“Life is difficult,” wrote Peck. And so too is love—real Love. . . . “There is scarcely anything more difficult than to love one another,” wrote Rilke; “That it is work, day labor, day labor, God knows there is no other word for it. . . . For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.”
A relationship stands the best chance of being a lasting and deeply fulfilling and meaningfully one, the more we grow, and the better we become as human beings—meaning the move loving, self-aware, present, and emotionally mature we become.
Yet there are plenty of thinkers, writers, and psychologists—far too many in my opinion—who seek to reverse this—who seek instead to champion an outside-in approach, and claim that our capacity to be happy and loving and decent to others depends, on the quality of our relationship, and if our relationship improves, then we too automatically will improve as human beings and be happier by virtue of all that.
And while this is the case sometimes—that as we are loved and accepted and affirmed more, we—at least some of us—do tend to stabilize and our symptoms and neuroticness do tend to lessen—it’s also equally, if not more true—and certainly much more empowering to realize—that as we face ourselves and become more mindful, self-aware, cognizant, reflective, virtuous, conscientious, self-controlled, we improve our capacity to engage in healthier and more meaningful and loving relationships.
Do this, doing the latter—taking up an inside-out approach—is the essence of differentiation—of defining ourselves, our “I” in a healthy and mature way.
Thus what I find objectionable about an outside-in approach to relationships is not that it may not be effective, and not that it is completely appropriate with children or even adolescents, it’s that it takes the burden off of us, it shifts the responsibility for our conduct and how loving and mature we are away from ourselves and away from courageous, heroic, right effort, and that it disempowers us by putting us in a reactive position by placing the burden of the quality of our relationships on the relationship itself and on other people (or the other person), in essence saying, If you loved me more, listened more, gave me more attention and quality time, etc., then I would feel better and be a better person, and in turn love you more, listen better, be more giving, et cetera. (And this may be true—that if we are treated more kindly and with more compassion and understanding, then we tend to become kinder and more compassionate and understanding in our treatment of others. But as adults, it is incumbent on us to make sure that we check ourselves to make sure that we are not expecting something that we are not giving—that we are not being more demanding of the other person than we are of ourselves.)
This outside-in approach is not only disempowering by focusing us more on circumstance than on our own character, it is demeaning and disrespectful of who we are and can be as human beings: it is disrepectful of the human spirit. An outside-in approach can lead us into the mental unhealth and downward-spiral where we rely on another or a relationship to better us—instead of our own initiative and conscience and inner wisdom—and thereby take things out of our own hands, effectively victimizing ourselves by placing the locus for control in regards to the quality of our relationship largely outside of ourselves and more in the hands of circumstance, other people, fortune, fate, luck, caprice, et cetera.
It is quite a concession / surrender of oneself and one’s personal power and capacity for responsibility and initiative to make.
And so with this blog I intend to take an inside-out approach to love and life and relationships and encourage the growth and development of what’s best in us—what’s in us that is capable of heroism, real responsibility, virtue, wisdom, self-control, maturity, making better choices, making more loving choices.
Hello; my name is John.
I’m 45-years old, recently married, and living in the Cincinnati-Dayton area, and trying as best as I can to live and love and grow and wake up (and stay awake) in a culture that seems to embrace sleep, mediocrity, comfort, the path of least resistance, and avoidance of challenge and difficulty as if they were virtues.
And I will be quoting and excerpting liberally from and commenting on the words and wisdom of thinkers like Fromm, Peck, Rilke, Rumi, Jesus, Buddha, Thoreau, Emerson, Montaigne, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Krishnamurti, C. S. Lewis, Merton, Nouwen, Jacob Needleman, Simone Weil, David Schnarch, Murray Bowen, Pema Chödrön, Kahlil Gibran, and cetera. I’m not the first—I’m not the only person who thinks this way and who holds himself up to these sorts of high standards and who is determined to Loves this way. There have been others. But this is definitely a higher path; the road much less traveled.
This site is dedicated to the learning and discovering of what Love truly is, and not what we would want it to be, and what we hope meshes well with our congenital preferences and limitations and tolerances.
And this will not be a site dedicated to the “drug” of love—to enhancing feelings of romance, sexual love, infatuation, limerance, the feeling of being “in love.” Rather it will focus on becoming a better and more emotionally mature and self-aware human being first, and from that—from becoming this genuinely more loving and understanding and decent human being—more and more truly loving and benevolent and happy feelings will—or at least should—follow.
Either way, becoming a better you should certainly in many ways be its own reward.
I think (hope) that most of what I write and post here will hold up to repeated viewing and reading (meaning it may need to be read more than once).
And I also hope you will consider yourself free to argue with what I write and share here and with my point of view—because arguing, debating, wrestling with differing ideas and perspectives—and doing so in writing—is a* great* way of learning more clearly why we think the way we do, and clarifying our own opinions and assumptions to ourselves, and digesting in a legitimate way a divergent point of view.
So I hope you will deeply consider this perspective that I am detailing on this blog and journey with it for a while and see what changes come about in your life by taking an inside-out approach to change and growth and by first becoming the change you wish to see! Because this path is very grassy (very, very grassy!), it has not been very tried very often, and so it is certainly in want of some wear. So try it. Walk it for awhile. It just might change your life—and not just a little, but radically, completely, and for the better. It just might be what ends up making all the difference.