It’s “love month” so while stores capitalize on Valentine’s Day, I’ve got 4 blogs for you throughout the month. Whether your “love” is for your pet, your one-to-come, your spouse, your kids, or your bestie you will find something both encouraging and practical here this month!
2/7 – 4 Obstacles to Love that Everyone Can Overcome
2/14 – Being the One – If you’re looking for love, don’t start with a list
2/21 – Who Makes You – Identifying and Keeping the people who get to speak into your life
2/28 -5 C’s that Create Relationship Champions
Dear Reader, we all want to experience love and often stuff gets in the way. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. I grew up in the late ‘70’s and all the ‘80’s (yay!) listening to many songs about this struggle, not to mention hearing the many country and Big Band songs that were frequent on my Dad’s old record player. To quote Shakespeare, “If music be the food of love, play on!”
Every human is created and designed for love, to need love, and to give love. Yet every human doesn’t always experience the fullness of how we are created and designed with love in mind. To be clear, I’m not talking about valentines-day-love, I’m talking about every-day-love. So back to the stuff that gets in the way that I mentioned everyone can overcome – Today I call out 4 typical obstacles to love and the way everyone can overcome these obstacles!
The 4 obstacles are all about you… and me… we start with our self so we work from inside-out to remove these typical human obstacles: selfishness, self-reliance, self-condemnation, self-spiritualization. See what I mean it’s all about us, our self’s!
Why all these self-framed obstacles? Well if we are truly honest it is the stuff within us, the stuff we allow to frame us, and the stuff that has happened to us that is the stuff that creates obstacles to love. That’s a lot of stuff. A person who has been wounded, hurt, confused, is just un-aware, or is choosing to focus on their own needs could find one or more of these functioning as an obstacle to giving and receiving love in their lives.
Obstacle 1 – selfishness. A person who has the obstacle of selfishness is typically putting their own needs first, demanding their needs be met or is selfishly taking what he/she needs. It might come out in always talking about yourself and never asking about others, or it might be seen in habits that look like overworking, over-exercising, always picking the place to go and what to do. Of course, these are all habits that have roots in needs not being met too.
A selfish person is not a bad person. A person who has been acting or been perceived as selfish is missing out on unconditional, every-day love (both giving and receiving). That’s the tragedy of selfishness. Failure to overcome this obstacle to love will result in this person missing out on the joy of giving to meet others needs, to miss the blessing of giving, and the deep peace of true friendship because people are often repelled and rejected over time because of selfishness. Don’t let selfish behaviors, thoughts, and habits rule your time.
Allow yourself to choose humility of self and honor of others along with healthy boundaries that help you to be a safe person who loves well and enjoys the relationships of loving safe people.
Obstacle 2 – self-reliance. A self-reliant person is one who tends to deny their own needs and often believes that he/she doesn’t have any needs that cannot be met on their own. In some spiritual, religious, or Christian circles this might sound like, “I just need God.”, but this statement opposes the fact that God created us to need and to love other people. This might look like actually denying your needs, not inviting people to know you even in healthy relationships, or minimizing other’s needs which then hurts others.
A self-reliant person, again, is not a bad person. To be transparent with you dear reader, this was once my go-to obstacle to block myself from love but once I was made aware, it stopped getting its day. A person who might be blinded, like I once was, to her/his own needs will also have trouble meeting others needs. You might either minimize others needs or you might refuse to validate them in yourself. For when people are in need, we will tend to comfort them with the same comfort we have seen or experienced. If comfort was only seen and not experienced, when given to another it will come across as mostly hollow. Self reliance is often borne from neglect or wounding in the past and will limit the richness in relationship you were created to experience.
Stop letting self-reliance be an obstacle to love. Admit you like every other human is created with relational needs and receive healing for hurts in the past so you can offer, and receive, love now and in the future.
Obstacle 3 – self-condemnation. A self-condemning person believes that there must be something wrong with me because I am needy, either out of feeling inadequate or thinking they are selfish. This person will admit their needs but berate and condemn themselves for having these needs. It might look like a person apologizing for expressing appropriate emotions in your presence. A person who condemns their own needs might also apologize for “making an issue” of disappointment that she/he felt when you missed calling them back.
A self condemning person also is not a bad person. He or she is actually a hurting person who has typically been shown by others that condemning their feelings is “what we do”. Emotions are part of our design and we are created to connect to others through our emotions. However if you had been in a family, organization, group, or under an authority who saw emotions as weakness or things to be discarded in favor of facts, then it makes sense you would see yourself as faulty for having emotions or needing others.
Stop letting self condemnation be an obstacle to love. