May God Bless Us All . . . with Discomfort, Anger, Tears, and Foolishness


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Foolishness.

franscican-prayer

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This is not by any means what we normally think of when asking God to bless us.  Maybe when asking God to “bless” our enemies or oppressors, but not when asking him to bless our family and friends.  (And certainly not ourselves!)

How would this fly in the real world?—“Hello, Neighbor, may God bless you and your family with discomfort, anger, tears, and foolishness on this fine day and on many many of the days of your life.”

Who in their right mind would want to be blessed with discomfort, anger, tears, foolishness?

We would much rather be blessed with peace, comfort, prosperity, and happiness.  In fact, this is likely what the vast majority of we humans ask for.  The Joel Osteen positive-thinking prosperity-Christianity sells very well.

But if we really take this whole Christianity thing (or Islam or Judaism) seriously, if we really believe in God, in some version of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God, then while we are here on earth above ground alive we are to be God’s hands and feet.  That much is pretty clear.  At least some portion of our time alive (and likely more—likely *much* more—time than we would prefer to think) is to be spent helping those less fortunate, those who are suffering.

 

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,

No hands but yours,

No feet but yours,

Yours are the eyes through which is to look out

Christ’s compassion to the world

Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;

Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.

 

Saint Teresa of Avila

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We are not here for ourselves and our own gratification and for crossing item after item off our bucket list (unless our bucket list includes a lot of charitable projects and endeavors—i.e., starting an orphanage in Calcutta, et cetera).

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MADRE TERESA DE CALCUTA 2a.

May God bless you with discontent with easy answers, half-truths, superficial relationships, so that you will live from deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, abuse, and exploitation of people, so that you will work for justice, equality, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and to change their pain to joy.

May God bless you with the foolishness to think you can make a difference in this world, so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done.

(This blessing, often called a “Franciscan Blessing,” apparently was written by Benedictine Sister Ruth Fox of Sacred Heart Monastery in Richardton, ND about 25 years ago [1985].)
Posted in Community, Conscience, Courage, Critical Thinking, Mother Teresa, Personal Growth, Ruth Fox, Saint Teresa of Avila, Spiritual Growth, The Examined Life, Truth, Waking Up, What is Love? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Marriage Box. (Relationships Are About What We Put Into Them, Not What We Get Out of Them)


Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.” – Anthony Robbins

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Most people get married assuming that marriage is a beautiful box full of all the things they have longed for: companionship, romance, sexual fulfillment, intimacy, friendship, laughter, financial security, joys doubled and sorrows and burdens halved.  Most people pick their partner because they think/hope/assume that everything they’ve found with that person will either continue or get even better.

 

But the truth is that, in the beginning, a marriage or an intimate relationship only gives you a taste of these.  The box is loaded with freebees and samples.  Soon the box will be empty.  Unless both people start putting things into the box.

 

Like Love, kindness, appreciation.

 

There is no Love in marriage.  Love is in people.  And people either put the love in marriage or keep it out.

 

There is no romance in marriage; people have to add romance and passion to their relationship or else the relationship will turn tepid and stagnant.

 

A couple must learn the art of and form the habits of giving, sharing, loving, being kind, being affectionate, serving, sacrificing, communicating, appreciating, forgiving, accepting, not sweating the small stuff, being consistent, and so on.  In other words, keeping the box full.

 

Or else the box will empty.

 

That’s what happens when one or both people take out more than they put in, the box soon empties.

 

To keep the Marriage Box full requires that we be willing to work at the relationship (that we have a work ethic; that we give as much as, if not more than, we take; that we try to leave things as good as, if not better than, we found them), and that we be bring a healthy version of our “self” to the relationship (and not a depleted self, not an unproductive exploitative self).

 *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *        *

When you love someone, you put things into the box, you give, you invest, you nurture, you build.  When you don’t really love someone—when you say you love a person but actually you don’t—you aren’t concerned with the box, you maybe don’t even realize that there is a box, because the “relationship” isn’t about the other person, it’s about you and about receiving.

When you love someone, it’s not about you, it’s about them, or it’s about BOTH of you. But it’s no longer just about you.  When the relationship is no longer just about you, then there’s a box.

And when you love someone, you don’t just put into the box what is meaningful to you: you put into the box what is meaningful to the other person, what speaks love to the other person.  That’s what makes it Love, giving, sacrifice, self-extension, going the extra mile, about the other person.

Most people are narcissistic in ways that they cannot even begin to imagine let alone even see. They are blind to how narcissistic/selfish they are.  That also makes them blind to all of the ways that they take in a relationship as well as all of the little and not so little ways that they fail to give in a relationship.

When we love another person the relationship isn’t just about us anymore.  When we love someone we don’t starve them, we give to them.

When we love someone love becomes a verb that allows us to put stuff into the box, give to the other person in a way that is meaningful to him or her and works with their schedule, not just ours, and works with their tastes and preferences, not just ours.

When we give in a way that works for us and when we give when we want to give or when we’re in the mood to give, we aren’t really giving or Loving the other person: that’s just that our narcissism temporarily not interfering with the relationship; that’s just our narcissism happening to coincide with the other person benefiting in some collateral way.

This is what most people call Love: their narcissism coinciding with and benefiting the other person collaterally.  Instead of the focused intentional giving that is done out of Love, or that is about the other, the “giving” is really receiving where the focus is primarily on oneself and what one is getting.  When the focus is primarily on oneself in a relationship, one is not actually Loving the other person, one is a narcissist who is using/exploiting the other.

When we love someone, the focus is on the other person, what we are putting in the box, the quality and frequency of what we are putting in the box, whether it matters to the other person, and whether it is good for the other person or will bring happiness to the other person.

When we don’t put stuff in the box, we starve the relationship or marriage.  We are takers, not givers; narcissists, not Lovers.

