With Valentine's day around the corner love is on everybody's mind. Everybody loves love, but so few ever seem to really find it. St Augustine's words come to mind for me each year about this time "You have made us and drawn us to yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee." Our beginning and our end, it is love. It is all love. But if it was all made for love and is all moving toward love, why is it that there is still so much hunger for love in this world?
I was listening to a radio show the other night where a woman was explaining how her childhood was troubled. Her parents were heavy handed and reluctant to share themselves, their emotions, their money, their love with the children. She recalled a particular instance where she had asked her father for a simple gift and he denied it saying that it "cost money" and "money isn't free." She felt rejected and associated tightness with money with a lack of love.
So, when she became a mother herself she lavished gifts upon her son regardless of whether she could afford them. She drove herself into unmanageable debt buying things for her son who did not even want these things and eventually resented her for her extravagance. After several years of asking her to stop he finally had enough. He came to her one Christmas night and returned the pile of gifts she had sent him. "I don't want this stuff," he told her. "You have a problem and I've had enough of it. I'm leaving and I won't come back until you have it under control." At that point, the woman realized she had been trying to buy love from her son. She realized that he didn't see gifts as love the way she did. She realized her son wanted a mother who was happy with her life, confident, and in control. She was none of those things and her son associated her excessive gifting and emotional neediness with a lack of love.
I thought long and hard about this woman's experience. It is important to consider how we perceive, receive and give love to others. It is so difficult to move beyond our own perceptions, our concerns and experiences to love others as they need to be loved. It is hard, even when we are trying to selflessly consider the good of others, to really know what they want and need from us. It takes effort and time and a willingness to reconsider our own judgments in light of what we learn. It takes a humble and gentle spirit to listen closely and observe. It takes honesty to admit our own shortcomings. It takes fortitude and patience and a willingness to persevere and not become discouraged. In short, it takes a loving heart to love. And a loving heart does not come easy.
Is there some way we have been loving others that is too much based on our own perceptions of being loved? Have we been thinking of ourselves or others when we decide what and how to give?
Is there some way that others have been asking us to love them that we have been refusing? Is there a brother who wants your forgiveness? A spouse who just wants you to listen?
Is there some way we've let our own failings stand in the way of love? Have we let our own sensitivities keep us from being the friend we know we should be?
Is there a daughter who needs more of your time? A spouse who wants affection? An in law who could use a little more understanding?
Could we give a little more? Could we love a little better?