As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the value of love.
After a lot of emotionally and intellectually turbulent times during the course of my young adult life, I felt that I needed to review my choices to identify and pursue things that really made me happy.
Having been raised around Christianity all my life, when I hit eighteen it was clear that a piece of me had tuned it out.
As much as I drew benefit from Christianity and the people in it, I pushed it aside for the sake of participating in a totally different lifestyle. At the age of nineteen I got into the party scene, had numerous relationships, used drugs and drank extensively, pursued my career, and lived a life full of sensual indulgence.
Typically, I am a person of extremes. During this particular chapter of my life, I was always seeking a new thrill and came close to dying a few times due to excessive drug use.
Later on, after we had gotten out of our drug habits, one of my closest friends remarked:
“You were the one trying to kill us all.”
In the end, I saw and learned a lot of things. Looking back though, I would rather not have spent the time to learn these lessons.
I already knew the things I was chasing after didn’t have a point, I saw it in the lives of everyone around me. I wouldn’t have considered it a mystery that becoming a drug addict was not a good idea. But, for some reason I went there and did a lot of damage to my life and the lives of people around me.
In a period where I was my own moral compass, I did what I wanted and didn’t hold myself accountable to anyone or anything, not even to my own set of ideals.
And let’s not even bother talking about the relationships I was having at the time, yikes.
After I had spun my wheels for five or six years, I stopped and reviewed both the worst and happiest times in my life and cataloged the emotions I experienced. After a period of reflection, I realized that the best periods of my life were ones where I was loving myself and others with the same type of love as described in the Bible.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
After considering this characterization of love, I decided to live according to these principles to see where it took me. If the other things I had chased after brought me nothing but unhappiness, I could at least pursue something that had made me happy at one point in my life.
As I read more of the Bible, I found some verses that changed my thoughts on God in general.
1 John 4:8
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:11
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
[God] is the same yesterday and today and forever.
I thought that if God was love, and God loved me in the way the Bible defined love, I would strive to love others in the same way.
Also, because of God’s eternal nature, it meant that his loving character would remain the same. This meant that my reflection of eternal love must be just as immovable and consistent.
You can ask the string of broken hearted women I have left trailing in my wake about how long this has taken to actually achieve, but I finally did it.
The verses above provided an example for what type of love to give people in a variety of contexts. I wanted to love my friends, family, business partners, strangers, girlfriend/spouse, and future children in a way that felt peaceful and right.
This meant being forgiving, not getting into pointless arguments, or holding grudges. It meant always thinking the best of someone, and trusting that they’ll work to change when they say they will.
As loving behavior is an active and ongoing choice, it also meant that I would need to express my sense of committment through both words and actions, consistently and clearly.
In my life I strive to push myself to love people more each day. This influences my friendships, romantic ideals, business interactions, and every aspect of my life.
I used to think the toughest part of applying this loving standard was in caring for myself despite my faults and shortcomings. Though after a number of years, I understand now that it is harder to be vulnerable and accept love from others; love requires trust, vulnerability, and honesty.
I have found that one of the greatest things that keeps people from loving each other and being consistently vulnerable is fear.
We can become afraid, and our hearts closed, for a variety of reasons such as the fear of:
- Not having our needs met
- Being exposed
- Getting caught
Personally, my biggest barrier to accepting love is my fear of rejection. I’ve been rejected so many times it’s hard to keep track.
For some, it is society’s push to always want something more for ourselves that keeps us from loving or being loved. We are not trained to be able to say,
“I’m happy and satisfied with my life.”
Instead, we are almost always looking at how we can improve our social, financial, or professional status, achieve some type of goal, travel here, or eat there.
These “goals” are actually endless pursuits, they will lead us farther and farther away from ourselves if we let them. I know many people who have experienced misery for the sake of chasing after their happiness. They achieve what they set out to, but in the end they’re just as unhappy and miserable as they were when they started. The worst part of this, is that there are often sacrifices of emotions, money, but most importantly time–something we can never get back.
So why chase after the wind and become unhappy, just to be even more unhappy?
This question way overcomplicates things I know, life shouldn’t be that simple.
I am the happiest when I accept myself, and my life, for what it is. Having goals is important, but so is being content with what we have.