My dear friends...
Love is a Natural Emotion. When it is allowed to be expressed, and received by a child, normally and naturally, without limitation or condition, inhibition or embarrassment, it does not require anything more. For the joy of love expressed and received in this way is sufficient unto itself. Yet love which has been conditioned, limited, warped by rules and regulations, rituals and restrictions, controlled, manipulated, and withheld, becomes unnatural.
Children who are made to feel that their natural love is not okay--that it is wrong to express it, and that, in fact, they shouldn't even experience it--will have a difficult time appropriately dealing with love as adults.
Love that is continually repressed becomes possessiveness, a very unnatural emotion. People have killed because of possessiveness. Wars have started, nations have fallen.
People love to be in love. Yet "love" is a big word. It is the biggest word in the language. Any language.
What is love, really? Conversations with God has a lot to say on this subject. Among other things, it says that love is a decision, not a reaction. That may be one of the most important things anyone could ever say on the subject. True love is never the result of how another person looks, behaves, or interacts with us. It is a choice to be loving no matter how that other looks, behaves or interacts with us.
This does not mean that true love requires us to stay in a relationship that is abusive. Do not confuse the words "love" and "relationship." We are not proving that we love someone by staying in a relationship. Indeed, there are instances when we may be proving we love them by leaving. So it is not true that love demands that we accept abuse from the one that we love.
If a person is abusive to us, it is abusive to that person to allow their abuse to continue. For if we allow their abuse to continue, what do we teach them? Yet if we make it clear that the abuse is unacceptable, what then have they learned?
Of course, it is true that no one can ever really "get out" of a relationship. We are always in relationship with each other, and the only thing that changes is the form the relationship takes. You cannot end a relationship, you can only change it. So do not think in terms of ending your relationship, think in terms of changing it. You may wish to change its form, or you may wish to hold onto the form, but change its characteristics within that form.
Choosing to love someone --- truly love them --- is a very high act. It is the mark of a Master. Loving someone as a "reaction" is a somewhat less elevated experience. It is the mark of a student. The danger of loving someone as a reaction is that the one we love may change. In fact, it is a certainty that they will. They may gain weight, or lose it. They may alter their personality. They may change their ideas about something important to us. And if we are in love with what others bring to us in relationship, we could be headed for enormous disappointment.
So we come to the second big truth about all this: love is not about what the other brings to you, it is about what you bring to the other. Indeed, the purpose of all love relationships is to provide us with an opportunity to decide and to declare, to be and to express, to become and to fulfill, Who We Really Are.
This is perhaps another way of restating the first truth, because Who We Really Are is a choice, not a response. It is a decision, not a reaction - although it is true that most people think it is the other way around.
When I talk to young people about love, I tell them that there are two questions having to do with life and relationship that everyone would benefit from asking.
1. Where am I going?
2. Who is going with me?
It is important to ask these in the right order. Many people switch them around --- and suffer for it the rest of their lives. First they ask, who is going with me in my life? Then they ask, where am I going? Often, the choice of destination is conditioned and compromised by the choice of companion. This can make for a very rough journey.
I remember how at one of our spiritual renewal retreats one young woman in her twenties asked sadly, "What does it feel like to be in love?" I told her I could not answer for anyone else, but I know what it feels like to me. It feels like there is only one of us in the room.
When I am with my beloved other, Em, it feels as if there is no place where "I" end and "she" begins. When I look into Em's eyes, it is like looking into my own. When I sense that Em is sad, it is as if the sadness pierces my own heart. When she smiles, the heart of me smiles with her --- as her. I wish I could feel this way about everyone. That is what I am working toward. I am feeling it with more and more people very day.
A Course in Miracles says, "No special relationships." In other words, no one person should be more special to us than another. That is how God experiences love. There is no condition, and no one is more special than another.
It is difficult for most people to understand that. How can God love us all equally, the "good" and the "bad" alike? It is because God does not see any of us as "good" or "bad." We are all perfect in God's eyes, no matter how we are behaving. Human beings have a long way to go before they can claim that. Most of us place condition after condition on our love, and we are very fast to withdraw it when those conditions are not met.
So the third great truth about love is that it knows no conditions. There is no such thing as "I love you IF..." in God's world.
The fourth great truth about love is that it knows no limitations. Love is freedom, experienced. Total and absolute freedom. And so one who loves another never seeks to restrict or limit that other in any way. This is a tough one for many people. For many, love translates, roughly, into "ownership." Not that this is ever expressed, of course. It is simply felt. It is a felt sense of "you're mine." Of course, in true love nothing could be further from the truth. And in true love, such ideas or thoughts are never part of the paradigm. No one owns anyone, and no one acts as if they do.
This has major implications, as one might imagine. So now I am going to list the fifth, and perhaps the most "controversial," truth about love that I know.
Love never says no. Not to persons of equal maturity and intelligence. (We are not talking about children here. Let's limit this discussion to adults.)
No matter what the request of the beloved, love says yes. This does not mean that personal opinions are not expressed, nor personal preferences announced. But, in the end, a request from the beloved is never denied.
Again, that is difficult for many people to grapple with. Yet this is the way that God loves. I am fond of saying in my lectures and retreats that God has only one word in Her vocabulary. God always says yes. No matter what you want, no matter what you choose, He never says no.
This idea can be reduced to two-words: God allows.
Since Conversations with God teaches that the words "God" and "love" are interchangeable, you could then say, "love allows."
In the end, that is what love does. Love allows. It never restricts, it never limits, it never stops, it only allows. In true love relationships, you get to have what you want.
The sixth truth about love is that it always renews itself. It never runs out.
As a regular ritual in our marriage, Em and I exchange our wedding vows every year on our anniversary. We have a whole wedding ceremony, with a minister, invited guests, the dinner and cake...the whole nine yards. Now some of our married friends have told us that they love this idea and that they are now doing it on their anniversary! ;o)
It's so rewarding when we see something like that happen! It's as if Love Itself has multiplied Itself, with us as the instrument. And you, too, can be, equally, an instrument of Love's Multiplication. With every thought you think, with every word you speak, with every action you take.
Love is a natural emotion. When we are allowed to express it fully in every day in every way, we come alive, through the direct experience of Who We Really Are.
With Hugs & Pure Love,
Read this week's Letter to Neale here
Read a message from one of the prisoners impacted by our Prison Outreach HERE
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