, change with the occasion. We may be quite engaged and available in a large social setting requiring little real intimacy, but shut down or withdrawn when invited into a deeper one on one connection. The important thing is to bring to awareness the reality of our basic individual coping styles. Only then can we ask: Is this way of relating something that has made my life, and the lives of others, better?
I have done “training” to self-examine and to receive and use the feedback of others concerning how I “show up” in my social and family and “significant other” connections. After 3 years, and some progress, I feel I am still learning how often I choose the easy path of “judging” and “closing-off” others. By making “them” apart from “me” I close out the possibilities of “us.” That is more “safe” and predictable, and totally sterile. People are treasures, and we must invite them to show the richness of who they really are. Some will surprise us with their readiness to share their riches, and we must always be ready to surprise them.
The mind has a powerful part in this process of connection. Emotions follow our thoughts. As we habitually think, we will then habitually perceive, and what we habitually perceive, we conclude is “real.” We form our beliefs and values around what is “real” to us. Thus, our thoughts are either aligned with that objective something called “reality” or our thoughts are distortions of that reality. In human connections, our happiness will depend on the accuracy and truth of our thoughts about ourselves and others.
If we filter our perceptions of others through a perceptual lens of fear, doubt, distrust, woundedness and self-protection, we will produce confirmation of our perceptions by acting on our beliefs. The contrary is true: if we see ourselves and others as creatures of God who reflect His/Her image, and have the capacity for great and noble acts of goodness, we will act in ways that confirm that reality as well.
Scripture informs us that “God is Love” and that we are created in the image of God. That is, we were created to love, and we fulfill our unique identities as individuals by loving out of our true personalities as Children of God. Every day, we must remember we are not of “this world.” We are a higher order of beings who can claim our true identities by utter surrender and dependence on God. Claiming this true identity, and living it each day, requires mental attention and purpose.
Adopting a new relational style that is contrary to our old notions of “reality” requires the grace of God, and the love and support of brothers and sisters on the same path. Be intentional. Awaken and reawaken numerous times throughout the day to a hidden order of truth. The world as you and most of us have become accustomed to see it is not the “real” world.
New International Version (NIV)
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.