Saturday, July 6, 2013

Love thy Neighbor AND Yourself

Love is something everyone wants, needs and longs for. It is mankind’s greatest need and ultimate quest in Life! Without it, there is really no reason to live, strive and wake up every day. Whether the love we crave is from parents, family, a spouse, romantic partner, children or friends, we all have this deep yearning and desire for affection, appreciation, value and acceptance from those that we love and care for. Without it, we would die. If we had no love in our lives or if we could not love others, our whole existence would be pointless and meaningless.

For the adult survivor of childhood trauma and abuse, our desire and need for love is amplified by infinity times infinity! Most of us who grew up in abusive family environments being afraid, abandoned, hurt, violated and abused felt very little if any love or care as a child. As a result, we are severely handicapped and crave Love in our adult lives. We seem to have a deeper void than those having a “normal” childhood. We did not receive nurturing, care, tenderness, compassion, acceptance, encouragement or joy. These are vital human needs that especially children in their formative years absolutely must have in order to live healthy, functioning lives. As adult survivors we have no clue how to truly live healthy, functional lives and certainly no idea how to love. Our thoughts on love were so badly distorted and corrupted as children, our whole way of thinking and every behavior moving forward is one laced with many selfish thoughts and ideas. We struggle daily and desperately to fit in; trust; and open ourselves up to others for fear of being hurt or rejected. Love seems out of reach and undeserved for us! “Who would want to love us?” We have so many thoughts and feelings of self-doubt, low self-esteem and feel we are unworthy of Love. “Who would stick long enough to get to know us and love us? And if they did, once they figure us out, all the fears and insecurities, they will eventually abandon and leave us!”

For myself, I say I “Love” others, but is it true, unselfish love? My love is distorted and selfish! Many days I barely love myself let alone another. If we listen to the age old quoted Bible Verse from Matthew 22:37 when asked of Jesus which is the greatest commandment, “Jesus Replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your Mind’ and the second greatest commandment ‘Love your Neighbor as Yourself.’” Those are tough words, because most Adult Survivors don’t love themselves, in fact they loathe much about themselves. “So are we to assume that now, because we don’t love ourselves the way we should that we cannot love others?” I have wrestled with this for years trying desperately to love myself and I have concluded two things.

The first is from a quote that speaks to me so personally and which is something that hits very close to home because of my attachment issues. I have struggled with this for many years, identifying it in my upcoming book, “Shards of Glass.” Where I notice very early as a child that I “Idolize” or “Attach” myself to others, calling them friends or loved ones. Those people in my life offer me something that is severely lacking, love; acceptance; self-worth; appreciation and value. Because of that, I latch on to them because they fill a selfish void, that deep void within all of us of wanting others to “Love” and care for us, but for the Survivor, a deep dark hole filled with very little but the fear of abandonment and rejection. I think and say that I love and care about them, but my actions are selfish, and my boundaries are compromised with those I am attached to. They are those I don’t want to lose, those I feel impact my life profoundly, and those that fill a void from childhood. Those actions are unhealthy and lead me down a path of destroying that friendship/relationship because of fear and dependency. It is not love! That person then feels overwhelmed and smothered because they make me feel better about myself, make me feel needed, wanted and loved that all I do is want more and more of it. It is like a drug, a quick fix, when I am feeling down or discouraged. People are my drug and it is Selfish! As a result of these actions, most people have left and abandoned me in the past!

“Try not to confuse ‘Attachment’ with “Love”. Attachment is about fear and dependency, and has more to do with love of self than love of another. Love without attachment is the purest love because it isn’t about what others can give you because you’re empty. It is about what you can give others because you are already full.” – Yasmin Mogahed

The second thing I have learned and come to understand is what True, Godly, Healthy Love really is. We ultimately all love ourselves even when we don’t think we do. I have always loved myself or I would have ended it a long time ago! The trick is to love ourselves in Healthy ways that trickle into the lives of others. One of the greatest chapters in the Bible for me is, 1 Corinthians 13 1-13. This love is a giving, selfless, expect-nothing-in-return kind of Love. Rather than quote the entire text, I will share the just of it through my thoughts on what that chapter means to me.

This is my take on the “Love Chapter” in the bible. My previous blog was filled with this underlying theme, that we are a “Throw Difficult People Away Society.” If more people would embrace 1 Corinthians 13 maybe our society wouldn’t encourage us to get rid of people in our lives who are difficult or hard to get along with. True love puts up with people who would be much easier to dismiss and give up on.

Love does not Envy. If our love is directed toward others, we will rejoice in the blessings they receive rather than desiring those for ourselves. Selfless love that God calls us to have does not involve pride or glory. It does not parade itself around and is not puffed up. True love does not seek its own. If we truly love others, we will set aside our own plans, agendas, and entitlements for the well-being of others, and especially those we say we love. Love is not provoked. Love is not easily angered or over-sensitive. When we truly learn to love others, we are careful not to be touchy concerning others words or actions towards us. Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but in Truth. Godly love has nothing to do with evil, but has everything to do with what is right and true. It believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love is not blind or naïve, but it does see. It recognizes the problems and failures in people, but it does not lose faith in the possibilities of what people can become. Love never gives up, knowing that God can change anyone, and any life for the better.

Finally, love endures all things. It accepts any hardship or rejection and continues unaltered to build up and encourage another.

Love is determining what is best for another person and then doing it!

Without Love; my efforts and ambitions, what I stand for, what I believe in, what I say, and all my relationships with others means- NOTHING! Faith, Hope and Love abide in this world and will for eternity, but the Greatest of these is LOVE!

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