It’s like the story of the two banquet halls. There are two banquet halls that are laid out identically with an abundance of delicious food. In one banquet hall the people are happy and well-fed.  In the other, they are unhappy and malnourished.  In both banquet halls, people have to eat with identical 3-foot long utensils. The difference is that in the unhappy hall, the people are unhappy because they are focused on trying to feed themselves, and the size of their utensils prevent them from doing so and also have them constantly getting in each other’s way.  In the banquet hall where the people are happy, they are happy because they have learned how to feed each other, and to do so courteously, to give each WHAT the other would like to eat (this analogy assumes that the people themselves have a decent idea of what is good for them to eat and what is not).

The oft told inspirational story that compares the Dead Sea with the Sea of Galilee makes the same point.  The Dead Sea is a dead sea because it keeps all of its water—nothing flows out of it and so nothing can grow in it; the water is too salty.  But the nearby Sea of Galilee is full of life because water flows out of it.

When we love another person, we want to give to that person in a way that is meaningful to him or her; we want to be good to that person; our focus is no longer just on ourselves, but is also equally if not more so on the other.  When we don’t Love the other person, our focus is only incidentally or sporadically or peripherally on the other, and not on the other as an end in him- or herself, but as a means, a prop, a tool, a slot machine for the gratification our wants and needs.

When we love another person, we don’t use him or her, we make the other person and his or her well-being and happiness just as important as our own. We don’t do things that will benefit us but will disrespect him or her.  When we love another, we have the other person’s best interests at heart—and not just some of the time, but constantly.  We have internalized the other person and their next interests so much that they have become a part of us, inseparable from us.  This is not merging or glomming on or fusion without integrity; this is self-extension of the highest and most respectful order.  This is fusion *with* integrity.  This is what real Love is all about: knowing another person and their best interests and what they like and what is good for them well enough that we have come to naturally desire to give this to the other and not withhold it from them or starve them of it.

And it takes a certain amount of personal growth and self-development, a certain level of emotional maturity and character development, a certain amount of self-awareness and honesty and getting real and very truthful with ourselves, to get to this place and not be BSing ourselves about being at this place.

Simply put, a good percentage of people are BSing themselves when they say “I Love you” to their partner.  They don’t actually Love their partner, they don’t treat their relationship like a living thing and nurture and tend to it and invest in it; they don’t see their partner as a REAL person, as someone with tastes and preferences (a love language) different than their own, with ways of wanting to be loved and cared for that are different from how they want to be loved and cared for.  Most people say “I Love you” to keep up the ruse, to keep the game going, to maintain the status quo of what they are getting out of the relationship.  Most people say “I Love you” because the truth would end things: “I am using you, and will continue to do so as long as your needs and wants coincide with what I am prepared to give you collaterally, incidentally, peripherally, as an afterthought.  You are not my primary focus, nor are ‘we’ my primary focus; I am primarily focused on myself because that’s the level of emotionally maturity and psychological development that I am at.  I have been stunted by dozens of things—my culture, upbringing, parents, friends, media, even myself—and so I have not grown enough to love and to give consistently.”

. Related articles:
Posted in Anthony Robbins, Love is a Decision, Love Is a Verb, Love is an Act of Will, Love is Not a Feeling, Marriage Box, Mature Love, Mental Health, Personal Growth, Real Love, What is Love? | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

What Are Your Relationships Based On?


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[W]hat is . . . relationship generally based on? Is it not based on so-called interdependence, mutual assistance? At least we say it is mutual help, mutual aid and so on, but, actually, apart from words, apart from the emotional screen which we throw up against each other, what is it based upon? On mutual gratification, is it not? If I do not please you, you get rid of me, if I please you, you accept me either as your wife or as your neighbour or as your friend. That is the actual fact.

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So, relationship is sought where there is mutual satisfaction, gratification, and when you do not find that satisfaction you change relationship, either you divorce, or you remain together but seek gratification elsewhere or else you move from one relationship to another till you find what you seek, which is satisfaction, gratification and a sense of self-protection and comfort. . . .

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We talk about love, we talk about responsibility, duty, but there is really no love, and relationship is based on gratification, the effect of which we see in the present civilization. The way we treat our wives, children, neighbours, friends is an indication that in our relationship there is really no love at all. It is merely a mutual search for gratification and as this is so, what then is the purpose of relationship? What is its ultimate significance?

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Surely, if you observe yourself in relationship with others, do you not find that relationship is a process of self-revelation? Does not my contact with you reveal my own state of being if I am aware, if I am alert enough to be conscious of my own reaction in relationship? 

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So relationship really is a process of self-revelation which is a process of self-knowledge and in that revelation there are many unpleasant things, disquieting, uncomfortable thoughts, activities and since I do not like what I discover I run away from a relationship which is not pleasant to a relationship which is pleasant. So, relationship has very little significance when we are merely seeking mutual gratification, but relationship becomes extraordinarily significant when it is a means of self-revelation and self-knowledge.

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(J, Krishnamurti, from http://www.jiddu-krishnamurti.net/en/1945-1948-observer-is-observed/krishnamurti-the-observer-is-the-observed-47-12-07)

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So what are our intimate relationships based on?  What are marriages based on?

Two people meet, date, and decide to marry.  Why?  There are probably as many reasons for marrying as there are marriages.  Some marry primarily for love, for children, for the steady access to a sexual partner, for the tax break, because they want a companion, because they’ve found “The One,” because they’re tired of being single, because they want to try something different than the single life, et cetera.  People’s primary and secondary and tertiary, et cetera, motives for marrying will vary from person to person.

Krishnamurti’s point in the above excerpt is that relationships are invariably going to be about getting, receiving.  We just can’t escape this.  There’s no escaping that there’s no such thing as pure altruism: the giver always receives something in return.

But what?

K’s question is what are we primarily trying to get from our marriage or an intimate relationship?  Sex?  Comfort? Companionship? Security? Financial Aid? Gratification of one sort or another.

Or something different?  Self-knowledge?  An increase in our awareness/consciousness?

Self-knowledge & self-revelation, though, are not ends in themselves, but parts of a process that can either lead to greater self-centeredness, pettiness, manipulativeness, and narcissism/navel-gazing, or that can lead to greater virtue and growth.

