The Process of Feeling Loved
(From "The Truth About Relationships")
When we hide who we are -- figuratively wearing bags on our heads -- we can only feel alone and miserable. When we tell the truth about ourselves, we can be seen by others as we really are. And then we can feel genuinely accepted by people and believe that they truly care about our happiness, which is the definition of Real Love. In short, we create the opportunity to feel loved when we tell the truth about ourselves, as the Wart King did.
Only when we take the bags off our heads -- when we tell the truth about ourselves, especially about our mistakes and flaws -- can we find people to accept and love us in the same way the Wise Man did for the Wart King. The effect is miraculous, even when we feel accepted and loved for only short periods of time. A wise man (or woman) is anyone who feels sufficiently loved himself that he is capable of accepting and loving us when he sees the truth about us. We'll discuss the role of wise men -- and how we can all become wise men and women -- throughout the book.
Real Love vs. Conditional Love
The ability to distinguish Real Love and conditional love is critical. When we can't do that, we tend to settle for giving and receiving conditional love, leaving us empty and confused. Fortunately, there are two reliable signs that love is not genuine: disappointment and anger. Every time we frown, sigh with disappointment, speak harshly, or in any way express our anger at someone, we're communicating that we didn't get what we wanted -- and that's not caring for their happiness (Real Love).
Our disappointment and anger absolutely prove that our concern in that moment is for ourselves, not for the happiness of our partner -- and that's conditional love. Our partners then sense our selfishness and feel disconnected from us and alone, regardless of whatever else we say or give to them.
We self-righteously like to believe that we're genuinely loving when we're not. That illusion evaporates when we consider how many times a day we feel disappointed or critical when people don't behave in a way that pleases us -- the cardinal sign of conditional love. We become annoyed with our spouses when they don't give us what we want. We get irritated at other drivers who slow our progress on the road. We're impatient when we have to wait in a long line. We're disappointed in our children when they behave badly. We're annoyed when people are late, ungrateful, and otherwise inconvenient. The list is endless, and it all proves that we don't feel unconditionally loving toward others, at least not in the moment of our impatience. It's also further evidence that we don't feel unconditionally loved ourselves.
Of course, this means of judging conditional love works both ways. If other people are disappointed or angry with us, they can't be loving us unconditionally, either.
But . . .
At this point, many people think or say, "But according to your definition, I don't know anyone who is really loving. Everyone I know gets disappointed or angry when people are ungrateful, thoughtless, and rude. Are you saying the whole world's understanding of love is wrong?" Yes, I am. While we claim to be loving, we yell at each other on the highway, take each other to court, get divorced, go to war, drink alcohol, take drugs, neglect our children, and quarrel with each other over the smallest things. Most of us walk around in a constant state of irritation, or at least we can be provoked to anger very easily. These behaviors are undeniable proof that we don't feel loved, nor can we give Real Love.
Disappointment and anger are always selfish. Hearing that, many people justify themselves with another but. They protest, "But we can't just unconditionally love people when they're wrong. Somebody has to speak up when mistakes are made." Sometimes we do have the responsibility to teach and correct people -- children and employees, for example. But that never has to be done with disappointment and anger, the two signs that always reveal that our true motivation is to get something for ourselves -- and that is not Real Love.
Loving unconditionally does not mean giving people everything they want. That's just indulgence and spoiling. Many examples of giving unconditional acceptance and correction at the same time are found in the rest of the book.
One More Thing:
Understanding Real Love enables us to settle a very important issue, one that philosophers and theologians have argued for centuries. Being genuinely happy (2:1) is the ultimate goal in life and also the ultimate good. Because Real Love is absolutely essential to our happiness, I suggest that anything which interferes with our ability to feel unconditionally loved and to share that love with others is therefore "bad" or "wrong." We'll discuss those bad things in Chapters 3 and 4.
Real Love is caring about the happiness of another person -- with no thought for our own reward. Real Love is "I care how you feel." Conditional love is "I like how you make me feel."
Real Love creates a powerful bond between people that always leads to genuine happiness. Without Real Love, people can only feel empty, alone, afraid, and angry.
Most of us were loved conditionally, which explains the unhappiness we experience now as adults.
We can all find Real Love as we learn to tell the truth about ourselves to people who are capable of unconditionally accepting and loving us. Such people are called wise men and wise women.
Real Love can be distinguished from conditional love by the absence of disappointment and anger.
Continue to: The Truth About Relationships
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