Happy Monday…and week leading up to Valentine’s Day. Valentines may be a lot of hooey to some (probably not Hallmark Cards), but it does offer a great excuse, which I may take advantage of these next few days, to write a bit about Love….
Conveying Love “is when you reveal yourself nakedly and honestly, at any given moment, for no other purpose than as a gift of what’s alive in you. Not to blame, criticize, or punish. Just ‘Here I am, and here is what I would like.’ This is my vulnerability at this moment. To me, that is a way of manifesting love, “ says peace teacher Marshall Rosenberg.
On it’s veneer, one assumes that any expression of love is nonviolent, yet the Nonviolent Communication method (NVCM) created by Rosenberg suggests that simply saying the words “I love you” doesn’t necessarily create connection or harmony. In fact, “I love you” is viewed as often a rote, and at its worst, manipulative phrase rather than an expression of true gratitude.
As in “To Do Or Not To Do” where I explored the verb-like qualities of responsibility and compassion, I agree with Rosenberg’s stance that Love isn’t merely a feeling. Love is an action, and a truly nonviolent expression of Love is something we manifest, something we do, something we have. It involves giving of ourselves in a certain way that is a truthful, caring and positively intended expression of what’s alive in us in that moment.
So merely saying “I love you” can miss the mark – due to the senders’ intention (when the words are said in perfunctory fashion or they are expressed with expectations) or due to the receiver’s ears (wanting “proof” or attempting to assign some sort of measurement “how much do you love me?” rather than joyfully receiving it).
When Love is an action, it is a gift of your Self to an Other with no ulterior purpose other than to reveal what’s present or alive in your Self because of something that that Other did which made life more wonderful.
So, what might such an exchange of Love look like?
Years ago when I was a junior high school English teacher, I started each class by reading aloud. I believed that, even at the ripe old age of thirteen, kids deserved the nurturing act of being read to, especially since many never received this kind of attention at home. The practice was one of devotion toward my students, and I read with enthusiasm to rapt listeners.
One day, unbeknownst to me, a fellow teacher stood just outside the classroom door observing me perched on the reading stool and watching the engaged expressions of the young audience. Later, my friend came to me and said, “I want you to know that when I watch and listen to you reading to your students, you are beautiful to me. I am inspired by what’s happening between your and your students, and it feels wonderful!”
Wow! I had never heard – nor felt – the words “I love you” spoken more powerfully in my life.
Over the years, when the infamous “three little words” have fallen short of some invisible emotional mark – due either to the speaker’s (lack of) intent or my own inability to receive, I’ve longingly recalled the profound heart connection I felt with my friend – not only that day, but ever after – for the gift they shared. They weren’t complimenting or praising my appearance or teaching style, they were acknowledging “I see you and feel your passion, and I like the way my heart feels as a result.”
Rosenberg says that in order to joyfully give and receive, we need to make three things clear when we express love or gratitude: 1) What specific action I want to celebrate in you that made life more wonderful. 2) How I feel now as I recall this action. 3) What needs of mine were fulfilled.
Expression of Love in this fashion frees us from the burden of proving our feelings and requiring proof in return, removes the emotional obligations in which we often tangle ourselves, and offers us opportunities to truthfully express how we are and what we need.
So here’s an early “Valentine” to my kids ~
Dear Reid, Gracie and Scout, When you reach out to me – inviting me to play; gently poking holes in my endless worries; eating countless experimental meals; patiently waiting “just one minute” for the tenth time; sharing your grand schemes, do-able dreams, biggest fears, quirky stories and silly jokes; revealing when you don’t understand and shining out when you do; looking me in the eye and speaking your truths — I am awed and honored by your generosity. You teach me every day to never stop reaching out to others, to keep reaching in to the heart and to remember to reach up in faith.
How will you manifest Love today?