When we value a relationship as a means of self-knowledge and self-revelation for the sake of growing up and becoming less self-centered and less petty, and instead becoming more Loving and generous and appreciative, then we are engaging in what in Buddhist terminology is “Right Relationship.”

But when we value the self-knowledge and self-revelation that we gain from an intimate relationship to become better connoisseurs of our own self-centered gratifications and hedonistic tendencies, then we are not engaged in right relationship.  In fact, we are not even really relating to the other person, but rather using him or her, valuing the other person (our supposed “partner”) as a tool or prop or means, not an end-in-him- or herself.

And what about children?—isn’t that a valid reason to enter into a marriage or intimate relationship?  Sure . . . But what kind of parents does any child want?—Two people who are highly dependent on each other and basically using each other for personal gratification, security, comfort—in short, two people who are using each other as substitutes for personal growth and self-development?  Two people who are needy and dependent and underdeveloped and don’t have any real time or attention for their child, or even really know much about how to raise a child?  Or two parents who are committed to trying to grow up and mature emotionally and spiritually, two people who are committed to becoming more aware of how selfish and petty and narcissistic they can, two people who are committed to seeing how manipulative and exploitative they can be, two people who are committed to becoming better parents, two people who are deeply intent on trying to love each other (and their child), be good to each other, respect each other, be responsible, financially disciplined (not good little mindless consumers), and to role model all of this for their children?

So why are you in the intimate relationship you are in?

Related articles:

What Are Your Relationships Based On?—Mutual Gratification or Are They Processes of Self-Revelation? (realtruelove.wordpress.com)

Love & the smaller and LARGER Self (realtruelove.wordpress.com)

Posted in Emotional Maturity, Immature Love, Intimate Relationships, Krishnamurti, Personal Growth, Perspective, Real Love, Spiritual Growth, The Examined Life, What is Love? | 1 Comment

How To Begin Being More Thankful


Gratitude, like love, is best defined not as a feeling, but as something so much more and different: as a choice, a behavior, an attitude, as a way of seeing things, as a way of perceiving and thinking about things.

Being more grateful—becoming a more grateful and appreciative person—is something we can consciously choose to do and work on.

optimist-pessimist-3

We can choose to see things as half-empty—what is normally thought of as seeing things pessimistically but what also means seeing things ungratefully, in terms of what is lacking. We can also make the choice to see the same situation, person, relationship with eyes that see more gratefully. It’s not a pessimist who sees the glass as half-empty, it’s the ungrateful, unsatisfied, consumeristic type of person who sees the glass as half-empty—and who gets irritated with people who tell him or her to enjoy every moment with their children.

optimist-pessimist-4

Truly kind and grateful people see the glass as half-full, see life and relationships from a larger perspective—from the perspective of knowing that things truly *could be otherwise*.  Being grateful means not taking things and people and health for granted.  It doesn’t mean that we feel shamed or guilted into appreciating them, because that would just be an ungrateful person trying to mimic being grateful and doing the right thing for the wrong reasons (but it would be better than not even doing so at all!).  Rather it means actually understanding—really getting it, having an epiphany or an “a-ha” light bulb moment—that things really could be otherwise and then rising to the occasion (the demands) of living in alignment with that insight.

OtherwiseJane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs,
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Living gratefully takes practice. To live more gratefully takes practice—hours and hours of practice—perhaps even 10000 hours to master. Which means that living gratefully will take determination/will-power as well.  It will take effort and practice to begin acquiring the habit of seeing life and relationships with greater appreciation and not taking them for granted. It will take effort and practice to not take things (and people and health, et cetera) for granted.

It will be a very difficult battle, because we will be doing battle with ourselves and some pretty bad habits that took root in us when we were very young and naïve, as well as doing battle with the societal and cultural influences that have shaped and reinforced those habits.

We live in a culture that encourages ungratefulness.  We live in a culture that constantly encourages dissatisfaction and seeing the proverbial glasses all around us in our lives—the size of the house the house glass, the car glass, the marriage glass, the size of the TV glass, et cetera, as half-empty.  We live in a consumeristic culture based largely on planned obsolescence and instant gratification, where we are constantly fed the message that we can buy our way to happiness and where we are constantly bombarded with advertisements bandying something as “new” (as in “NEW!”) “IMPROVED!” “MUST HAVE!

And we have been exposed to this pattern and this way of thinking and looking at things since we were young, since we first started watching TV, listening to the radio, or reading magazines. . . . What you have isn’t good enough anymore, you need to keep up with the Joneses and get with what is new.

And from “what you have isn’t good enough anymore” it’s only a very small step or stumble for most people to: YOU aren’t good enough anymore because you don’t have the latest this or that, or the labels on your clothes aren’t classy or trendy enough.

And so from an early age we are encouraged to “want the best for ourselves” and the newest and latest and greatest for ourselves in terms of what we life has to offer and that we can buy.

We are taught to try to buy our way to happiness and to a better version of ourselves and to fitting in and being accepted.  Constant craving and constant dissatisfaction are what drive a good portion of the economy, and these traits become embedded in us as ungratefulness, pessimism, a chronic lack of appreciation, suggestibility, the need for “retail therapy” (or “shopping therapy”—the beginning of the movie “Fight Club” was very good in its parodying of this).

And so once a year many of us try to go against the grain of our conditioning and instead we try to be grateful, we try to appreciate what we have—all before, or course, getting right back on the wheel and setting out on the biggest shopping day of the year and getting busy right back to seeing what we don’t have, and what we are sold into believing we “need” in order to feel happy, accepted, satisfied—at least temporarily, for a few moments or days.

Gratitude isn’t a feeling.  It’s a way of life.  It begins with appreciating what we have—which for many of us is actually more than most people have or will ever have.  It begins with getting perspective—seeing the ways in which we take things and people and our health and their health for granted.  It begins with seeing how things could be “otherwise”—understanding how precarious our lot is, how fragile we are, how quickly things can change in life, how disaster could strike at any time.  And instead of responding with fear and panic and anxiety, we make the choice to practice responding instead with appreciation, with gratitude, by saying Thank You to God, Life, the Universe for our life, and saying Thank You to those around us for being in our life.

