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How can you grow in the ways you give and receive love?

Phase 4: My Relationship with Others
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Transcript of Video:

As we look for ways that we can love more, love more deeply, all those with whom we share our life, there are certain practices that might help us to distinguish between love and attachment. If we think about the way that the Johannine writings and scriptures speak about love, you know, we think “God is love,” “we love because God first loved us,” and “as Christ has loved us, so we should love one another.” So I think first a Rule of Life, our spiritual practices, the whole rule itself should help us to remain centered in that primary fact that we are loved by God and that all of the love that we give or receive is just God’s love. It’s not our possession, it’s not our product. If we are attempting to, I think, to manufacture it in our own strength as something that is just ours of this little limited quantity that we can give or receive, it is easy for our love to become attachment, which essentially is love without freedom, which is impossible. So when we are attached there is this sense that there’s something blocking that primacy of God’s love, of which all human love is just a reflection, a conduit.

So one thing we might do is just simply periodically, as part of our Rule of Life, review all of the relationships in our life. The relationships in which we are conscious of cultivating love with a spouse, a friend, a family member, and just sit down and perhaps review internally how much freedom is there in this relationship. How much am I getting stuck? Might this person or this relationship sometimes become a substitute for the love of God? Or is this relationship like a window through which the love of God is passing to you? So how attached might you be? And is your freedom being limited or is the freedom of the person you are loving, the freedom of your beloved, being limited by your attachment?

– Br. Keith Nelson

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29 Comments

  1. Lee jankowski on July 25, 2017 at 14:00

    There is little that is specific in these words and so this article brings me more questions than answers as to love, as to growth and as to God. I can see in some of the responses that these words; love, growth and God, are taken for granted and offer only avenues for each of us to already speak about ideas we currently hold. Where is the growth in that? I will think about these ideas in ways that promote a human being towards thoughts and actions that meet the needs of others currently and for years to come. Of meeting the needs of love in the world currently and for years to come and in ways that meet the needs of God currently and for years to come. When I can say,”yes it does.”, to an idea and action as I hold these three areas in my heart and mind, then I will have a better idea of how to be in this world and the world to come.

  2. Stan Lewis on March 6, 2017 at 09:44

    By realizing the source of all love–God–I am filled with gratitude. Love is not something I posses; rather, it is something I participate in, something to which I belong, something of which I am connected and a part of. It moves through me and me through it, and I do not cling to it but allow it to flow to others.

  3. Jaan Sass on October 29, 2016 at 02:23

    How can you grow in the ways you give and receive love?
    This is a tough question for me in so many situations I think my brokenness overwhelms me mental illness and behavior overwhelms me and robs me and others around me of freedom.
    I have a wonderful woman in my life, parish but I still find myself in the chains that bind me and not hearing the love around me.

    I

  4. Linda on June 10, 2016 at 19:16

    This is a very good lesson. In our youth, early in marriage, we can cling too tight to a spouse and smother them, not let them have freedom cause we love them so much and want to take all their time. But people need to have experiences with other people too. Also we can be too detached from someone as well. It’s always a balancing act and something we have to review time to time to have healthy relationships and have them grow. I am trying to make people in my life feel important and that I love and appreciate them. It has to be expressed in words and deeds.

  5. Linda on June 7, 2016 at 11:55

    God loves and persues us even when we didn’t always trust and serve Him. Sometimes when others are living a life of untrust and are apart from God, we can tend to judge and alienate ourselves from them. But that can make them feel God is a mean God and alienate them from God further. So I am learning I still need to show them love, but be detached from their sins or detached from controlling their life and let God do the work in them He needs too. God does not use control or manipulation. When we know God truly loves us we don’t have to cling and control others which never works anyway. It just causes strife and alienation. But God always pulls us with love. I am detached from others only in the sense I do not feel an urge to control them or cling to them. They do not have a hold over my spirit.

  6. Jane on March 8, 2016 at 12:25

    Brother Keith — Would you please write something giving more clarity to what you mean by “attachment?” Are you referring to a clinging love that does not give freedom to the other? I think I have some of the same difficulty understanding your use of this word as does Robert above. Please reply with some lengthier clarification! Thanks.

  7. Susan Zimmerman on March 6, 2016 at 15:46

    beloved
    lover

    …cannot have relationship when both ‘healthy growing’ people are at the stage to be the beloved…have to be opened to meeting others who can help one grow past this stage/experience

  8. Robert on March 6, 2016 at 13:30

    Dear Br Keith, Thank you for the important reminder that all love comes from God. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you mean by “attachment.” Sometimes “detachment” can seem like indifference. I do indeed feel attached to my wife and children and grandchildren and to many of my friends. All of these loves imply some kind of responsibility and limit. Loving children means taking care of them, taking care of them when they’re sick, etc–not feeling “free” to let God do it all. A loving marriage is a wonderful thing, but the bond creates limits to certain kinds of freedom. Loving friends can mean being there when they need you, but also respecting their privacy. So to me, “possessive” love is the problem whereas attachment is the experience of a deep sharing of your life with others.

