This past Sunday I did not feel like attending church service at all. My body ached. I was sleepy. I had a tonne of work to do including thinking up what to write for this blog. Somehow I dragged myself to the shower and out of the house. It was a good thing I showed up. The message was on love – giving and receiving love. It was a sobering message even though we did fun exercises. Afterwards, I mused over some questions that the message had brought to mind – questions that I’ve been asking myself for a while and I’ve been seeking answers to.
- How do you show love to an abusive person?
- How do you protect yourself while loving an abusive person (especially a member of one’s family)?
Love places such a high demand on us, I have discovered, to love the “unlovable” but also to love ourselves. Any person incapable of loving, valuing and/or respecting him or her own self is incapable of giving love to or receiving love from any other person. In my experience, an emotional or sentimental attachment to a person can be the reason for not protecting oneself from an abusive or toxic relationship.
How does one protect oneself while walking in love?
- Love yourself: A healthy appreciation for one’s own self is a good force-field.
- Know yourself: When you know who you are, then it doesn’t matter what anybody else calls you, refers to you as, or implies that you are. When you know who you are, then the choices you make are for you own good – who you choose to listen to, for example.
- Forgive yourself: We all make mistakes. Forgive yourself quickly and move on. Some people prefer to see others in the dust. Brush yourself off and keep moving forward.
- Choose joy: In life both sad and happy things happen to everyone. Joy is a state of being and not just an emotion. When we choose joy we are saying, “Sad or bad things happen but I choose joy. I choose strength. I choose faith.”
- Seriously, sort out your issues: The first step is recognizing that they exist and what they are. Many of us get stuck in the Recognition Phase and then it becomes our flag. We all have quirks. That’s not what I’m referring to, but to those, if any, deep-seated issues that affect our choices, emotions and beliefs.
For example, after my mother died, I grew up with someone who always criticized me. Being used to my mother’s unending support and encouragement, I could not understand why my dreams and aspirations were suddenly considered “irrelevant” or “disappointing”. Instead of choosing to be strong, I spiraled downwards. I still had dreams but thought little of their actualization. I made no concrete plans. I also expected to be criticized and became suspicious of praise and encouragement.
Fortunately, I have over the years, been able to recognise this and I am unlearning the habits of so many years. Recently, a friend told me that she loved me. As I read her message, my first reaction was “no, you don’t”, and then I realized, I had become so hardened! I immediately repented of the thought and opened my heart: Of course she loves me. I am lovable. I am a great person and a good friend and so, of course, my friends love me.
It was liberating.
Loving others, and especially ourselves, can be inconvenient. It is such a deliberate act. Real love does not coast on the emotion of the moment. It requires conscious effort. It’s a daily exercise.
It will not always be easy because none of us is perfect; but it is possible. I’m learning every day.
KEEP THE FAITH!