Related articles:

The Problem with Thanksgiving (or “Why Every Day Should Be Thanksgiving”) (realtruelove.wordpress.com)

Posted in "Otherwise", Gratitude, Jane Kenyon, The Examined Life, Waking Up, What is Love? | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Problem with Thanksgiving (or “Why Every Day Should Be Thanksgiving”)


Gratitude, like love, is best defined not as a feeling, but as something so much more and different: as a behavior, as a way of seeing things, as a way of perceiving and thinking about things. Gratitude is an attitude, a way of looking at things. It is a conscious choice–something we can choose consciously. We can choose to see things as half-empty–what is normally thought of as seeing things pessimistically but what also means seeing things ungratefully, in terms of what is lacking. We can also make the choice to see the same situation, person, relationship with eyes that see more gratefully. It’s not a pessimist who sees the glass as half-empty, it’s the ungrateful, unsatisfied, good little consumer type of person who sees the glass as half-empty and who gets irritated with people who tell him or her to enjoy every moment with their children. A truly kind and grateful person sees the glass as half-full, sees life and relationships from a large perspective–from the perspective of knowing that things *could truly be otherwise*. Being grateful means not taking things and people for granted. It doesn’t mean that we feel shamed or guilted into appreciating them, because that would just be an ungrateful person trying to mimic being grateful. Rather it means actually understanding–really getting it, having an epiphany or an “a-ha” lightbulb moment–that things really could be otherwise and then rising to the occasion (the demands) of living in alignment with that insight.

Gratitude takes practice. To live more gratefully takes practice–hours of practice–perhaps even 10000 hours to master. Which means that living gratefully will take determination/will-power as well. It will take effort and practice to begin acquiring the habit of seeing life and relationships with greater appreciation and not taking them for granted. It will take effort and practice to not take things (and people and health, et cetera) for granted. It will be a tough battle, because we will be battling ourselves and some pretty bad habits that took root in us when we were very young and naive. We live in a culture that encourages ungratefulness, dissatisfaction, as seeing the glass as half-empty; we live in a consumeristic culture based largely on planned obsolesence and instant gratification where we are constantly sold the message that we can buy our way to happiness and where we are constantly bombarded with advertisements bandying something as “new” (as in “NEW!”) “IMPROVED!” “MUST HAVE!” And we have been exposed to this pattern and this way of thinking and looking at things since we were young, since we first started watching TV, listening to the radio, or reading magazines. What you have isn’t good enough anymore, you need to keep up with the Joneses and get with what is new. And from “what you have isn’t good enough anymore” it’s only a very small step for most people to you aren’t good enough anymore because you don’t have the latest this or that, or the labels on your clothes aren’t classy or trendy enough. And so from an early age we are encouraged to “want the best for ourselves” in terms of what we life has to offer and that we can buy. We are taught to buy our way to happiness and to a better version of ourselves and to fitting in and being accepted. Constant craving and constant dissatisfaction are what drive a good portion of the economy, and these traits become embedded in us as ungratefulness, pessimistism, a chronic lack of appreciation, suggestability, the need for “retail therapy” (or “shopping therapy”; the beginning of the movie “Fight Club” was very good at parodying this).

And so once a year many of us try to go against the grain of our conditioning and instead be grateful, appreciate what we have–all before the getting right back on the wheel and setting out on the biggest shopping day of the year and getting busy seeing what we don’t have, and what we are sold into believing we “need” in order to be happy, accepted, satisfied–at least temporarily, for a few moments or days.

What Is Real True Love?

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First off, this will not be a curmudgeonly tough-minded rant where I rage rage against how commercialize things are at this time of year and how “Black Friday” is starting earlier and earlier, so much so that it is now encroaching more and more onto Thanksgiving Day’s turf. (Although that is all true, it’s just not where I’m going with this.)

Nor will this be a glib positive-thinking post about being more grateful.

This will be a more tough-minded tell it like it is no holds barred post about why we–about why any and all of us–should be more grateful and appreciative, and how to get there.

And if this posts makes you feel guilty or “bad” for not being more grateful, then good: better feeling guilty and bad now rather than regretful later when you can no longer do anything about it.

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The Problem with Thanksgiving

My hang-up with Thanksgiving—and with holidays…

View original post 3,079 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Love & Life


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The story I posted yesterday (about Taylor Morris & Danielle Kelly) led me to reflect  on (and to write about) the nature of love—and life—as well as character, commitment, devotion, for better or worse, and what it means to really love another person.

For me, there were two big takeaways from the thinking and writing I did yesterday that essentially reinforced what I have already concluded and try to live by.

1. Life is Capricious. 

This is just a brute fact of life.  We’re here today, gone tomorrow.  We’re each “written on the wind” (a line from a Stevie Winwood song).  If you are lucky enough to find someone decent who loves you and whom you love, then it would seem wise not to take that person or your time with him or her for granted.  The fundamental nature of life is that it is unpredictable, uncertain, even deadly, eventually deadly.  We never know when things might change or turn bad.  Health is changeable, youth and strength are fleeting; life is what happens to us when we are busy making our own plans.  Life can change dramatically in a split second—a car accident, a plane crash (http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/10009405/michigan-wolverines-recruit-austin-hatch-speaks-publicly-first-second-plane-crash), a lump, a stroke or aneurysm.

These are all truisms that we nod our head in agreement with, but that we usually quickly try to put out of mind and stop thinking about (not to mention acting in accordance with) because they’re just too paralyzing and worrisome and fretful.  Life’s capriciousness and unpredictability just causes us stress, makes us nervous and anxious.  And we don’t like feeling that way—feeling out of control or panicked, so we opt to live in denial and not face the brute facts of our existence and deal honestly with our own and other peoples’ mortality and work through the anxiety and even panic and make the necessary changes that will allow us to live and love and act better and with greater force and clarity and less regret.

