Watch a commercial during the holiday season and more than likely the underlying theme suggested is love.
If you love him/her, you’ll buy him/her this car or this piece of jewelry or this fragrance.
Pause for a minute and think about it. Do I have to give you an expensive gift and look great doing it to show you that I love you? There’s an interesting meme traveling the Facebook circuit in which rule #1 of Christmas is “Don’t go into debt trying to show people how much you love them.”
So are these commercials really about love, or are they more about lust?
Does the way you define love make the difference clear to you?
I get to think about how I define love in a relational context a lot because I teach Parenting the Love & Logic Way and I practice the skills of Love & Logic in my own home. I have a great memory of one of my children who responded to my parenting experiment with the assessment, “Mom, I get the logic part, but I’m not feeling the love.” It was a timely reminder that all the skills of Love & Logic are dependent on an empathic connection to our child(ren) – one that is both expressed and received. If I feel like I’m being empathic, but my child doesn’t feel it, then we don’t have an empathic connection.
Over and over again in the stories of Jesus, we read that Jesus listened to people, saw them, and responded to their needs. Jesus modeled what happens when we offer authentic empathic connection. And people are healed of all sorts of affliction. In Matthew 9:18-26 we read about Jesus tending to the critical family concerns of a leader in the synagogue. “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” (Mt 9:18c, NRSV) Then suddenly an unknown and unclean woman touches the hem of Jesus’ garment. Culturally Jesus had every right and reason to dismiss the woman, and yet he turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” (Mt 9:22a, NRSV) The Greek word translated as seeing includes the concept of perceiving and understanding, not simply viewing. Jesus modeled empathic connection. He perceived and understood. He showed us how to pause from a very important task, turn and give full attention to an unexpected disruption, attend to the needs discovered in the disruption, and return to the task.
Frequently I find it easier to follow Jesus’ teaching when I’m among acquaintances or strangers as Jesus was in this text than I do when I’m in my own home. But could it be that it’s just as important, maybe even more important, to follow this teaching in our own homes?
How important do you think it is that we perceive, understand, and connect with the members of our own family?
I watched this scenario play out between a mother and her toddler one day. We were at a softball tournament. Mom was engaged in conversation with friends she had not seen in a long time. Her 2 year-old daughter would venture off to play with some new and exciting discovery at the ball park, always under the watchful eye of Mom. After a particular exciting adventure, daughter would return to connect with Mom. Without losing the cadence of her adult conversation, Mom would turn toward her daughter, offer a knowing smile, and pull her close. Satisfied, daughter would again venture off to play with some new and exciting discovery at the ball park. Watching that Mom and daughter model what a safe haven and secure base looks like in action warmed my heart. I was witnessing the energy of love, and that memory still makes me smile.
During this crazy busy holiday season, what would it take for you to listen to those in your family… really listen – so that you truly perceive, understand, and connect?
I find that I have to slow down – not just reduce the number of things I’m trying to do, but actually do those things more slowly. The neurobiology of the emotion of love is just slightly slower than the neurobiology of lust, fear, or rage. To receive it’s signals, I have to wait – one deep breath, sometimes another, maybe even three. And I feel love in my heart, not my gut; so I can be more confident that my actions are loving when I feel connected at the level of my heart. Where do you feel the emotion of love in your body?
This week, when you notice frustration building in your body because of an unexpected interruption, take a deep breath – maybe two or three. Make eye contact with the source of the disruption and try to perceive and understand his/her need.
And consider the possibility that the best gifts we can give someone this holiday season are:
- the gift of our presence
- the gift of compassion
- the gift of listening.
Give someone one of these gifts this week (you don’t even have to tell him/her), and pay attention to the energy between you. What did you notice?