by Sonia C. Solomonson
FEBRUARY IS THE MONTH WE HEAR SO MUCH ABOUT LOVE. Hearts are everywhere. It’s a Hallmark, flower shop, and candy-maker bonanza. But just as with Thanksgiving Day, perhaps we would do well to think about love (and gratitude) more than just one day a year. How does love show up in our daily lives? How can we live it?
Many writers and speakers have given us their versions of what love means.
Poet Rainer Maria Rilke gave us many pearls of wisdom about love and relationships. In speaking of the evolution of love, changed “from the ground up” into a relationship “that is meant to be between one human being and another,” he said:
“And this more human love (which will fulfill itself with infinite consideration and gentleness, and kindness and clarity in binding and releasing) will resemble what we are now preparing painfully and with great struggle: the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other.”
This implies the separateness and the oneness involved in a relationship of love.
Behavioral scientist, speaker, and author Steve Maraboli says, “I find the best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest version of themselves.” To me, that speaks to Rilke’s idea of protecting and bordering each other. Yes, best we do not try to change others, but rather support their growth.
Love & healing
In order to support others in their efforts to become their best selves, we need to tend to our own healing and growth. Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh tells us, “In order to heal others we first need to heal ourselves. And to heal ourselves, we need to know how to deal with ourselves.”
First, let’s be clear: We do not heal others; we can, however, contribute to someone else’s healing. And what’s one of the best ways to deal with ourselves and our emotions? Love. It is difficult to fully love others until we have learned how to love ourselves. That sometimes means parenting our Inner Child, who may not have received the love she or he needed during growth and development years. It’s never too late to learn to give the messages of love and acceptance to your Inner Child that are needed for healing.
From that healed place, it will be much easier to love and support others. I recently found this quote from an unknown author: “Be a reflection of what you’d like to see in others! If you want love, give love; if you want honesty, give honesty; if you want respect, give respect. You get in return what you give!”
American writer and actor Dave Willis adds to that when he advises, “Be an encourager. The world has plenty of critics already.”
Isn’t that the truth? Start by encouraging yourself. Speak kindly to yourself, and kind, encouraging words to others will follow much more easily.
As French poet, novelist, and dramatist Victor Hugo said, “The supreme happiness of life consists in the conviction that one is loved.”
Loved by self and loved by others, I would add!
Living it out
Romantic love is quite wonderful, but there are many other ways to show love to a wide spectrum of people in our lives. Here’s just a sampling:
- Bestow tenderness.
- Affirm and encourage.
- Express gratitude.
- Give time.
- Be fully present.
- Listen, really listen.
- Set aside your devices.
- Send cards and write notes.
- Support the other.
- Discharge resentments before they become walls.
- Show appreciation.
- Create a safe space for the other.
- Surprise the other.
- Be vulnerable (this shows trust in another).
- Keep promises.
- Be tolerant—and even more, be accepting.
- Make the other feel important.
This list could be much longer, and I’m certain you can add your own ideas. Get creative. Don’t wait. If we’ve learned anything during this pandemic, it’s that we don’t know what the future might hold. Let those special people in your life know how you feel. Tell them what things you love about them. No more taking family and friends for granted. Love isn’t just for Valentine’s Day.
Sonia C. Solomonson is a life coach with Way2Grow Coaching and a frequent contributor to Gather magazine. You can find her at way2growcoaching.com, where you can sign up for her monthly e-zine or request a session.
This post first appeared on the Women of the ELCA blog in February 2021.