Love is amazing, but it’s not always that easy. Here are 8 things that can hinder the love in our lives.
Keeping with the theme of Spring, let’s start by saying that love is quite literally the best thing ever. It’s amazing to think that as powerful as faith is, and as foundational to human existence that hope is, love is greater still.
Everybody is looking for love, and often in whatever form they can get it. There’s the pursuit of marriage, where you are trying to find the heart of another that feels like home to you. There’s the development of friendships, which doesn’t always make a lot of sense – friends are just people you just decide for some nebulous reason that you are going to do everything together with them. There is the love that we can show people we don’t know that well and also the love we show our families.
Everyone has a need for love in their life. As such, most of what we do with our lives, whether through action or inaction, is in pursuit of love.
In the Greek, there are three main words for love – eros, relating to romantic, physical and/or sexual love; phileo, relating to a friendship and respect level of love; and agape, which is unconditional, unmitigated love, also called charity. Each of these is fundamental to human existence, whether we’re willing to admit it or not.
But it’s not always that easy.
There can be a number of things that hinder the love in our lives. This can either take the form of things that hinder how we receive love, but more importantly for the context of this post, how we give love to others.
Here are 8 of them.
#1: Worrying about how we’ll be perceived
We are obsessed with our image and how we’re perceived. Think about how many times you’ve said or heard the following sentence:
I’m worried about what they’ll think of me.
Who is “they”? It could be the person you want to receive your act of love. It could be the people around your relationship. Maybe it’s just you.
You don’t want to come across desperate, or too needy, or showing too much affection. You don’t want to be one of those people you’ve heard about and were told not to be like, but you’re not entirely sure why.
This can be a reason why so often we don’t speak up or speak out for the people we care about. It can even affect charity or volunteer based work, where we don’t want to be seen as doing something because people will think we’re just out to get something for ourselves.
Definitely a big hindrance.
#2: Not being present
In the days of the Internet and the smartphone, we are constantly distracted by all the people who currently aren’t with us right now. When we’re on the bus, we can still check up on what our friends are doing. When we’re at home by ourselves, we’re able to still talk to people and catch up.
But what happens more often is that when we are in the room with others, we are too busy having conversations with all the people who aren’t there with us. And so we miss those we are currently standing in front of, or sitting across the table from.
More than our technology, our minds can take us places apart from our body. And so often we are thinking about things and people and places that we are not at right now.
In the words of Yoda, “Never his mind on WHERE HE WAS, or WHAT HE WAS DOING”.
This isn’t always a bad thing, but if you’re constantly “absent” from the conversation or the people you are currently with, don’t be surprised if they have a hard time relating to you, and you to them.
#3: Too much fairytale and not enough reality
We are obsessed with the “ideal situation”. In romance, it may be we hold close to the boy meets girl and everything just magically falls into place ideal. In family, it may be the white picket fence with the wife who adores her husband, the husband who adores her wife, neither of them ever having an off day, and the kids all getting along. In our friendships, it’s always being able to call someone at any moment, and never having a disagreement.
Reality doesn’t always look like this.
Don’t get me wrong – it definitely can. But due to my imperfection and your imperfection, our love isn’t always going to look so happy clappy.
What if it happens at what feels like the wrong time? What if someone says something when you’re really hating yourself? What if it means your plans have to change? What if he doesn’t always give the listening ear he should? What happens when she comes home from work or study in a fit? What happens when they seem to always be on a side against you?
I think love is at its most powerful and beautiful when it is completely accepting of the circumstances in which it is given. For better… OR worse. What if it actually does feel worse? What better opportunity to show them your love. What if your kids just need a persistent love of a parent to wear down the difficult circumstances they’re going through, even though they may never say thank you?
That’s real love. And always waiting for fairytale circumstances will cause us to miss so many opportunities to give love and to receive it.
#4: Not staying aware
A few friends on Facebook this week posted around a profound thought – “The greatest cruelty is our casual blindness to the despair of others”. Mother Teresa said that “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved”.
