Lesson 5: The Power of Love
See the best in each other.
The Beatles sang "All You Need is Love." Thomas Carlyle said, “A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, “All men, even the most surly are influenced by affection.”
When you Google quotations about love you get 173,000,000 hits. It seems that everyone has something to say about love. The kind of love we’re talking about here is the kind of love you have for yourself, first, and then the love you have for those around you. It may be your spouse, it may be your children, maybe it’s your co-workers or your teammates. All of these people require you to love yourself, so that you can love them.
Why would it be necessary to love yourself before you can love anybody else? Well, it’s really simple. If you can’t love yourself, care about yourself, how can you know how to love and care for anyone else? It’s impossible. Love comes from within you. It is a respect you have for yourself, because you know that you are valuable and worthy of it. If you don’t have this knowledge, then you can attempt to love others, but it will be a selfish kind of love, more about you than it is about them. You will fail in loving others when you have no internal foundation upon which to build their love.
We have to find a way to see the best in ourselves. This means, as in Lesson 4, that we have to take a look at ourselves and determine what there is to love. We all have good things and bad things about us. There will be those things that you are really proud of. You ‘love’ those things about yourself. Make a list and post it somewhere. The truth is we all spend more time dwelling on those things we don’t like, than the ones we do. Certainly, we need to address those negative things and work to make them things that are now positive, but there are those things, even if it’s a very short list, that we at least ‘like’ about ourselves a little bit. Remember, what you focus on you get more of (Lesson3) so focus on the good stuff and you’ll get more.
Faith makes all things possible. Love makes them easy. No one knows who said this but it is true. When you love yourself, it becomes a simple task to love those around you and when you love those around you, you are able to see the best in each other. This isn’t something that just happens, however. It is a commitment to look for the good. As we’ve talked about in the other four lessons, it is always easy to focus on the bad things, especially in others. It is easy to decide that they are the ones who need to change. Finding others’ faults is relatively simple. Finding the best in each other could take some practice.
I had a student in public school, fourth grade, who was a perfectionist. If he didn’t get one-hundred percent on his papers he was determined that he had failed. It was a problem we worked on for quite a while before he had a total melt-down one day over a math paper. It was the first homework assignment on long division and he had missed just one. Because he had done so well, I wrote a great big GOOD at the top of his paper with my signature smiley face embedded in it. As I handed out the papers the next day, he brought his paper to me with tears in his eyes to ask me why I would put this mark on his paper when it, obviously, was not ‘good.’ I tried in every way I knew how to help him see that missing one problem, on something so new to him, to all of them, was a very good thing, but he absolutely refused to see it. He had missed one, therefore it was bad.
When I talked with his parents about my concerns over his perfectionism, they shared their concerns as well, but as we talked it became apparent that his father also shared this perfectionistic tendency. In fact, his first question to the boy was why he had missed that one and gotten all the others correct. It was not a question intended to teach. It was a question intended to belittle; “If you could get all the others right, why not this one?” I learned very quickly that there were lessons here for the father as well as the son, and if I couldn’t help the father, I probably wouldn’t be able to help the boy either. I have no doubt that the father never came right out and told the boy that his work must be perfect, but he said it in so many other ways that the boy had very clearly heard and taken to heart.
As with most of my students, I don’t know what happened with this one. I hope that there was some easing of his burden after he left my room for the next grade. I’m certain that he was very successful in whatever field he chose. I hope that it was his choice, whatever it was, and I hope that he is happy with the work that he does. As for the father, I doubt that I made much difference in his thinking. He may have been a little less quick to voice his ‘concerns’ at least in front of me, but I am certain that he still holds the highest expectations for himself and his children.
Expectations are not a bad thing. In fact, I have been quoted as saying, “Children will live up or down to our expectations.” If we set them too high, then they become unattainable as with this young man and his father; no one is perfect. If we set them too low, then we tell them that we don’t believe they are capable of anything too difficult and they learn to not even try. It is a fine line that we walk in setting our expectations reasonably, knowing the abilities of our children, or our spouse, or our co-workers, and then expecting that they will live up to what we believe them to be capable.
I have also had parents who were so afraid of letting their children fail that they ‘helped’ them with each and every assignment. You know their work when it comes in, obviously not that of a ten year old, alone. My son always complained at the Pinewood Derby in Cub Scouts because we helped him with his car when it came to using the power tools but the rest of the work was all his. Inevitably, on race day, a lot of the other boys would come with their cars that had obviously had a lot more ‘help’ than our son’s. It was always a great day, when his car defeated some of those other cars. We had told him that we believed him to be capable and he was. We expected to see the best in him, and we did.
It comes down, as always, to choices. We will see what we choose to see. We will find what we choose to find. Choose to see the best in each other, but choose to see the best in yourself first!