  9. a city monk on March 6, 2016 at 12:26

    it is, having moved one time too many – and the relationships that were rooted in a particular geography didn’t make the move.

    it is, accepting that there are relationships that have a season … and the duration of that season is known in the heart of God.

    it is, discovering the beloved in the face of the stranger, wrapped in a disturbing disguise…

    it is, living psalmody… the praying voice of the church, these are the beloved, who are the sign of God’s Love for us.

  10. Julia on March 6, 2016 at 09:30

    I’m in the position of being alone these days, so I’m less worried about being “stuck” or “attached” than the opposite, I think. My relationships feel attenuated in some ways. But I understand the concept. In the same way it helps me to see God’s face in every face, it helps to remember that each of us is beloved by God, and holding that thought helps me free my love to extend it, which seems if not a paradox then at least a surprise. But it works.

    • a city monk on March 6, 2016 at 12:27

      amen

  11. Stan on March 5, 2016 at 18:32

    How can I grow in the ways that I both give, as well as receive, love? This is not a simple question. This requires some serious inward contemplation. How well am I doing in these regards? What am I doing right? What could I be doing better? There are no simple answers.

    I have come to understand that I am much better able to love others now having received an abundance of God’s love through the form of my wife. She is the most loving person I know. She just exudes it. She is just full of God’s love and It just naturally comes out from within her. And God’s most precious gift to me is God’s love through her.
    This is a powerful love. This love has cured me of all my woes, all my sorrows, and most of my previous spiritual illnesses and self-serving attitudes. And this love has awakened the love within myself. Loving her has taught me how to love God, and also how to love others.

    It is such a wonderful feeling to just feel loved and to be able to feel love for anybody else who’s willing to receive it. But I also realize that it’s up to them. There do seem to be many people who are not so comfortable with being loved. They probably aren’t used to it and just don’t understand it.

  12. Suzanne on March 5, 2016 at 14:12

    I believe I can think too much about how others love me – or don’t love me. When feeling left out, taken advantage of, challenged, or sorry for myself, I try to sit with God and focus on where the pronoun is. Sometimes my feelings are justifiable, but other times, as I shift my focus it’s as if I need to go change clothes, so to speak. I should love others without expectation of that love coming back to me. That’s easy some days and impossible on others.

  13. Eugene Wright on March 4, 2016 at 16:39

    Its hard for me to figure out real love from other people. Maybe I am not giving or oozing with love for others as well. However, I d accept people for what they are and I show them how much I care for them and love them but majority of the time I het kicked in the mouth. I will jump at the drop of a hat to help someone but If I need someone’s help its like trying to pull “teeth out of a chicken”. I am not going to stop being kind and affable to people because no matter what I know that God loves me.

  14. Debbie on March 4, 2016 at 16:24

    By doing what frightens me. By doing what I am scared to do. By engaging people who are care about. By know when to let them be. By taking small steps and letting them decide if this is good or not.

  15. Beth on March 4, 2016 at 11:05

    I realized recently that as much as I have said for years and at times, felt it deep in my heart, that 99% of the time my heart is closed to God’s love even though I pray every day and go to church. It’s subtle. It’s not a loud feeling as in, “I won’t let you in!” But it’s there, it’s almost always quiet until I sit in quiet to ask some questions about why I’m not feeling nor living the life that I truly want. Does anyone have insight about this? I’d love some help.

    • Jennifer on March 7, 2016 at 10:07

      I get this, I’ve very often felt the same. I wonder if people like us are expecting a “feeling” that we recognize, a human feeling, and maybe that’s not the way God “shows up?” I wonder if instead, that sort of “soaring” feeling I get sometimes, in nature or any other experience, is God’s love passing through me?

  16. Mryka on March 4, 2016 at 10:23

    Loving individuals through the changes of the life cycle or personal traumas is hard enough, but can be worked out one on one, at least. I think here we have to be very careful to tell apart the various forms of love in ancient times: erotic, familiar, friendship, agape. I have relationships that used to be erotic and are no longer, but agape can remain.
    But my big problem late in life when family has mostly gone away to long distances, is how to love institutions (most prominently the church) and still challenge and disagree with it. The relationships involved here are multiple, sometimes completely contradictory, and touch on sore past points in each of our lives that can trigger sudden anger or fear. Brother, this must be huge in the monastery. How is it coped with? We cannot impose a rule of life on church members, or even on clergy. How can our individually-chosen rules of life, that we’re talking about here, help out?

