Growing in Love
"We love him because he first loved us."1
"How many feel they would like to have more love in their life?" is a question I have asked many times to seminar attendees. Many, if not most, hands are raised. When I ask the same folk how many feel all of their love needs are being met, very few hands are raised.
Some years ago there was a popular song by Jackie Deshannon that stated, "What the world needs now is love / Sweet love / It's the only thing / That there's just too little of / What the world needs now / Is love, sweet love / No, not just for some / But for everyone."
Those words still ring true because so many of our human problems are caused by a breakdown or failure in love. And when I ask people how we get more love in our life, inevitably almost all say by giving love. Sounds good, but that isn't always true because we can't give what we don't have. In fact, unless I have learned to love and accept myself in a healthy way, I am not able to love or accept anyone else in a healthy way. My love will be contaminated by need.
Thus, love is an action/feeling to be learned. We didn't come into the world knowing how to love—only with the ability to learn how to love. So how do we learn to love? John stated that we love God because he first loved us. The same principle holds true for human love. We love others because others (or another) first loved us. If they didn't, and we didn't receive sufficient unconditional love as a child and learned how to love then, we need to receive it now and learn how to love maturely now.
Furthermore, I can only be fully loved to the degree that I am known. Thus, the way we grow in and learn to love is by becoming vulnerable and allowing at least one or two safe, accepting, and non-judgmental persons see and know us as we really are—warts and all. And as they love and accept us as we are, little by little we learn to love and accept ourselves. And as we learn to love and accept ourselves, we are then freed both to give and receive love without strings attached. But as long as we hide our inner or secret self (our dark side) behind any kind of a mask (no matter how sophisticated that mask may be), we will never feel fully loved, nor will we be able to fully love. I repeat … we can only ever feel fully loved to the degree that we are fully known.
Risky? Yes. But not to learn to love is the greatest risk of all.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to find a loving, safe, nonjudgmental, accepting person that I can trust, so I can share my total self with this person and be truly accepted and loved by this person for who I am (and not for what I do or don't do), so that I, in turn, can learn to accept and love others more fully. And help me to experience your love more and more so that I will also be able to love others more and more. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. 1 John 4:19.