Second-Hand Love

To learn to love more, knowledge and explanations are not enough. You must experience love for yourself. That’s why most articles on this site include For Discussion and Homework assignments. I can point the way, and you must walk the path.

If you don’t have (or don’t think you have) people to practice love on, you can start by observing other loving people and learn from that. Eventually, you’ll realize that you’re surrounded by people to practice love on.

The trick is to see love everywhere, because that’s where it’s found.

It may not look like your limited concept of love or what you expected or wanted it to be. It may not be romantic and excessively attractive. It may not heroically save you from challenges and suffering. It may not perfectly accept you exactly as you are without wishing for you to change and grow.

Open your eyes and see love’s broader presence and your new awareness will bless your life with greater happiness and peace.

When a family walks hand in hand…that’s love. Observe how they care about each other and enjoy each other’s company. Imagine how it would feel to be included and holding hands with them. Let the experience sink deeply into your mind and teach you about what love is and how it works.

When a stranger holds the door for you because your arms are full…that’s love. When you make eye contact with a stranger in the grocery store and they smile reflexively…that’s love. When a car backs off to let you merge on the freeway…that’s love.

Love is less often like giant gold nuggets and more often like the tiny, shiny flakes that glint from the bottom of a California river. Collect enough flakes and they’re worth just as much as the fist-sized nugget.

Most people don’t need a great deal of love nearly so much as they need a steady supply.” – Anonymous

Find even more examples on the news. When a high school elects an unpopular girl as homecoming queen…that’s love. When Search and Rescue volunteers leave their families on a holiday weekend to rescue strangers who got lost or injured in the backcountry…that’s love.

If watching other people being loved makes you feel lonely, then it’s time to step forward and do something about it! Get together with family or friends and enjoy spending time together. Hold the door for someone or mow your neighbor’s lawn. Generate more loving connections in your life and instantly reap the benefits.

You may also ask for love, and it’s easier than you thought. Walk through doors with your arms full and see who holds the door for you. Ask someone for the time or to borrow a pen. Notice how happy most people seem to get a chance to show a little love.

You can even find instances of love in movies. Why do the heroes do what they do? It’s probably because of love. Why do villains do what they do? They probably didn’t get the love they needed, and a little bit of genuine concern might have made all the difference.

To be perfectly clear, I’m not talking about porn here. Watching others have sex will not teach you about love, and it will make you feel lonelier and more cut off than ever, because the hormones that sex sends coursing through your body make you crave connection, and if you don’t have a real person who you honestly love and care about, your separation will feel even more extreme.

As you open your eyes and learn to see love everywhere, it’s like when you learn a new word – suddenly everybody is using it! It’s not that they learned it when you did, you just never noticed it before.

If you want to the world – or your world – to fill with more love, if you want to raise the bar of how much love is the right amount, begin by experiencing more of the love that already exists and let that lift you on its wings.

SLIDER

Where do you fall on the “Second-Hand Love” love slider?

1: Nobody loves me and nobody loves anyone else, either. That’s obvious by the horrid way people treat each other. 3: If love doesn’t sweep me off my feet and take away all suffering, then it’s not love, it’s just people doing what they feel is expected. 5: Some people are really loving, but most people aren’t. They’re decent enough people, but that doesn’t mean they really care. 7: It’s natural to love, and deep down, everyone wants to love more, but most people are too afraid or just too busy to care that much. Given the chance, though… many people would take it. 10: The world is an incredibly loving place, and the evidence is everywhere! It fills me with joy every single day as I witness all the love in the world and see the great goodness people possess.

11. Going to extremes: By all means – go to extremes with this one! “Extreme” is anything beyond the norm, and going there is the only way to change the norm. See love everywhere! Let it light up your eyes so that everyone who sees you gets an instant lesson on love. You should be warned, however, that people dislike change, and you won’t always get a positive reaction.

FOR DISCUSSION

How do you feel when you do tiny acts of service, like holding the door for strangers? Is it a nuisance or do you enjoy it? Is that love?

How do you feel when you ask for a favor? Do you hate it and assume that you’re inconveniencing people, or do you accept their help graciously, knowing that you would happily do the same for them? What does this say about how well you love and value yourself?

HOMEWORK

Look for love. Everywhere you go. Look for small acts of kindness that you never noticed before.

Ask for love. Ask for tiny favors that are easy for people to do and observe how they respond and how it seems to make them feel.

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