Most of what couples argue about, if seen on a long enough timeline, is small stuff—ridiculously small petty insignificant stuff.  Couples argue so often over silly things.  Why?  Because we’re all basically egos in skin bags.  We might aspire to more and have a few inklings of something more, but basically the vast majority of us wake up each day in denial, still asleep, and start going about our day as if life goes on forever and as if we have all the time in the world for our daily task and pet ego projects.  And moreover most people tend to behave in ways that suggest that life is about them and their own comfort and momentary gratification and indulgence.   Many of us live as children—we want, want, want, we spend, spend, spend, we’re very suggestible and distracted.  We make our concerns many and our perspective small.  We want comfort, indulgence, security, excitement, pampering, to be entertained, titillated, et cetera.  We want escape—escape from what?—from work, effort, from anxiety, uncertainty, from having to think about loss and our own and others’ mortality.  We don’t wake up and reflect on life’s fleetingness and capriciousness, how vast and unfathomable the cosmos is, how little we really know about this incredible mystery (life) that we are partaking in or that is experiencing itself through us, how odd it is to find ourselves here in this time and place and with this face and body.  We don’t wake up and remind ourselves that someday—perhaps today—all of this will come to end, that we will die, that what we fear most and would like to avoid is inevitable, that someday we will get the bad news from our doctor.  And that not only will it happen to us, it will happen to our partner, our parents, our friends, our children, to acquaintances, strangers, even enemies.  And we don’t pause to remind ourselves of all of this at points throughout the day—especially when we’re having a difference of opinion with our partner.

2. Real Love Really Is About For Better AND For Worse.

Real love is not just about a strong feeling or an overwhelming euphoric emotion; it’s equally if not more so (ok, definitely more so) about character, commitment, conscience.  The best long term relationships and marriages take place when two people deep down not only Love and are attracted to each other, *but* also really like and appreciate each other, when they enjoy each other’s company and companionship (are friends, not only lovers), *and* when have they both have the character traits—i.e., the loyalty, patience, focus, resolve, appreciation, generosity, respect, compassion, empathy, steadfastness, integrity, honor, responsibility, et cetera—necessary to care well for all of that attraction and interest and nurture it and make their relationship stable and lasting.

For love to last, it requires more than just an intense beginning.  It requires that both people have good character and that they both actually care about their character and developing it in a noble and decent way and not just letting it go or ignoring it (which is what many people do—pay little to no conscious attention to their own character development, seemingly not even consider it in their decision-making—“what kind of person am I becoming by choosing to do this or not do this?”).

The intensity or “rightness” of a relationship —how right a relationship feels—in the beginning really has no bearing whatsoever on whether a relationship will last or not.  The intensity and attraction and fireworks in the beginning are only one part—and arguably a non-essential part—of what it takes for a relationship to thrive and last.  The more important and crucial part is the level of character development and integrity and emotional maturity of the two people.  All the heat and attraction imaginable can befall two people of not very good character, and the temptations of this world and the vicissitudes of life will rip their relationship apart.  In order for their relationship to survive they will have to be kept sheltered from the real world and temptation, trial, tribulation, hardship, and misfortune.

But give two people of sound character a decent dose of attraction and mutual interest and compatibility and their relationship stands an infinitely better chance of passing the test of time and of providing them each with years of happiness and satisfaction and enjoyment (as well as ample opportunities for growth and self-improvement).

This is what making a commitment to another person (and even what the marriage vows) are all about—a personal declaration / mission statement of what we’re about—i.e., we’re not just emotionally reactive creatures (Stephen Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”), playthings of circumstance (Viktor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning”), falling leaves (Hermann Hesse’s “Siddhartha”); and we’re not just social climbers or egos in a skin bag here for our own emotional and psycho-sexual gratification and to emotionally strip-mine others and then callously and calculatingly move on when the other person no longer serves us or has outgrown their usefulness to us or has fallen on hard times.  We’re better than that.  When we make a commitment or declare the marriage vows, that’s what we’re saying: we’re better than mere emotional reactivity, we’re more than just our moods and feelings, we’re more than just some epiphenomenalistic/deterministic plaything of circumstance.

When we make a commitment to another person (or take the wedding vows) we’re saying this relationship is no longer just about “love,” but about love *and* character, love + character, love and attraction augmented and stabilized by *what’s best in us*; this is not just about our own gratification and happiness, but about another human being and his or her well-being, growth, happiness; we are declaring to the other person (as well as ourselves) that we will not be ruled just by the heart, by love the feeling or love the emotion, but a type of Love made much more durable and stable than the fickleness and flimsiness and fleetingness of mere emotion and feeling; we are going to become devotees and practitioners of Love the choice, Love the commitment, Love the action, Love the verb.

I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you and cherish you all the days of my life, till death do us part. . . .”

I promise to do certain things and act a certain way and show up a certain way each day to our relationship.  I promise not just to feel love for you, but act in ways that speak love to you—and speak it in your love language (not mine), I promise to behave around you and towards you in ways that demonstrate my love for you.  And I will do this not just when it’s convenient or easy or when I am feeling like it or when I am sexually motivated to, but I will do so when I don’t feel like it, or when it’s inconvenient, or when it requires effort, or when life gets difficult, or when you are ill or wounded or poor.  I’m not just going to use you for my own personal enjoyment and gratification while you are healthy and can give me things; I am going to actually love you for the long haul and care deeply about you as a human being and type of person we both become. And I am going to cherish you—not treat you as if life goes on forever and as if we have all the time in the world, because that’s not cherishing another, that’s taking him or her for granted; instead I am going appreciate you, act with gratitude and generosity towards you, be good to you and good for you.

Bottom line—

When you really love someone, you don’t take them for granted, and you care not just about them and their happiness, but about their character—as well as your own.

Posted in "Siddhartha", Commitment, Critical Thinking, Death, Denial, Reactive, Stephen Covey, Taylor Morris, The Examined Life, Truth, Viktor Frankl, Waking Up, What is Love? | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Love Story in Pictures — Taylor Morris & Danielle Kelly


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I recently came across the story online of this incredible young couple, Taylor Morris & Danielle Kelly, and I wanted to share the site I originally found the story on as well as other sites I found while looking more into their story.

