When we think about love (as one often does on a day like today when your social media feed is blown up with reminders), our mind usually goes directly to Eros love, the romantic type. Our mind equates that love is communicated with lavish gifts and dreamy proposals and bouquets of flowers. Movies like Sleepless in Seattle or The Notebook or the one-liner from Jerry McGuire that we all know, “you had me at hello.”
And all of those things are great expressions of love and I would be lying if I told you that I don’t love gifts. This girl definitely does. But I have also learned through the great teacher of time and heartbreak and healing that true love is the kind that returns you to yourself.
What do I mean by that?
We do an exercise with the inmates in our music therapy program where we instruct them to write a letter to their younger self. In other words, if you could sit down with that six-year-old version of yourself with the bangs your sister cut and the missing tooth and eyes still full of optimism and hope, what would you say?
What we often find in the responses is a love letter written to self. Gentle words are written from a place of compassion and remembering. A reminder of how beautiful and strong and capable you really are and always were, before life and the competing noise of the world told you otherwise. How often the things that happened to you were not your fault, and even if they were the result of your own choosing, the acknowledgment that you are human and what matters most is that you learn and try again.
We live in a world full of people living from a well of their experiences. And it’s a mix of clear and murky water. A mix of some who were fortunate to have been loved well and to have felt emotional security and a large pool of those who were not. Of those who were dropped and bruised and cut and who operate out of those experiences.
As the famous rapper Phora says in one of his lyrics: “I ain’t never had nobody love me. That’s probably why I don’t know how to love you.”
Real love is the type that God operates from. A well of Agape love, unconditional and to which there is no ceiling, no bottom, no limit. Without prerequisite. Not a kind that says “I love you if…” or “I love you until…” but “I love you because I love you because I love you. And there is nothing you could do to make me stop.”
I’ve sought love in the wrong places before. In relationships. In materialism. In my appearance. In my performance. In the opinion of others. All of those were dead-end places that only took me further away from my true self and into the shallowness of who I allowed them to tell me to be.
Healthy love returns you to yourself. Back to that place of wholeness. Back from the places of lies and shame that you’ve wandered to and believed. Back to the realization that there is nothing you can do in this life that will make you any more or any less worthy of love.