Let’s get right to it:
I love you.
Immediately, all kinds of responses have been triggered in people, depending on their relationship to love. Some of you accepted this easily. Others who are more open felt it. Yet others may have even experienced an energetic surge ripple through letting you know just how deeply I have expressed this.
But far more rejected this simple statement. The basic responses are as follows:
- Doubt. Because we are taught to have all kinds of beliefs about when and how love should be offered, doubt is often the first issue to wreck the party. It likes to use beliefs like, “You can’t love me because you don’t know me” or “You’re just saying that to make yourself feel good.” There are plenty of other reasons.
- Fear of expectations. Since love is often giving conditionally, people expect all kinds of demands following those 3 little words. Some will see this loving statement as an expectation for a romantic connection. Others will interpret it as a request for sexual connection. In general, love and obligation are deeply intertwined for many people.
Finally, but certainly not lastly, many people have learned to be so closed and shutdown that they don’t even really see those words. They didn’t hear, feel, sense, or anything from the “I love you” written above and written again just now. Which is a sad reality for many people.
There are other reasons too, and in general, many people have experienced a lot of pain in the form of “love.” This has created a reality where a lot of people are very cynical and suspicious about love, and that can be frustrating for those of you who want to express your hearts more openly. The above responses make a lot of you want to give up and not share love anymore.
Certainly, dealing with so much resistance to love is exhausting, but yet, we should persevere in our willingness to express love in all kinds of ways. Here are some thoughts on how to do so.
Undoubtedly, most times you hear someone say, “I love you,” there probably are a lot of conditions attached. Truly, you are hearing someone say, “I like you because of xyz,” and not “I love you.” But because we’re so used to hearing love expressed as an implicit kind of conditions, we come to accept that this is what “love” is.
Except that it is not. As a spiritual teacher, my work is to share the truest version of love that I am able, and the truest of true versions of love is the Divine space within you. That space of conscious awareness that observes everything is totally without rejection or resistance. There are no conditions there, and that’s the true love that we continue to return our attention to. As we do so, our ego is exposed, and our ego conditions have to break down unless we choose to continue to believe they’re valid.
When we think our conditions are valid, we are not expressing real love. We are expressing ego like. Deep down inside, most people know how tenuous this ego like is. You can’t fully trust it because if some condition changes, that “love” will be gone. This has lead a lot of people to doubting expressions of love as well as to shutting down entirely.
Learning to Truly Love Yourself
The more you totally accept yourself, the more you totally love yourself. From this space, expressing love becomes easy and natural.
Yet as simple as this sounds, we have learned to make it hard. We have learned to place hundreds of conditions on ourselves. We have learned that we need to think a certain way, act a certain way, sound a certain way, look a certain way, feel a certain way, and so many other things before we are worthy of love–before we are worthy of our own love.
Our own love really is like standing beside a pure crystal-clear stream while we are dying of dehydration and refusing to drink. We haven’t earned this love yet. We still have to do something to get it. We have to be more somehow, but being is enough. Being is. We don’t need to do anything to be worthy of love. In fact, we need to stop doing all these other things and maintaining all these false beliefs and ego conditions. In stopping, we arrive.
A Message from Mister Rogers
I recently watched the documentary about Fred Rogers, whom many U.S. citizens remember from his show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. He was a dear, kind man, and his main message to children was that it is okay to be exactly as they are. He wanted them to feel loved. What a beautiful message.
Yet this cynical society has given rise to doubters of his message who have made all kinds of accusations against him in later years. It’s a bizarre reality born out of the pain. The more pain and love have been combined for people, the less likely they’ll trust a genuine expression of love. Furthermore, many people have been wounded by others using love with some kind of agenda to get something from them or to manipulate them. And usually, those “love” wounds start in family.
By the way, the documentary is called: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Returning to Family Issues
Since most people are raised in a family, that’s where most of our issues arise, including our perceptions of love. How we were treated and how we are offered love set the very foundation for our ideas around love. If we are going to be able to wisely offer love in a cynical society, we need to understand what we think love is and how our family molded all of our ego conditions around love.
