I feel like a broken record. But I think the videos speak for themselves.
No doubt there are numerous cultural setbacks to having a biblically based family here in America. We could talk about entertainment and the media. They’ve definitely caused a setback. We could talk about prosperity and materialism. That is killing American families. We could talk about the sexual revolution since the 60s. Wow! I’m sure it shocks you that I don’t think that one is the #1. But I was thinking about Proverbs 31 the other day and the #1 cultural setback became crystal clear to me. It may surprise you.
If I could give you the #1 key to success in everything, would you take it? If I could provide you with the one principle that will help you excel in every aspect of your life, would you want it? I have discovered the one piece of advice that if it is the foundation of everything you do, it will guarantee the success of every aspect of your life. Would you like to hear it?
I’m glad I’m reading The Secret of Staying in Love* by John Powell. These are lessons I need to grasp. Even though he doesn’t reference Bible verses, I believe his point is biblical. This is an excerpt from his chapter “Human Needs and the Experience of Love” about unconditional love. This is the kind of love we need to develop for spouses, children, and parents.
thesis three: effective love is unconditional
Love may be given either conditionally or unconditionally. There is no other possibility. Either I attach conditions to my love or I do not. I would like to say at this point that only unconditional love can effect change in the life of the person to whom that love is offered.
In his work, Conceptions of Modern Psychiatry, from which we took our working definition of love, Dr. Sullivan talks of the “quiet miracle of developing the capacity of love.” He describes being loved as the source of this miracle. The first impulse to change, he says, comes not so much from being challenged as from being loved. Only in an atmosphere of unconditionally offered love will the human barriers to relationships be lowered.
There is a story of a housewife who related that her husband’s love seemed to be conditioned on her keeping the house tidy and in order at all times. She maintained that she needed to know that he loved her whether the house was cleaned up or not, in order to have the strength to keep the house clean. If you understand and agree with what she is saying, you understand the point being made here. The only kind of love that helps us change and grow is unconditional.
Conditional love always degenerates into pan-scale love. Both parties are expected, in pan-scale love, to put a donation into the proper pan so that a perfect balance is achieved. But sooner or later some tension, some pain, some struggle will distract one of the pan-scale lovers, and he will not make his monthly payment on time. So conditional lover #2, refusing to be swindled, removes part of his contribution in order to be sure that more isn’t going out than coming in–until nothing is left but emotional or legal divorce.
There is another question, and it is not so simple. Can we expect one party in a love relationship to continue making an unconditional contribution and commitment of love without a sustaining response from the other? Theoretically, I believe that if a person could continue offering an unconditional love, the other would in time respond. But perhaps it would be too late. If the person trying to offer unconditional love is given nothing in response, to nourish his own capacity and renew his strength for love, the relationship may be brought to an inevitable failure.
In practice I think this possibility is claimed far more than it actually occurs. People renege on their love commitments, run off to divorce courts, and take to falling in love all over again (with somebody else), without ever challenging their personal resources, developing their ingenuity, or testing their coping mechanism. It has been said that love works if we will work at it. I think that this is true, and I think that fidelity will always be the measure and test of human love.
Footnote: “Unconditional love” should be interpreted as an ideal, a goal towards which true love aspires, but which is realistically not within human reach or attainment. We are all to some extent injured, limited by the throb of our own needs and pains. Only a totally unscarred and free person could consistently give unconditional love. Such a person, of course, does not exist.
*Yes, that was an affiliate link. By now, you probably assumed that. Here is another one to make it easier for you to buy a copy of Powell’s book.
This week, I have to offer an apology. I guess I thought my 10-year-old son wouldn’t get around to reading my blog ever and so last week wasn’t too worried about using our great moment as an example. I’m still thankful for the example we got to share, but I apparently embarrassed my son. I don’t ever want to do that.
So, I encourage you to learn from my mistake and be really, really careful when you use your family as an example. The best bet is to get permission first.
Anyway, to Ethan:
Thank you for reading my blog.
Thank you for being willing to share your emotions with me.
I’m sorry for embarrassing you. I hope you can forgive me.
My Macbook cratered while I was in New York this past weekend (I thought that wasn’t supposed to happen to Macs). That’s why no post hit the internet yesterday. We’ll get back to the lessons in maturity next week (hopefully, I am traveling then as well so that is a bit up in the air).
How do you feel when you see someone and their eyes light up? I love it.
Yesterday, I got in the family car at the airport after a long weekend trip to New York (great trip, by the way, thanks for asking). While most of the family was clamoring to get me to take them out to eat, my two year old simply smiled and exclaimed, “Daddyyyyyy!” It was as if I was the only important person in her world at that moment. She was glad to see me (and not merely to ask for something out of my wallet). It melted my heart and made me glad to be alive.
If that is how I felt when she treated me that way, how will my family feel if I treat them that way all the time. It is so easy to get caught up in the rat-race, humdrum of every day living that we take our spouse and kids for granted. We walk in the house after a long day of work, our spouse walks in after a day at work or an errand to the store, our kids walk in after a day of school or time outside playing with friends, and we act like it is no big deal. What if every time we walked into the house or our family did, we dropped the cares of the world, the pressures of work, the frustrations of the day and acted like we were absolutely, truly, and utterly excited about being in the presence of these people? What if we commonly ran up to give hugs and act like we were lucky to see this person again. After all, that last time we saw them could have been the last time we ever saw them. But now we get to see them again.
I’m not naive. I know none of us will act like this all the time. But what if we made it a habit to show our kids and spouse that they are the sparkle of our eye? At the very least, let our faces brighten when we see them. Smile and let the smile get to our eyes. Demonstrate that we are happy they are with us.
I’m betting that 30 seconds of smiles and hugs will totally change the tenor of our homes. I know it will be tough sometimes because the days are troublesome. It’s easy to just walk in the house and let the day’s anxieties seep out at our families, but let’s make it our goal to walk in the house today with a smile and let the family know how glad we are to see them because they are the sparkle in our eye. Do that first. There will be time to share the stresses in a few minutes, first let’s share the joy of getting to see each other again.