When it comes down to it, we all want to be loved for who we are, unconditionally. I have this theory that our desire to be loved and accepted acts as the main motivation behind every behavior. We want to be loved by ourselves, and we want to be loved by others. Acceptance, love. These are powerful motivators, even for decisions that are seemingly meaningless and insignificant.
I also have this theory, that
we are incapable of loving others except in the way that we ourselves have been loved.
Consider this. From a young age, we are either loved or not loved. Those around us may think that they are showing us love, but what they are showing us might not actually be love. Babies that are neglected, grow into toddlers, get yelled at, never feel accepted, “love” is conditional to behavior, possible abusive situations, everything is action/consequence, they grow into teenagers, hormones hit, suddenly all they want is love and acceptance and having never been loved just for the sake of being loved, they must earn love, sports, school, humor, friend circles, cliques, material objects, sex, the list goes on. How they treat others is also based on how they think love and acceptance works.
Hurt people hurt people, healed people heal people
Why should we act with love if others don’t act with love towards us? If we have been hurt, time and time again, we learn defense mechanisms to protect ourselves from the repercussions of others actions towards us, which eventually results in us going on the offensive – we hurt others before they can hurt us. Maybe it starts out as an innocent joke, and gradually turns into making fun of people in hurtful ways, which can eventually just lead to being cruel towards our fellow human beings. We are hurting, so we hurt others. We don’t know how to handle our hurt, and hurting those around us provides momentary relief from our pain, so we hurt. We hurt others, which hurts ourselves more in the process.
If we have been taught what unconditional love is from the beginning of our lives, if we have been shown what unconditional love is, if we have been taught to accept this love, we will act with much more love and grace towards others, because that will be our go-to. If we’ve been loved, we will show others love. We will not be as defensive, as guarded, as heard-hearted. It is easier to see the best in people.
How can we expect those who have not been shown a true example of unconditional love to even accept unconditional love later in life? If someone has been taught that love is only warranted if it has been earned, this will carry over to significant portions of their life, and they will behave in order to earn the love of others. And others will have to earn their love. Grace and forgiveness do not play a role – they are void in this equation. There is no correlation between love, grace, and forgiveness, if you have to earn love.
If someone has been abused their entire life, they may consider things like provision of food as the only form of love they know how to accept. Their thought process may be something along the lines of I deserved to be beaten, because I did something wrong. But my family still loves me, because they feed me and give me a place to sleep. Later in life, they will not see abuse as a wrongdoing, it will be something they feel they deserve because they are unworthy of anything else.
How we have been loved throughout the entirety of our lives shapes our belief system on how we should be treated, and how we should treat others
This is not justification for hurting others. This is a possible explanation for the motivation behind our behavior. It is never okay to hurt. But maybe instead saying things like “that person is evil” we can begin to ask questions like “I wonder what happened to that person, to get them to a place where they act that way towards others?”
We do not wake up one day and suddenly decide to hurt people. That motivations stems from somewhere, and it does not stem from a lifetime of being loved in a healthy way.
Real love, unconditional love, heals hurts. Healed people heal people. If we have been loved well throughout our lives, when we get hurt, we allow love to heal that hurt. We are capable of responding to hurt with love and kindness. We can let our hurts heal. And we can start to help others heal, by loving them well.
If someone has experienced a lifetime of hurt, and has never been loved well, it will be infinitely more difficult for them to ever accept true, unconditional love and kindness. They will perceive any amount of love as something that comes with a price. Why is that person being nice to me, what do they want? What will I owe them if I accept their love and kindness? It is a long, grueling process, to try to let love completely reshape a belief and behavior system. They must be shown love time and time again, before they will ever come to a place where they can accept that love, let alone reciprocate that love.
A life time of abuse, neglect, and false examples of love will set any child up for failure. When they reach adulthood, what chance do they have of having healthy relationships, with family, friends, coworkers, a spouse? Little to none. We’ve all seen individuals like this. They sabotage every relationship. They don’t know how to be kind. They don’t understand how to treat others. They are guarded, closed off, and keep others at arms length. If relationships get too serious, they shut them down. Or maybe they are just cruel to everyone around them. They are angry, hurting, alone, and engage in behavior that perpetuates their circumstances.
But here’s the thing about love.
Love is powerful. Love heals wounds. Love changes the way we see the world. Love changes the way we interpret our surroundings. When an individual who has never truly been shown love, or who has been unable to accept love due to their perception of love experiences unconditional love for the first time, they notice. They may reject it, but they notice it. And one act of unconditional love and kindness may be the snowflake that makes the snowball that rolls down the hill and eventually turns into a giant snowball that is the solid foundation for a newly built snowman. The more unconditional love and kindness shown, the more that individual is likely to learn the truth about love. The truth being that it is pure, kind, selfless, faithful, and unconditional. And as the truth is learned, hearts can be transformed. We never know what someone has gone through, or is going through. We never know what has been done to them to make their hearts hardened, and their actions cruel, apathetic, or simply void. It may take time, but love can heal a lifetime of wounds. It’s hard to love those who don’t appear to deserve to be loved. It’s hard to love those who are cruel to us. It’s hard to love those we don’t understand, those who push us away, those who act as if they do not care to be loved, or even want to be loved.
Every heart yearns to be loved, unconditionally, even if that heart has yet to realize that simple truth
Again, none of this is meant with the intention to justify the wrongdoings of others. But maybe, just maybe, if we ask the right questions, If we care enough to see the truth in others, if we put ourselves and our selfish motivation aside, we can learn how to love each other well.
And if we all start to love each other well, that, my friends, is how we change the world.