Love is not a noun. We use it sometimes as a description of our feelings. It is common to say, “I love that dress,” or, “I love to dance.” In other words, we often use it to describe how we feel about something or someone else. It is a very pleasurable feeling when we are in that feeling state. This kind of “love” really isn’t very reliable or sustained however. It is rooted in our reaction to things, in reactivity if you will, rather than in our actions. We don’t have much control over our feelings, but when our actions are rooted in our values we end up creating valuable or value-able lives. And, ironically, we tend to make choices that create the conditions for lives that are both meaningful and joyful. When choose to love, to cultivate the habit of behaving in a loving way, we create the conditions under which we are most likely to feel both loving and loved. Therefore, the act of loving is the heart of real love. Real love is actually a verb. It requires action.
When we take marriage vows, we promise to love, honor and cherish, for example. That doesn’t mean we promise to feel love, honor and cherishing toward the other. No one can promise to have particular feelings toward the other. Though we will undoubtedly feel these things at times, there is also no doubt that we will not be feeling these things much of the time. So what then are we really promising? We are promising not the feelings, but the actions.
We are promising to choose to behave in a loving way, a way that cherishes and honors the other person. This isn’t always easy, and it isn’t for the faint of heart. Real love requires not just action but courage.
Real love starts with the practice of seeing and hearing the other. It starts with a habit of seeking to understand the other. Without understanding the other person’s truth, and their feelings, we cannot really know them. Who then are we saying we love? Not the other, they are unknown to us. Without seeing and understanding the other, we can only “love” our own projection. In a sense we are in love with ourselves, our own projection. So real love, the act of love, must always begin with the act of seeking to see and understand the other.
I don’t just mean being able to parrot back what they are saying to us. No, uncovering their “t” truth isn’t the most important thing. We need to seek our their “T” truth. To understand, at the deepest level, how our actions or inactions affect the other. We must be every bit as interested in the Truth of the other, as we are in our own Truth.
We must also be interested in our own Truth. Not, the reactive feelings that come from our stories about who did what to whom, no not the “t” truth. Instead we must be willing to do the work to uncover our “T” truth. What is it that is deeply True for us? At the end of the day, what will have given our life meaning and purpose? How would we like others to speak about our behavior when we pass on? How would we like others to feel about how we treated them? If we want them to feel loved, then we must value the habit of choosing to behave in a kind and compassionate way toward others. Real love requires action that reflects our Truth.
Truth be told, it isn’t always convenient to see or hear the other. And sometimes it is downright painful, especially when they are injured by something we have or haven’t done. This requires courage.
Having the ability to comfort and soothe ourselves, the practice of self-compassion can be very helpful here. It can help us to stay with the other and ourselves. It can help us have the courage know our deepest pain, and it can help us have the courage to recognize pain in the other too. Courage can also help us to choose to act in ways that are inline with our deepest values, even when it isn’t convenient or when it is quite painful to do so. Courage is also an important part of compassion. The act of seeing the other, and of choosing to offer love and support can actually be cultivated. It can even become habitual.
When we desire to cultivate compassion, it is also helpful to keep in mind our common humanity. Each of us desires to be safe and loved just as we are. That is just part of the human condition, our survival is linked to belonging. Let’s face it, it is highly unlikely that any of us will become perfect. If we had to wait for perfection in order to be loved, we would be in real trouble. Luckily, the habit of behaving in kind and compassionate ways, the practice of loving-kindness and compassion toward ourselves and others, creates the conditions under which we are most lovable. In order to be loved, it is most important to be loving. Being loving leads to being lovable. Want more love? Try opening the door of the heart to others, giving them what they need, and opening the door of the heart to your own self. No need to wait for someone else to find us lovable. We can shine the light of our own love and kindness toward ourselves too. Cultivate the habit of generously giving real love — yourself and to others — I suspect you’ll be glad you did! Now that’s real love!
For more information about how to develop the habit of awareness of ourselves and others, you might choose to take a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. To learn how to deepen the practice of self-compassion, you might try a Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) course. To learn the practice of compassion you could try a Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) course. For help in learning to behave in ways that cultivate trust, you might try a Rising Strong™ course. For help in finding a course, please see my teaching schedule at WiseCompassion.com, and the listing of resources on my resource page. Wishing you wonderful moments of loving!
© Michelle Becker, WiseCompassion.com