I once saw a mother admonish her young son for telling his friend “I love you” as if he had said something inappropriate. But what is more appropriate than telling someone we love them? Loving others is what we are here to do!
We often associate the words “I love you” with romantic relationships so perhaps the mother in this situation thought of love in this way by default and felt that her 4 year-old was too young to be professing it. But her son wasn’t meaning that he was “in love” with his friend. He was just trying to tell his friend that he cared for him and appreciated the connection they had.
This got me thinking about all the confused messages we get about love. It made me think about what Love really is and what I want my boys to know about Love.
TWO TYPES OF LOVE – EMOTION & TRUTH
When we use the word “love”, we’re often filled with an emotion or feeling of caring, attachment, enjoyment or similar. All these are good things, but they are not true Love. Do I really love chocolate? – no, but I do especially enjoy eating it. In the past, when I’ve said I’m “in love” with someone, I’ve actually meant that I’ve felt strong caring for and attachment to them. When we use “love” in these situations, we probably really mean “BIG like”. Not to undermine two of the most thrilling experiences of life but, in both cases, it is the flowing of chemicals in our bodies that creates the feelings.
Although we may speak of it less often, there’s also the greater Love in our lives. It isn’t a feeling and it isn’t about something or someone being more special than another. Our children need to know about it because it is in the giving and receiving of this true Love that we thrive.
True Love is deep and wide, knowing no limits – it is unconditional and infinite. Depending on nothing, it is always there. My love for chocolate is not unconditional – I’ll admit to being a bit of a chocolate snob and, if it’s not high quality, I don’t love it. In past romantic relationships, I’ve stopped feeling “in love” with someone when I’ve been hurt. True Love is reverence for life – as it is, without judgement. When we sense it, it is not overwhelming like falling in love or eating the best chocolate we’ve ever tasted are. It is quiet and familiar.
Familiar because we are Love. Love (God/The Universe/Source) made each of us with her own energy. Love is not a chemical reaction but a recognition of our oneness. Love is our truth.
I want my boys to know that they have infinite Love inside them and that their purpose is to share it around indiscriminately. I want them to understand that it is universal, not something they offer only to people who are special to them in some way.
Our example to our children is the best way to help them understand this Love. When they see us extending friendliness, help and compassion to everyone we meet, they learn how to do the same. I also think it’s valuable to talk about Love directly with our children. When one of my boys shows kindness, I sometimes say “thanks for sharing your Love”, just to remind him that it’s there inside. If I’m centred enough when he’s bothering his brother, I’ll suggest “Use your Love”. (This does not usually stop the bickering – other intervention is generally required – but it brings Love to his awareness.)
I also want my boys to know that they are Loved. If they understand that everyone has this Love within to share, it makes the world a friendly, supportive place to be. In one of my early blog posts I wrote –
“As a mother, I am a representative of God’s love”.
I later read The Spiritual Child, a book by Dr Lisa Miller, based on her scientific research. In it, she said that a child’s understanding of divine Love is based on their experience of their parent’s Love (and that of other close family & friends).
IN SUMMARY – DON’T LEAVE IT TO FAIRYTALES & LOVE SONGS
If we leave it to fairytales and love songs to teach our children about Love, they won’t know its true power. To make my point, here are the lyrics of two songs I’ve heard recently – “Only love will break your heart” and “You’re nobody until somebody loves you”. What kind of expectations will they have if this these are the only kinds of messages our children get about Love? The feeling of love is represented everywhere in pop culture but true Love – the type that makes a real difference in our lives – is largely missing. We can intentionally create a culture of Love in our family to represent it.
The beauty is that, in many situations, we sense the presence of both types of Love – when I hug my boys and tell them I Love them, I actually mean both that I feel love and sense the exchange of true Love between us.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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