The Foundation of Love!
Yes yes, Valentine's Day, the day we celebrate love.. but why do we only get to celebrate romantic love on Valentine's day? I would like you for a moment to consider thinking about all the different kinds of love in your life: parents, siblings, friends, teachers, pastors, coworkers, our children.. we are loved in many ways by many people but here's my question how do you feel loved by them? Do you actually feel loved by them? Do they actually feel loved by you, do you know? What does love look like to you? Who makes you feel loved the most?
What I have noticed in my practice is that people often come to me to experience a particular facet of love called "compassion". Not as common as you think, in fact pretty sparse in a lot of people's lives. It's as if for a lot of us, the people that are supposed to have compassion for us are unable to love us in that way. But we need to feel this type of love in order to heal, to grow and to become who we are meant to be.
Compassion means to suffer with, to bear each other's pain. That means you don't judge, critique or act indifferent. If you claim to love someone, you pay attention, listen, understand and care about what is happening for them.
Why is compassion so hard to give to each other? It seems to me that many of us are afraid of our own vulnerability , ashamed of our own weaknesses, afraid to allow ourselves to be too real. After all, we may be rejected, found to be unlovable. How could we give compassion to each other when we don't even have it for ourselves? None of us want to feel judged or criticized or condemned for who we are. Who wants more shame, guilt and fear? But how do we stop it, how do we move past it? How could we possibly love each other when we don't even understand ourselves?
This shame and fear keep us from loving ourselves the way we need to and then it prevents us from loving each other. We all just end up more hurt, disappointed and isolated.
In Hebrews 4:15 - 16 the Bible talks about drawing fearlessly and confidently to the throne of grace to find mercy, help and love, but there is something that precedes drawing fearlessly and boldly to the throne of grace: compassion and understanding. This is the foundation that love really is built on.
"For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin. Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment]."
God understands our weaknesses not as God but as a human, it says he shared those feelings of weakness! That means he felt what it felt like to feel lonely, sick, disappointed, angry, afraid, ashamed, lost despair, depressed, anxious, tempted, in pain.. There is nothing that you have experienced that He has not. Therefore we do not need to turn in fear and shame when we struggle but turn towards God who has absolute, complete love, compassion and grace for you.
And this is how we build a foundation of love for each other, we remember what we felt like when we were weak, then without judgment, without condemnation, without control and without fear, we give mercy, we give grace, compassion and understanding to each other. Sounds impossible? Well I'm not gonna lie it's very hard but I believe if we practice loving each other and ourselves the way God loves us with this incredible compassion and understanding, we'd all love each other so much better and we would thrive.
Ask yourselves this Valentine's Day do you really try to have compassion, understanding and grace for the people in your world? Do you try to know them the way God does or do you just assume that its some character flaw on their part, that they're bad or lost or defective, disobedient or weak? Maybe you assume this about yourself as well. All of those things may have some truth to them but if we are afraid to admit, talk and allow ourselves to be real with each other then we can't heal or grow.
Developing your compassion and understanding skills will lead to much more love, intimacy and happiness in your life and those lives of the people you love. Reserve judgment and criticism as much as possible for yourself and for others. First try to understand, accept and have compassion the way your Father does for you and in doing so, you will develop more acceptance and love for others, more acceptance of yourself, and thing called compassion will become a powerful force of blessing to you and to all those you love.