And so for further details and to read more about their story (and to see more of their story) you can do so by clicking the following links—

http://www.taylormorris.org/

http://www.glamour.com/sex-love-life/blogs/smitten/2012/09/an-incredible-love-story-told.html

http://words2vomit.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/love-story-a-story-in-pictures-you-wont-forget-easily/

http://www.buzzfeed.com/txblacklabel/true-love-in-pictures-only-28m7

from Tim Dodd Photography—

http://timdoddphotography.com/blog/do-you-know-my-friend-taylor-morris

http://timdoddphotography.com/blog/did-you-see-my-friend-taylor-come-home

http://timdoddphotography.com/blog/some-things-are-worth-holding-onto

http://timdoddphotography.com/blog/have-you-seen-my-friend-taylor-walk

from cedarfalls.patch.com—

“Taylor Morris and Danielle Kelly On Life After the Bomb Blast: It Took His Limbs But Not His Spirit”

http://cedarfalls.patch.com/groups/breast-cancer-awareness/p/taylor-morris

from the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier online (wcfcourier.com)—

“Cedar Valley Iowa Shows Love for Taylor Morris at Lt. Dan Concert”—

http://wcfcourier.com/news/local/cedar-valley-shows-love-for-taylor-morris-at-lt-dan/article_f5bce6ac-fca6-11e2-af5f-001a4bcf887a.html

“Disabled sailor Taylor Morris meets President Obama”—

http://wcfcourier.com/news/local/update-disabled-sailor-taylor-morris-meets-president-obama/article_dabd2e26-cc49-536d-8ade-c070295b5a67.html

there is a YouTube Channel documenting Taylor Morris’s recovery—

http://www.youtube.com/user/TaylorMorrisRecovery

from HuffingtonPost.com—

“Taylor Morris, Quadruple Amputee, Dances With Girlfriend Danielle Kelly”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/17/watch-taylor-morris-quadruple-amputee-dances-_n_1891588.html

Posted in Commitment, Love is a Choice, Love is a Commitment, Love is a Decision, Love Is a Verb, Mature Love, Real Love, Taylor Morris, What is Love? | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Commentary on “Marriage Isn’t For *You*”


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[A] true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love—their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, “What’s in it for me?”, while Love asks, “What can I give?”

Some time ago, my wife showed me what it means to love selflessly. For many months, my heart had been hardening with a mixture of fear and resentment. Then, after the pressure had built up to where neither of us could stand it, emotions erupted. I was callous. I was selfish.

But instead of matching my selfishness, Kim did something beyond wonderful—she showed an outpouring of love. Laying aside all of the pain and anguish I had caused her, she lovingly took me in her arms and soothed my soul.

I realized that I had forgotten my dad’s advice. While Kim’s side of the marriage had been to love me, my side of the marriage had become all about me. This awful realization brought me to tears, and I promised my wife that I would try to be better.

To all who are reading this article—married, almost married, single, or even the sworn bachelor or bachelorette—I want you to know that marriage isn’t for you. No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love.

(Written by Seth Adam Smith; excerpted from his blog post “Marriage Isn’t For You” — you can read his entire blog post here: http://sethadamsmith.com/2013/11/02/marriage-isnt-for-you)

The above is an excerpt from a nicely-written blog post that has gone viral and that essentially hits all the right platitudes.  Clearly the author of the piece chose well when he picked his spouse: because plenty of partners fight fire with fire, harden their own hearts in response to their partner’s self-centeredness, meet selfishness with selfishness, and respond in kind, et cetera.

And I agree with the gist of what the author concludes and conveys in his post.

But again I am surprised that it is such a revelation to so many or that it is something that so many need to hear.

Do they not know that this has been said before? (And in greater depth and detail?)

They must not know.  They mustn’t be familiar with ideas such as: Love isn’t a feeling; love is a verb; love isn’t about your own gratification; et cetera.

Again I am struck by the thought that perhaps people ought not be allowed to marry (a church wedding) unless they have been introduced to books like “The Road Less Traveled” (M. Scott Peck), “The Art of Loving” (Eric Fromm), “The Four Loves” (C. S. Lewis—also the sections he has on marriage and love in his book “Mere Christianity”), and a few of Rilke’s letters on love, the section on Love and Relationships in Marianne Williamson’s book “A Return to Love,” and what writers and thinkers like Rumi, St. Paul, St. John, Merton, Krishnamurti, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Thich Nhat Hahn, Thoreau, Gibran (“The Prophet”), Roberta Gilbert, Jacob Needleman, David Schnarch (“Passionate Marriage”), and Gary Chapman (“The Five Love Languages”), and Stephen Covey, et cetera, have had to say about love and relationships.

The information is out there.  Distilled down to a few pithy phrases and platitudes these authors and thinkers have all concluded in their own way that: Love isn’t a feeling; love is a verb; love is as love does and not as love says (love isn’t what we say, it’s what we repeatedly show and do); love is about giving; love is patient, love is kind, love isn’t petty and resentful; love is in it for the long haul, love is about overcoming or outgrowing what’s weakest and worst in ourselves, love is about growing up and maturing psychologically and spiritually and acting in ways that promote that type of growth in oneself and one’s partner, et cetera.

And all of these ideas/concepts/ideals are already out there, readily available to all who can read or listen to a book on CD or MP3, and who can make the choice to make the time to sit still long enough to read and reflect on what these books have to share.

Yet hardly anyone really reads from the above mentioned list of books and thinkers, and so this sort of knowledge or information about what love actually is or might be, and what we as human being are capable of growing up into behaving like, is basically lost.

