Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I don't mean to sound blasphemous, but I've always had a problem with this definition of love. I have never been able to love anyone in this way, nor have I ever been loved in this way. Not from another human being, at least. This may be the way that God loves us, but for me, this standard minimizes the value of the imperfect love that we offer to one another.
Being with my family for several days is a prime example of how painful and complicated love can be. We have all been impatient, unkind, envious, and proud with one another at some point. I could go through the entire paragraph, but you get the idea. Yet I have never questioned my love for my family or their love for me. It is the most enduring love that I have known and that I will know in this lifetime.
Perhaps it is my harsh superego and my perfectionism that tortures me with quotes like this one. My demons turn what is supposed to be a helpful guideline for how to love into something that makes me feel inadequate and guilty. But I know that I am not the only one who feels this way. I know many people who berate themselves and others for not being able to give and receive this kind of love.
The messages about love that have been most helpful to me are that God is love, and that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. I take this to mean that love for self, others, and God are all the same; you cannot truly experience one without the others.
This should come as no surprise to you if you have been following my blog, but for me the most difficult part is loving myself. And this is often true for the people I see in therapy, too. It helps to commit to loving myself when I think of it as a necessary part of the equation.
Surprisingly, blogging has been an opportunity to experience this trinity of love. As I have mentioned in a previous post, I started this blog with the intention of helping other people. I was not expecting it to be a way of receiving help. And I certainly wasn't expecting it to bring me closer to God. Yet here is another post that ends with God.
Striving to give and receive this kind of love is still a tall order, but for me, it's a more hopeful goal than striving to love perfectly.