The day of publication for this post in Australia is R U OK Day, a day where we are encouraged to intentionally seek out how the people in our worlds are really doing. It’s very hard to show love for people where they need it if we’re not paying enough attention to notice how much they need it. And even worse – sometimes we are fully aware that someone is not going well, and we do nothing about it. The girl who smiles through so much pain may actually need someone to recognize it and love her for who she is and not for what she does. The man who continually puts others first who you aren’t paying enough attention to see he is crying out for someone to love him too. Friends, family, husbands and wives, children, parents, teachers, colleagues and passersby – everyone has a need for love.
Are you paying enough attention to love people in their language, in the place they need it most?
#5: Getting something back in return
Another thing that can trip is up is that we want something in return. If I give him a present for his birthday, he should give me just as nice a present for mine. If I tell her how I feel about her, she needs to then tell me the nice things she thinks about me. If I reach out and help my church small group, they should be courteous enough to observe how much I love them and thank me back.
Alas, this leaves a lot of us stuck. Cause people don’t always give back to you the way you give to them.
And maybe this is a reason why we find it so hard to receive love sometimes. Cause we now think, oh great, I have to encourage them and be there for them back.
What if you and I decided to love anyway, with no expectation of a return?
This is the selflessness of love personified. I may miss out on getting what I want, but I at least want to make sure I give to them what I want to give to them.
Balanced with wisdom and boundaries, this selfless love can set people free.
#6: Not being honest about what we need or want
This mainly affects how we receive love in our lives, but can also affect how we give it to others. All of us have different desires when it comes to the domain of love, but often we’re not as honest about them.
Many people want to get married, for instance, but because of the number of disappointments they may have encountered, they may withhold talking about it. A lot of people in relationships feel they need their partner to communicate love to them in a way they need it, through reassurance or acts of service or compliments or sex. Many people with their friends and family rarely really talk about what they would actually like to happen in their relationships. What happens with these desires is we either usually complain to others about what we’re not getting from the relationship, or we suppress it so deeply because we feel bad for having those desires at all.
I think either option is a real disservice to the potential that love brings to enrich our lives.
Everyone needs love, my friend. You and I included. Don’t feel bad or weak or needy for having that inside your heart.
#7: Past hurt
It’s hard to open up again after you’ve been punched in the heart. You know what I’m talking about. Where someone’s words or actions have reached you so deeply you didn’t know you could feel pain in such a place.
CS Lewis said “to love at all is to be vulnerable”. Ain’t that the truth. And behind fear of rejection or uncertainty about our future, much of our affection and love remains hidden and bound up.
And we’re just not sure if we could handle what happened last time happening again.
It’s a journey to get to a place where we feel confident in loving again. And the reality is, you definitely will be disappointed again. Maybe the easiest way to deal with that fear is to embrace that reality.
Love is giving the other person permission to let you down. Whether or not you’re willing to sign up for that again is up to you.
Probably our largest problem with love is we let it be determined by feelings. After all, love is a feeling… right? You can feel love, and so you can feel not in love… right? When you don’t feel loved, it means that it is the fault of someone else for not showing you love… right?
Feelings can be a good indicator of how you’re really doing, but they’re not always the best metric for whether or not you should show love to someone, or whether or not you are being shown love by someone.
Cause if you made a commitment that you’d love them to the day you die, but you don’t feel like it’s something you really want to do today, and your feelings are the basis of the decisions you make, that commitment is going to go.
And if you know that someone has said they love you and they’re doing all the right things but you’re just not feeling it today, it must be a problem with what they’re doing, right? Well, maybe. Maybe it’s not entirely what you need right now.
Or it could be you not allowing that message of love to get through to you.
Let’s you and I agree not to let our feelings be the sole basis of what we will or we will not do with our love.
As always, open to your thoughts. How do you think we can lead lives of love in every area?