All of us are basically born as proverbial “blank slates” (tabulas rasa) that are genetically prewired to be self-centered, look out for number one, preserve our own existence.  And what cultural influences get to us first—to our blank slates—as well as what cultural influences get there most frequently, and so end up scribbling and scrawling and etching deeply their messages all over us / our slates are the sorts of dubious ideas about love and relationships that we get from pop music, TV, movies—i.e., the ideal of romantic love; finding “the one,” finding right person (instead of growing up and becoming the right type of person) and living “happily ever after”; questionable ideas like love is a feeling, a strong overwhelming all-consuming intoxicating emotion, a mix of lust and butterflies in the stomach and walking on air and feeling omnipotent; love is what we say; that when we love the other person but no longer are in love with the other person it’s then justifiable to jump ship or start looking around for someone new and have an affair; that life and love are supposed to be easy and effortless and not difficult and full of work and laden with suffering, et cetera.

This is the sort of stuff that our culture constantly bombards us with and that we continually and blindly subject ourselves to (or allow ourselves to be subjected to).

And it has its very predictable effect.

Aside from putting money in the pocket of those who purvey these myths (or who sing catchy songs that spread these myths and that become the soundtracks to the lives of hormonal and naïve teenagers); it takes advantage of our naïve desire to effortlessly made happy and pampered, as well as some of our deepest and earliest hopes and desires—childish (or infantile/adolescent) hopes and desires—the desire to be the center of someone’s attention, the desire to be taken care of, to merge with someone, to be constantly understood and validated, to feel powerful and desired, to have our needs and wants anticipated and met perfectly.

And one or two hours a week of church and a little spotty positive role modeling here or there isn’t going to make much of a dent in all of this other programming (or cultural influence) that’s being etched again and again into our blank slates.
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Not “I like your mind” or “I really like who you are as a person and what you stand for and aspire to,” but rather “I like your beard.”  “I like your beard” is cutesy and sells.

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And so so many people enter into marriage believing it’s about them and their own gratification, it’s about getting, or about giving so as to get their goodies, and about being happy and titillated and made to feel a certain way by the other person and expecting the other person to keep making you feel a certain way, et cetera.

But really marriage is about growing up, becoming a better person, helping out, being part of a team, forming a partnership, giving back, investing oneself tangibly in something greater than oneself, doing the little things—the unromantic things, the boring things, the routine things, the maintenance things—and day after day working and creating and building and nurturing something with someone else that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

But as a culture this is a message that we hardly ever get or have impressed upon us. Instead we get bombarded with messages about how great puppy love and infatuation feel, how your love is a drug, how people met the right person and just “knew” and lived happily after and everything turned out perfectly and they never had to struggle and they had great sex all the time—make-up sex without ever having had a fight, reuniting sex without ever having left each other for more than a few hours.

How can two people whose minds are full of such questionable (if not errant) ideas about love and how relationships are supposed to work and what a long-term union is supposed to be like ever hope to find happiness with each other or create something lasting and mutually satisfying and enlivening?  The odds are prohibitively against it.

But take two people who have read some decent books about love and relationships, really thought about what love is and what a relationship or marriage is supposed to be like, two people who have done some inner work to address their own selfishness and pettiness and meanness, two people who have some functioning perspective, who are self-aware and honest and can objective about themselves, who truly aspire to grow emotionally and spiritually and psychologically and become better people, and they have a real fighting chance of creating a marriage or long-term relationship that will be mutually enlivening and satisfying.

Posted in "Marriage Isn't For You", Kierkegaard, Krishnamurti, Love is a Choice, Love Is a Verb, Love is Not a Feeling, Marianne Williamson, Mature Love, Personal Growth, Perspective, Real Love, Schnarch, Seth Adam Smith, Spiritual Growth, The Examined Life, The Road Less Traveled, What is Love? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Is a Verb (“I Didn’t Love My Wife When We Got Married—The Real Truth About Love”)


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I am going to reblog a very honest and nicely-written article with the attention-grabbing perhaps even somewhat shocking title of I Didn’t Love My Wife When We Got Married” (The Real Truth About Love) by Elad Nehorai (the original article can be found here—http://popchassid.com/didnt-love-wife/   and here—http://www.aish.com/f/m/I-Didnt-Love-My-Wife-When-We-Got-Married.html)

What the author concludes and admits to is very true of the vast majority of long-term relationships and marriages.

Infatuation, limerance, lust, romantic feelings—all of these are mistaken as love, or are viewed as necessary precursors to real love and entering into an intimate relationship with another human being.  But the reality is that these supposed “precursors”—physical attraction, butterflies in the stomach, giddiness, limerance, lust, romantic feelings—are some of the most questionable and least reliable predictors of whether a relationship will succeed or fail.

Yet this sentimental, heart-heavy, head-light, and likely very ignorant and unrealistic view of “love” is what Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and publishing houses continue to offer in abundance—for the simple reason that it sells so well!  This is the view of love that seemingly most people want to believe.  And this is the view of love that feels so good to believe!

No matter what we believe or hope love is or how we try to define it, love ultimately will be some form of an ideal. It is either an ideal (or idealized) state of emotion and feeling, or an idealized state of connection, or it is an idealized state or level of behavior (“state” meaning consistent or near constant) and being/personhood, or some combination of some or each of the above.

Clearly the vast majority of human beings—and the vast majority of those in Hollywood and the publishing industry behind what is offered for consumption and for profit—is the view of love as some idealized state of feeling and physical attraction and psychological connection.

And all of that is reflective of the average level of differentiation of most people in our society—those who buy what the media sells, and those who create and produce what the media sells and publishes.

We as a society and a culture generally don’t seem to value substance over style, growth over comfort, and difficulty over the path of least resistance. So what tends to sell really well is what tends to pander to people’s congenital tastes and preferences and naïve hopes and desires, not their higher possibilities and aspirations and deepest wisdom. And so there is this vicious cycle where most people buy and consume what feels and tastes good, which only tends to furthers atrophy and weaken and stultify them, which in turn creates more of a market for more of the same material that promises to have more of the same anesthetizing, stultifying, hypnotizing, dreamy-eye, mind-softening effect.  Et cetera.

Back to the article that I am about to reblog.  Much of what the author concludes is not new.  I’ve come across it before in M. Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled,” Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages,” Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”  Which makes me wonder again what would become of our culture were more people to read solid books about love and to begin getting more curious about what love is and is not.

Who knows? . . .

