I know not many people are big on minor holidays, but I happen to love them. I’m a big celebrate-all-the-little-wins in life person, and things like Valentine’s Day fall right in line with that. Not that we need any special day to pause and reflect (or appreciate our loved one(s), as the case may be), but each time is a nice reminder to take a step back from the busy-ness of life, even if just for a second, and use the opportunity both for self-examination and for gratitude.
Valentine’s Day is extra special to me, since we’re all chasing the full experience of love and belonging. And it’s available to each and every one of us, no matter our pasts! We’re often our own worst enemies, especially in the area of love: we let our preoccupations, insecurities, ideas of perfection, and lack of boundaries get in the way of letting love flow.
Very few of us like to admit our deep need for love and acceptance, because we think it makes us dependent or weak. We conceal this in performance, in alcohol, in overeating…in any number of things, just so we don’t have to sit in the discomfort of confronting the possibility that our loved ones won’t “get it” when we use our influence to be the big, bold, empowered people we are meant to be, and that we’re required to be to love both them and ourselves completely.
Not only does this keep us stuck on our own path to leveling up, but it often changes our relationships.
We mask our truth. We don’t fully communicate our goals, because we’re scared of what the other person will think. We hide our feelings to preserve the relationship, because it’s easier to go solo on the goal or pretend it doesn’t matter than it is to have our partners not understand or shoot us down.
Can you see how this is inauthentic?
It’s playing small. We can’t manage other people’s feelings, reactions, or perspectives. And we wouldn’t want to! Managing and understanding our own is a full-time job, necessary to ensure that we are the authentic and nurturing people we aim to be. Trying to manipulate others’ perceptions of us to avoid conflict, questions, or rejection is doing a disservice to ourselves and to our relationships. It’s exhausting, for starters, but it’s also controlling and unloving. It’s us asking each other, “how do I act so that I can get what I want (acceptance, love, affirmation) from you?”
We want the freedom to see our loved ones for who they are, so that we can both love them as they are and support them on the path to who they want to be. It’s only fair to afford our closest friends the same opportunity to see our authentic selves- our deepest desires, our messiest hangups, the whole nine yards. If we don’t, years can go by, and we could look around at who we think is closest to us and find that they don’t really know us at all.
There is strength in fully showing up.
What I mean by that is, enter your relationships being fully, honestly, unabashedly YOU- boundaries, goals, struggles, and all. It certainly can be scary, especially if you’ve never done it before or if your partner or close friends don’t have the same goals as you. But creating space to express that vulnerability is your job; how others react to it is theirs to decide.
Show up for yourself and for others, and that will be your first victorious step in a more loving life today.
Love is a sticky subject, made stickier by the fact that many of us are raised with an expectation to love. The rub on that, though, is that love, by its very nature, cannot be coerced or forced; it must be freely given. Otherwise, it’s slavery, basically.
Love is a choice we make, based on our character (not on that of the other person…nor on his/her performance or response, for that matter), to treat the other person with honor, respect, patience, protection, trust, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness at all times. We allllll fall far short of this mark, which is why mercy and forgiveness are in there: we need them just as much as the other person does.
Not that it’s that easy all the time or necessarily this sappy, but, at the end of the day, remembering our partners deserve the benefit of the doubt as much as we do or choosing to remain unoffended in the face of an opposing viewpoint (which is an extravagant act of love if you’re anything like me) or any other act of love in between is a choice to operate in the way God intended for us. It’s a choice- one that takes incredible strength!- to rise higher, to see the potential in people, and to treat those closest to us the way we’d like to be treated: with grace, respect, and belonging.
The spirit of Valentine’s Day is exactly this: inclusion and love (and chocolate). And right now, that’s more important than ever. Making that happen is UP TO US. Go forth and enjoy!