Thursday, May 5, 2011

Learning To Love Selflessly

"Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained." - C.S. Lewis

I like the warm fuzzies and most likely you do too. You know, that feeling of curling up on the couch with a girlfriend or boyfriend while sipping hot chocolate and eating popcorn. Or the feeling of walking through the park hand in hand, sneaking in a kiss or two as you walk the trail. These are great feelings, but they're not necessarily love. I suppose if two people are on the same page and are happy with their relationship being mainly about these warm fuzzies, then that's good for them. But for me, love goes farther than that.

For me I want the warm fuzzies to be a reflection of a deeper commitment, a stronger love. Lewis is right when he says that love is not affectionate feeling. Hell, we can have affectionate feelings for a cocker-spaniel or a new cat. The question comes to me: What happens when those affectionate feelings disappear, either for a day or even a week. Is there anything left?

I am finally - finally - learning at 32 years of age that love is indeed, as Lewis opines, a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good, AND I would add, a commitment to nurturing their highest good.

There are many reasons why we can not seem to love someone else selflessly. Perhaps we were so wounded in either our family of origin or in a previous relationship that we are left devestatingly needy. Therefore we can woo a partner with the warm fuzzies, but when the relationship deepens, we use the other person as more of a therapist than an equal. I've done this. More than once even. Rather than say "I love you" I could just as easily have said "I need you," or "Help me" or "Fix me." A relationship based on one persons almost inexhaustible need is destined to hit the rocks.

Another reason why relationships may not last is because we don't take the time to see the other person as they truly are. Instead, we see them as we want them or need them to be. Again we do this out of need. And so we find ourselves in relationships not because we actually love the other person, but because we think they can fill a need or desire that we have. I've done this too. I've had flings (short-lived ones) with people that I knew I wasn't compatible with, and I've even had relationships with people I knew I wasn't compatible with, all because I just wanted those warm fuzzies or because I was needy. It's in these types of relationships that you can find yourself thinking "Well maybe she (or he) will change and then we'll be more compatible." Ain't gonna happen sistah.

Finally, we can find ourselves in relationships simply because we're lonely and don't want to be alone anymore. So we overlook things in the other person or in the relationship that we know aren't ideal or even acceptable. Loneliness sucks, but I don't know that it sucks as much as being in a relationship with the wrong person.

Back to the warm fuzzies for a minute. I love them, and I don't think there's anything wrong with them, that is unless you base a relationship on them when really you're looking for something more lasting. Hollywood seems to perpetuate this candy-coated myth that the warm fuzzies are actually what love is, but love, I believe, is deeper, more rooted, and a much larger commitment.

To me, truly loving someone, whether it be a friend or someone you're in a romantic relationship with, is about selflessly loving them. It's about truly having their best interests at heart. It is not about "what can you give to me today" or "how can you make me feel good." This isn't love, it's love with conditions, with strings attached. It is a tainted love. No, true love is about looking at that other person and thinking "How could I make that person truly happy today. What do they need?" You can't be another person's saviour, but you can bring a lot of light into their life. Love is about being a non-judgmental and helpful presence in the life of your friend or partner, rather than playing games in order to get something in return.

We can love a person truly and freely and not expect anything in return, because they can't completely fulfill us anyways! I think many a relationship hits the rocks because one or both parties expects too much and finds that the other person can't provide what they need. Only God (Spirit/Life/Mother/The Universe) can truly, completely fulfill you and I. We must learn to not expect from a human being what only God can give. As we spend time in prayer or meditation and have our needs met that way, we can be truly and selflessly present in our friendships and relationships.

In conclusion, warm fuzzies are nice, but if we really want to love others, we must ask "What is in the best interest of (insert name)" rather than "What have you done for me lately."


Mark Andrew


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, MA. It hit exactly the right spot and I'm so glad to have read it.

Hope you are wonderful! Coffee soon!

Justablogr said...

I recently came to the realization that i am or was very selfish in my recent relationship. I didnt even really know or see at the time how i was being so but i was. This article is absolutely true and right now at this point in my life one of the hardest hitting things i have ever read. Thank you. I am embarking on a personally journey to make myself a better person and see if i can find that selflessness inside myself that is needed to have that type of relationship that we all want and deserve. I wish, i hope and pray everyday that someday i will get the opportunity to make it up to her but now i think the only way i can is by giving up that hope being truelly selfless and giving her what she wants right now instead of going for what i want and trying to fix everything. I have to alone and hope she.can find happyness again someday and i have to accept.rhe fact that it may not be with me. As much as I want it to be, that is being selfish again, and its time to worry about her wants and needs even if the first act of selflessness i make in the relationship is giving it up.

Mark Andrew said...

Thanks for sharing what you have Justablogr. It sounds like you are on the right, though hard track. It's hard to give up on a dream, but I have watched men/women hold onto a significant other for over a decade after their relationships ended, and all it does is make yourself miserable. Don't beat yourself up, you're human. But now is the time to discover things about Yourself, both the pain that you hold and also the wonderful things that are already inside you just waiting to be let out.

Concentrate on yourself, and don't do it alone. Find a trusted friend or therapist or minister.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for making me realize this.
I was actually very sad when one of my friends told why i am always compelling him to be with i got the answer that i shouldnot expect and provide him a selfless love..

Marina Jade said...

Very nice blog, you are so spot on, with love comes work and consideration of the other party, I thought I would share an excerpt from my bio/teen-fiction novel I'm in the process I'm writing since it is relevant to this and I thought someone might enjoy it, its from the opening paragraph:
"..,and we all know that with love comes a sh**storm of emotions that get thrown at you at high velocity whether you want it or not, good and bad...I am writing this story to prove that there are REAL endings and they become new beginnings, NOT fairy tale endings, like the ones you see in movies or read in romance novels...Love is work and it gets messy, so buckle up your seatbelt and get prepared for a bumpy ride if you're in for the long haul..."

Mark Andrew Nouwen said...

Thank you for the comment and for sharing part of your work, Marina.

Adam said...

Thank you for the post. The one thing I think that is missing is the context of C.S. Lewis' quote. The only way we can love someone like this is because of the love that Jesus displayed when he sent his son to die on the cross and bear our sins. His unconditional selfless love for us takes a hold of our lives in a way where we try to reflect that love back. It's radical love!