Here is the article—

“I Didn’t Love My Wife When We Got Married” (The Real Truth About Love)

by Elad Nehorai

http://popchassid.com/didnt-love-wife/

http://www.aish.com/f/m/I-Didnt-Love-My-Wife-When-We-Got-Married.html

I’m a ridiculous, emotional, over-sentimental sap.  I guess that’s why I told my wife I loved her on our second date.

I had tried really hard up to that point to hold it back, honestly.  I wanted to tell her on the first date, but I knew that would probably be weird.

I still remember her reaction.  She kind of gave me this half-shy, half-amused smile.  Then she nodded and looked off into the sky.

I wasn’t heartbroken by the response.  I think part of me recognized that she was much smarter and more modest than me.

But as time has gone on, I also realized that she knew something that I didn’t.

Like most Hasidic Jews (we both became religious later in life), our dating period lasted a very short time.  After two months of dating, we were engaged.  Three months after that, we were married.

And that whole time I was swooning.  This fire was burning in me, a fire that burned just like that second date: I was in love.

But then we got married, and everything changed.

Marriage, quicker than I was ready for, did this thing: it started sucking away that emotion.

I tried so hard to keep that fire going, to keep that emotion alight, but it got harder and harder.

I mean, how you can feel that burning love when you’re sitting at the table discussing how to use the last twenty dollars in your bank account?

How can you feel it when you get into an argument?

How can you feel it when you think it makes perfect sense to put your socks on the floor after you’re done with them, and she has this crazy idea that they need to go in the laundry basket?

There was no way I could keep that dating fire burning as practicality invaded our lives.

And at first, it drove me nuts.  That emotion meant love!  That excitement was how I knew I cared for her!  But suddenly, life was this grind.  Even when I was with her.  Especially when I was with her.

And even worse, it seemed that the harder I tried to be sentimental and lovey-dovey, the less it was reciprocated.

But it wasn’t that she wasn’t giving me love, it just seemed to come at different times.

Like, when I offered to do the dishes.  Or make dinner after she had a hard day.  Or, once we had a daughter, when I shared the responsibility of watching over her.

I don’t think I noticed this consciously for a while.  It just kept happening.

But I think it had an effect on me.  Because as our marriage progressed, I found myself offering to help out around the house more and more.

And after each time, there would be this look she would give me.  This look of absolute love.  One that was soft and so beautiful.

It took me longer than I care to admit to understand what was happening.

But eventually it became clear.  Through giving, through doing things for my wife, the emotion that I had been so desperately seeking naturally came about.  It wasn’t something I could force, just something that would come about as a result of my giving.

In other words, it was *in the practicality* that I found the love I was looking for.

And what was even more interesting was that once I realized this on a conscious level, and started trying to find more opportunities to give, the more we both, almost intuitively, became lovey-dovey.

And now, as I’m a bit older and a bit more experienced with this relationship, I’ve finally come to realize something. Something I haven’t wanted to admit for a long time, but is undeniable.

I didn’t love my wife on that second date.

I didn’t love her when we got engaged.

I didn’t even love her when we got married.

Because love isn’t an emotion.  That fire I felt, it was simply that: emotional fire.  From the excitement of dating a woman I felt like I could marry.  But it wasn’t love.

No, love isn’t an emotion or even a noun.  It’s a verb.  Better defined as giving.  As putting someone else’s needs above your own.

Why wasn’t I getting reciprocal lovey-doveyness when we were first married?  Because it wasn’t for her.  It was for me.  An emotion I had in my chest.

And even when I let it out of my chest, it wasn’t love.

Being sappy isn’t love.  Telling someone you love them doesn’t mean that you do.

And that’s why my wife just gave me that half-smile.  She knew, even if I didn’t, what love really is.

And now that I’ve tried to change the way I look at love, the more I become shocked at the messages of love I had gotten when I was younger.

From Disney movies to my favorite shows like “The Office” to practically every pop song released, love is constantly sold as an emotion we have before we’re married.  An emotion that, once had, somehow magically stays within a marriage forever.

I can’t imagine a bigger lie.  And I’m saddened to think about how much those messages bounced around in my head for so long.  And how much I’m sure those messages are bouncing around in other people’s heads as well.

I think that might be a big part of the reason the divorce rate is so high in this country.  Imagine a whole nation of people constantly chasing the emotions they had when they were dating.  A country of people trying to live a Disney movie.

That’s a recipe for disastrous marriages; for a country with a 50% divorce rate;  for adultery (the classic attempt to turn the fire back on); for people who do stay together to simply live functional, loveless marriages.

It’s sad to see just how common all the above is.  How many people are in pain simply because they’ve been lied to.

Those people deserve better.  We all deserve better.

It’s time that we changed the conversation about love.  It’s time that we redefine it.

Because until we do, adultery will continue to be common.  Loveless marriages.  Divorce.

Living Disney movies in our minds, and tragedies in our lives.

(Elad Nehorai, “I Didn’t Love My Wife When We Got Married–The Real Truth About Love,” http://popchassid.com/didnt-love-wife/  & http://www.aish.com/f/m/I-Didnt-Love-My-Wife-When-We-Got-Married.html)

Posted in "The Five Love Languages", Elad Nehorai, Emotional Maturity, Immature Love, Intimacy, Intimate Relationships, Love is a Choice, Love is a Commitment, Love Is a Verb, Love is Not a Feeling, M. Scott Peck, Real Love, Spiritual Growth, Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Examined Life, The Road Less Traveled, Truth, What is Love? | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

May Your Choices Reflect What’s Best in You….


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When our choices reflect what’s best in us, when our choices reflect the better angels of our nature, when our choices reflect our deepest values and highest hopes, our virtues–courage, patience, wisdom, discernment, perspective–and principles such as

  • a reverence for life,
  • we’re all in this together,
  • and doing unto others as we would done to ourselves,

then our choices will reflect Love.

Posted in Conscience, Critical Thinking, Emotional Maturity, Love is a Choice, Nelson Mandela, Personal Growth, Perspective, The Examined Life, Truth, What is Love? | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments