Love... has it become a 'four-letter word'? In many cases, love has become equated with other things such as sex, attention, rewards, or approval. As children, we often learn that if we behave or do as we are told, we will be "loved". Thus our behavior becomes tinted or tainted with a desire to please. We think that love is something that has to be earned. If we are 'good enough' then we will be loved; if we are 'bad' we will not be loved (i.e. punished or rejected).
In many cases, what is depicted in movies as love is simply a need for someone or something -- either a need for security, approval, or sex. No wonder we grew up confused about love. How many of us were told about the beauty of Love and the wonder of sharing Love through sex? Instead we were (in most cases) told embarrassingly about the 'birds and the bees'. I remember thinking that "no way" had my parents done "that"!
As a matter of fact, in my Catholic family, "hugging" was a slight cheek to cheek contact at Christmas and other such occasions. Love was something rarely talked about. Instead we heard about respecting our elders, and oh yes, that the reason my brother treated me so roughly was because he loved me. Talk about confusing! We were given a standard for Love that included guilt, martyrs, secrecy, shame, and punishment.
Seeking Attention and Approval, or Love?
I remember feeling starved for attention (which I equated with love). I thought that being in the limelight meant that I was loved; having good grades ensured that my parents and teachers would love me; yet having mediocre grades ensured that my schoolmates would love me. I was torn between wanting it all and striving to attain a balance where everyone would love me -- my parents, my teachers, and my peers.
Many of us lived through the days of 'peace and love' thinking that having sex with "everyone" meant we loved everyone (and perhaps more importantly that everyone loved us). And through it all, we were simply looking for Love, as the song says, in all the wrong places. The ongoing search for love and approval led to bouncing back and forth in trying to get approval from everyone we met.
As I look at the current state of affairs and at the status of crime and violence, I see that all of these behaviors are also a cry for love on the part of the perpetrators -- a cry for attention, for someone to care and to love them unconditionally.
What Can We Do?
Can we do anything about that? Yes! We can help the world by sending out love and compassion to those who are seen as 'bad' or 'evil'. If we can love them unconditionally (which is different from loving their actions), and see them as needing our compassion, our forgiveness and understanding, our help, rather than our scorn and our hatred, we can help raise the vibrations of the 'guilty' as well as the 'innocent'.
Someone once vandalized my car (they ripped through the top of my convertible). I remember feeling that they had been expressing their anger through this act of vandalism: anger at the world and anger at their feeling of 'helplessness'. Why helpless? Many of the youth today does not believe they will live past the age of 30 -- they don't think the planet will survive any longer than that. If we can empathize with them, rather than blame them and judge them, we can help.
When we choose to participate in creating a better world with our children (and the children of others) where there is hope, where there is a "light at the end of the tunnel", then we are being a positive force in their lives. Even if to them (and maybe to us too), the future looks bleak, we can join forces with them and help create a future that children (and adults) can believe in and look forward to.
Let us each look and see how we can put more love in the world. To quote another oldie 'What the world needs now is Love, sweet Love -- no not just for one, but for everyone!' Ask yourself what you can do. There are various community projects you can get involved with -- possibly donating your time for the homeless or for teenagers, or to projects dealing with prisoners. Or maybe by picking up the garbage and paper strewn about on the streets in your neighborhood.
We need to take action and see what we can do to make a difference. How can you love the world more? How can you share more love with your neighbors, with the kids in your neighborhood or in deprived areas? And what about your co-workers, family members, and the people you interact with in the course of your daily life? Are we so involved with our lives, so busy, so stressed, so driven, that we forget to make "human contact" with the check-out girl at the store, with the person waiting in line with us, with the co-worker who sometimes "gets on our nerves".
The Essential Ingredient For Peace
When we choose to remember that the essential ingredient for peace within and for peace on earth and in our neighborhoods is love, then we can choose to remember to apply it in all situations... whether at work, at home, or in our interactions in public. Love is not a private, secretive thing. Love is the glue that holds it all together... So when you think your world is falling apart, apply some glue...
Love yourself, love the people you love, and also love the people you "hate"... What? Yes, love them for who they "really are"... love them for their potential... love them in spite of their anger, their fear, their resentment, their frustrations, their behavior... Love them, because love is the greatest healer, and your actions, your words, your thoughts, could be the saving grace for them... your smile and gracious attention could be the one thing they need to help them hang on to the hope that, for them too, there is a chance for a better life.
Let's remember that what the world needs now is Love, and keep in mind that the more Love you give away the more you will have to give. Of course, beware of martyrdom or motivations that come from needing approval or acceptance. Simply give love because you have it to give and because the world needs it. This is how we will heal ourselves and the planet. And remember to love yourself too! You can't give from an empty bucket.
Love does make the world go round, so let's give it a whirl!
Love & Survival: 8 Pathways to Intimacy and Health
by Dean Ornish, M.D.
New York Times world-renowned physician Dean Ornish, M.D., writes, "I am not aware of any other factor in medicine that has a greater impact on our survival than the healing power of love and intimacy. Not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery." He reveals that the real epidemic in modern culture is not only physical heart disease but also what he calls spiritual heart disease: loneliness, isolation, alienation, and depression. He shows how the very defenses that we think protect us from emotional pain are often the same ones that actually heighten our pain and threaten our survival. Dr. Ornish outlines eight pathways to intimacy and healing that have made a profound difference in his life and in the life of millions of others in turning sadness into happiness, suffering into joy.
Info/Order book. Also available as a Kindle edition.
About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com