Do you feel loved?
Do you love?
Don’t be too quick to answer. There is as much confusion, frustration and desperation around this concept as there is assurance, fulfillment and inspiration. After all, we love our kids, our dogs, and we ‘love’ … tacos 🙂
For most, ‘this crazy little thing called love’ has kept us up all night – for one reason or another – at one point in our lives. As much as it fuels the fires of passion, ties the knots of friendship, and binds a parent to their child, love itself remains largely misunderstood.
Love is a choice, not a feeling.
Love is not a sentiment. Love should not be reduced to simply the way someone makes us feel. Of course, love comes with tremendous emotion and real feelings. But it is so much more. Love is a decision. It is something that we choose to give and receive, not something that we wait to experience.
Unconditional love is the purest expression of genuine acceptance. This choice is made independent of another’s behavior – and sometimes even in spite of their behavior. It is choosing to extend love to someone, even when they seem unlovable.
It’s important to differentiate that unconditional love does not imply unconditional approval.
We should reserve the right to disapprove of another’s behavior, yet, without judgment, accept them and love them unconditionally. This may prove to be the most challenging essential element for many people. At the same time, mastery of unconditional love will trump all other elements when it comes to stress reduction and achieving peace of mind and heart. And your body will produce oxytocin, a hormone-like chemical associated with relaxation and improved mood.
Forgiveness – a critical emotional action step
Achieving unconditional acceptance in some relationships may have to start with forgiveness…sometimes forgiving someone that does not deserve to be forgiven. This may not sound reasonable at first; in fact, forgiveness often requires a new economy – grace.
For thousands of generations, humans have sought one common emotional theme: to be loved. We thrive in loving environments and relationships, and we contract and atrophy in loveless circumstances. The greatest way to foster love is to offer it freely. Choose to extend love to those around you without attachment to their response.
Do not give to get.
Give to give.
We are social beings who crave and depend on emotional ‘strokes’ to develop into whole and complete people. These strokes come in many shapes, but can be easily identified when they come in the form of gestures, attention, physical contact, kind words or actions. These are all as much part of our “required nutrients” for optimal health as Vitamin C, amino acids and oxygen.
At the center of these needs, you’ll find unconditional love. We have an innate need to give and receive unconditional love. A best practice is to model this love to those around you. Show others how you wish to be treated by the way that you treat them. You learned the ‘Golden Rule’ in kindergarten, and it is as much a truth today as it was then. You can nudge yourself into extending this unconditional love in tougher situations by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you wish to be treated?
At the end of the day, the only way to really change the world is to start with yourself. At the very least, you’ll have far less stress in your life – and who knows, maybe you’ll actually start a trend.