"Nobody respects Love that is not freely given."
I heard this quote in one of his lectures and it was incredibly clarifying for me. The context of the moment in the lecture used the example of parents, telling their child "You SHOULD love me...I am your Mother!" (but of course you can insert any "title" into that last word...father, grandparent, sister, brother, BOSS...etc)
YOU SHOULD LOVE ME.
Then...what happens? The "love" they give to you is not genuine, not from the Heart...it is given to you from a place of fear. And, you don't respect that Love...because you coerced it. You controlled it. You manipulated it. And, ultimately, if they take that love away from you, the precedent you have set is that it's THEIR fault for not following the Rules of Society, and THEY have the problem for deciding, freely, who to love, and who not to love.
I heard this quote on Saturday, then found myself talking to a dear friend on Sunday, who dreads every interaction with one of her sisters. When the sister calls, there is a lot of guilt, shaming, and blaming. Very little compassion, concern, LAUGHTER, joy, etc. But my friend feels obligated to answer the phone (especially being that it was her sisters birthday...double whammy...one sister calling another sister to complain about the THIRD sister who didn't call on the birthday...and now YOU ALL MUST SUFFER)
I had so much compassion for my friend, and a huge amount of empathy...for there was a time when I played the role of any one of those sisters. The "You should have called me" Sister. the "I Always Answer the Phone For My Family Even Though They Treat Me Like Crap" Sister, and finally the "I'm Going to Remove Myself From This Toxicity Now" Sister.
Obligatory Love can cripple any relationship. You are my WIFE...you SHOULD love me. I am your Pastor...you SHOULD love me. I am your TEACHER...you SHOULD love me. I am the most popular mom in the neighborhood...you SHOULD love me. I make more money than you do...you SHOULD love me.
But expecting Love through obligation is not healthy, and in my experience, does not last.
So...laying out a problem but not providing an implementable action plan is a Politician's Job, and since I know that my role here in this Matrix is a Teacher, let's see if I can find a lesson here...
Lesson: Remove All Obligations of Love
Where do these "required" feelings of Love come from? It could be a family pattern...of course. You may have watched your parents tolerate a lot of bad behavior from THEIR parents, and then you followed the same pattern in the relationship with YOUR parents, and then...because patterns in families repeat...you EXPECTED Love from your kids...in spite of the way you may be treating them...because it was Done That Way for Generations.
How confusing to a child, to watch someone treat another so badly, speak terrible words and hurl painful insults almost daily, to belittle their mind and poke fun at their feelings, and be told that this is "Love". THIS...is marriage. THIS...is Family.
THIS...is Love through Obligation.
There is a contract here: Parent/Child, Husband/Wife, Sibling/Sibling. The contract indemnifies us from having Loving behavior: we don't need to be Love to be Loved...that part has been deemed "unnecessary".
So...what if we understand, at a deeper level, that these constructs of family, religion, work, school, etc do not place ANYONE at any time in an OBLIGATION to Love? Nor does any CONTRACT ever REMOVE the clause that Love can only be given FREELY.
This was a huge concept for me to hear, comprehend, and put into practice (while I just heard this particular quote on Saturday, it summed up a lot of what I have been going through over the last few years)
If Love can only be given freely...where do I feel free to Love?
And...when I do feel free to Love...how can I create that same environment for those people in my life that I want MUTUAL free love with?
I started to really look for the people in my life who I truly loved FREELY. Who I called with a sense of Joy and excitement, not trepidation and obligation. I started to notice who I smiled and laughed easily with, as genuinely content to sit and watch TV or cook or swing dance or paint or hike, without fear that if I didn't dress a certain way or spend a certain amount, I was not Enough...where did I always feel like I was enough?
I noticed who I could have a real argument with...and not be afraid that we couldn't end any discussion by looking in each other's eyes and saying "I hear you...I understand where you are coming from...and I love you".
I noticed who encouraged me, who delighted in my success, who loved to see me genuinely happy.
I noticed...how much happier I was, when I was with people who I wanted to be with, not who I was obligated to be with. Who I freely chose to be in my life.
Lesson: Become Lovable
OH yeah...there's a whole 'nother part to the equation. Putting into practice, in the relationships you want to perpetuate, the same things you natural seek out.
So, I loved being around people who are do-ers. People who have passion for adventure and learning and growing and exploring. These people are the ones who always have exciting THINGS to talk about - books or movies or travel or paintings or WHATEVER. And because they have so much to talk about...guess what they don't have as much time for...
Man oh man. I had NO IDEA how much time I wasted on those three things when I was surrounded by obligatory love instead of free love.
Here's the big thing I realized: when you are not known to be judgmental, fatalist, or gossipy...people want to be with you. They want to engage with you. They want to create with you. They want to grow with you.
What three things would you gravitate towards?
Now...Let me clarify something...I had to change a LOT of ingrained habits, a lot of pathology: I was used to a lot of negativity, and so it felt "normal". Changing it - and being OK with it not being part of the way I lived life every day - was really effing difficult. It's the same as a child who is used to getting only negative attention...it's takes a lot of cognitive behavior therapy to crave POSITIVE attention when all you grew up with was attention given only when you caused trouble. I was used to bullying, belittling, and even the ignoring: You did not behave like I wanted you to behave, so I will withhold my attention and love now.
It's a hard pattern to see...an even harder one to break...and the most difficult thing...
Is behaving in a way that is not just "I didn't like the way they did it, so I will do the OPPOSITE just to show them how wrong they are!" This is not a healthy pattern either.
That is still dis-empowering.
The true power, the truest Love, is trusting your heart: trusting who you are, at your core.
You are Love. You are generous. You are compassionate. You are empathetic. You are a creator. You are a giver. You are JOYFUL. You are full of wonder. You are Love.
Don't just do the opposite of what didn't work for you before...do what comes from the heart.
And, what I have found, and what I hope to keep nurturing, is that the more I am true to who I am, and the more I become a Loving person, the more my True Love relationships grow. They are few, they are precious, but they are love without obligation.