Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When Love Is Really A Cry For Affection

The following is an excerpt from Henri Nouwen's journal "The Inner Voice of Love." I will comment afterward:

"Give yourself to others without expecting anything in return is only possible when you have been fully received. Every time you discover that you expect something in return for what you have been given or are disappointed when nothing comes back to you, you are being made aware that you yourself are not yet fully received. Only when you know yourself as unconditionally loved - that is, fully received - by God can you give gratuitously. Giving without wanting anything in return is trusting that all your needs will be provided for by the One who loves you unconditionally. It is trusting that you do not need to protect your own security but can give yourself completely to the service of others.

Faith is precisely trusting that you who give gratuitously will receive gratuitously, but not necessarily from the person to whom you gave. The danger is in pouring yourself out to others in the hope that they will fully receive you. You will soon feel as if others are walking away with parts of you. You cannot give yourself to others if you do not own yourself, and you can only truly own yourself when you have been fully received in unconditional love.

A lot of giving and receiving has a violent quality, because the givers and receivers act more out of need than out of trust. What looks like generosity is actually manipulation, and what looks like love is really a cry for affection or support. When you know yourself as fully loved, you will be able to give according to the other's capacity to receive, and you will be able to receive according to the other's capacity to give. You will be grateful for what is give to you without clinging to it, and joyful for what you can give without bragging about it. You will be a free person, free to love."


Is is possible to love others without expecting in return? Is that even desirable? Should we let ourselves off the hook, admit that we are merely human and realize that when we love we are actually expecting something in return?  I agree with Nouwen that it should be our goal to love without conditions or expecting anything in return from the person whom we are giving love to. Love often turns into manipulation, especially in relationships, when we come to expect a partner to satisfy our every need.  We can say "I Love You" a thousand times, when really we are saying "I Need Your Affection and Help."  Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't expect anything out of relationships, or even that we will ever get to the point when we don't have a certain level of need. But as Nouwen says, we must trust that all our needs will be provided for by the One who loves us unconditionally. We must develop our spiritual lives and grow in our experience of the Love of the One who will completely fill our needs. Then we will be able to love more purely and more freely and not demand from others what they can not give. So many relationships fail because one or both involved expect too much from the other person. I remember walking with a former girlfriend one evening when she said to me, "I don't need you." It was like she stuck a knife in my stomach and twisted it.  But she did me a great service. We should love people purely and want to be with someone rather than need to be with someone.
Let us continue on the spiritual path with the One who knows all our needs and brokenness.