Typically, people find a lot of ideas around obligation with family love, and in the more abusive family situations, love and pain are the same. It’s another reason people shutdown and/or doubt love. When every time you received a hug there was a slap on the way too, you choose to not want either. So that’s why many people struggle with my “I love you” on this humble little spiritual awakening blog.
“Why accept this humble spiritual teacher’s love?” The ego says, “He’ll just eventually hurt you anyway.”
Again and again, I harp on the importance of resolving issues on this blog post, and again and again, I have to emphasize that you don’t have to have major trauma to have a boat-load of issues. There are countless small and quiet ways that we get wounded, particularly around love. Sorting that all out is vital if you really want to know love and to express it.
Expressing Love to Others in Integrity
When we want to express love to others, it is important to do so from integrity. What does that mean?
It means not wanting anything from someone else, not even a response.
This last part can expose a lot of selfishness for many people. Many people say, “I love you” because they want an acknowledgment. Some want to know that they’re making someone feel good, but as I outlined above, a lot of people actually won’t feel good because their ego response to love is mixed with other responses based on how they’ve experienced love in the past. Sometimes, I’ve noticed people being confused and frustrated that when they offered love that it wasn’t received or that it evoked an unpleasant response. Yet that very confusion and frustration illuminates the person’s own ego agenda.
Let’s be clear: in the above example, the person wants something. Many people want to make themselves feel good by “loving” someone else, so if they feel like their love is rejected, then they feel rejected. But were they offering love after all? No. They were trying to get something, which meant they had a bunch of ego conditions involved in the situation after all.
Loving People Where They Are
People often ask people how I do this spiritual teaching. On one level–the most important–it’s all energy, but part of that means I meet people where they are.
If you meet someone who is starving, you don’t give him/her a huge plate of food. His/her stomach can’t handle it. You give them a small bite and let them digest that first. Over time, you work them up to a full plate of food.
This example is where a lot of people are in regards to love in much of Western society. So to be in integrity with expressing love, you learn to understand where someone is. Then you meet them where they are. Here are a couple brief examples.
- For the hard-hearted intellectual, listen to her ideas and theories. Your listening and attention is the love she can handle.
- For the emotionally-confused artist, sincerely compliment his work.
- For the uber-focused business professional, appreciate her business strategies and/or goals.
- For the shy reclusive, sit with him while he plays a video game or watches a movie.
There are countless ways to offer love without saying anything or even doing anything physically affectionate, and it’s important to understand that this may be as much “love” as someone can accept, depending on their experiences with love.
Bringing Out the Big Love Guns
Obviously, hugs and saying, “I love you” are the big love guns, but I’m cautioning you to appreciate the cynicism and even suspicion in others. You may want to wait awhile in knowing someone in a relationship–any kind of relationship–before blasting them with that.
As many of you know, I’m just a big ball of love. I say, “I love you,” to more than a few of my students and friends. It’s not a difficult thing to share, and it certainly is strengthening in a relationship. But there are many other people where I don’t do that. I do exactly as I’ve prescribed in how I quietly share love. Don’t underestimate the power of that quiet sharing.
In general, the more deeply we are dissolved in love, the more we share love in all of our actions. We can do it overtly by saying, “I love you.” But we can also do it with a touch to a shoulder, a word, a listening ear, and so many other simple ways that often are more easily accepted and appreciated.
I know. It’s sad that there is so much cynicism and skepticism around love. It’s also sad that people have used “love”–or at least what they call love–to manipulate others. It’s left a lot of people in a very sorry state in regards to love and their own hearts. If you want to help with that, then start by appreciating where people are and not where you might like them to be.
Countless Ways to Love
The main point is there are countless ways to express love beyond the most obvious ways we think of. Sure, it won’t always be clear what people are ready and willing to handle. Sometimes you do just bust out with the, “I love you!”
But the more present you are to the reality the person is living in (which is typically different than actual reality), the more it becomes natural to share in a certain way. There are also hard forms of love like criticism, but that’s a topic for another day. True kindness is powerful stuff, but for now, let’s focus on the obvious forms of loving kindness.
There’s plenty of ways to practice expressing love, and as always if you aren’t ready or clear in yourself, start with yourself. As you continue to dissolve the ego, it becomes clearer and clearer what true love is like and when and how to express it.