  17. Russell on March 4, 2016 at 10:04

    I am imperfect in giving love unconditionally, as sometimes I am acting in a codependent way to “save” someone to whom I am related and that kind of love limits us both. Sometimes, I love with expectations that I will be loved by the person to whom I am directing affection. This description of love as having freedom within a loving relationship is very meaningful in my life. I can grow in the ways I give and receive love by recognizing and consciously setting aside these kinds of expectations, that someone “needs” my love or that I “need” to be loved. Loving with care for another person, but avoiding the expectation that love will have a specific effect honors the love that God gives me without expectation, but includes the hope that the beloved will encounter the love and find joy in it.

  18. Kate on March 4, 2016 at 09:38

    The point about love not being a product you manufacture — that struck home. I’ve never thought about it that way, but it’s absolutely right. By thinking of ourselves as conduits of, rather than producers of, God’s love, we free ourselves from the pressure of “making” enough love. All we have to do then, is pass it on. I guess that’s what’s meant by freedom!

    • Stan on March 5, 2016 at 18:07

      Nicely put, Kate. I particularly like your analogy of being a conduit of God’s love. Yes … we conduit if we open our hearts to others!

  19. Bill Spies on March 4, 2016 at 09:00

    This is a difficult question for me to answer. I love my wife, my children, that I feel is from my heart. I know that in return I have a hard time accepting Love in return, feeling that I have not earned it, done enough. I know that’s a human condition, not how God Loves each and everyone of us. So it’s a struggle.

  20. Jeff Lowry on March 4, 2016 at 08:27

    One area I need to work on is not remembering every single time a person violates a traffic law. I live in a small town in The South. For example, when someone whizzes by my thinking it is their chance to audition for NASCAR I say a prayer for them that they and others make it to their destinations safely. I need to do more of that with other violations.

    There are times when other people (friends or strangers) may unintentionally or intentionally touch a person in a good way.
    Studies show that that random touch is
    making up for the touches a person may be missing in other areas of life. Since I am retired chances that that will occur have dropped dramatically.

  21. Betty Donahue on March 4, 2016 at 08:06

    I am very extroverted and tend to let people know full well if I love them or not… that said I know that I use this expression to try to manipulate people to get them to do what I want them to do… this is totally unfair and unloving.I need to grow in my loving so that I do it unconditionally particularly with Jack. I do love Jack unconditionally but also try to manipulate him to do what I want and feel is important. Please help me with this God. Amen

  22. Bettie on March 4, 2016 at 08:06

    I need to be more consciously accepting of who family members are and where they are. I can do this with friends, acquaintances, but not with the people I live with.

  23. Mino Sullivan on March 4, 2016 at 07:41

    Dear Brother Keith, Thank you so much for your posting! I feel like you have pointed me to the Holy Grail. I have difficult relationships with a couple of my children, and have tried all sorts of ways minimize the pain these less than ideal relationships cause me. But today, you have given me the solution- just to love them with all my heart and let the chips fall where they may. How simple, how beautiful. Thank you again! Yes!

  24. Karen on March 4, 2016 at 07:16

    I am a very detached and introverted kind of person, so giving and receiving love is pretty difficult for me. For such a long time I didn’t think I deserved to be loved unless I was doing things for others. And then, after thinking I had earned it, then I could receive love. I’m working now to know that others do love me just as I am, and I need to let that love in. Harder yet, is being able to show the love I feel. That makes me vulnerable, which I do not like. But in staying detached, I’m not allowing those I love the joy of loving me. Hmm…

  25. Jim V on March 4, 2016 at 06:31

    In terms of giving love, I often feel limited by my judgement and expectations of people. I believe not doing that will help me grow, God help me.
    I tend not to reveal much of myself and express my feelings or stories. I may not be giving people in my life much opportunity to love and care for me. This may boil down to being vulnerable and not keeping secrets, God help me.

  26. Kristi on March 4, 2016 at 05:47

    This is challenging for me. I think in some of my relationships there is love but the feeling of that love is blocked by negative behavior, which causes me to pull away & hold back my love.
    I would like to be able to be more of a vessel for love & have it flow through me to the other relationships in my life, without other emotions causing a blockage. This is very hard for me to do, as I’m human and can’t help but be affected by the things some people do. My practice needs to be more centered around loving others with a freedom I’ve never been able to give before. In deepening my relationship with God I hope I can learn to give this love without the other attachments getting in the way.

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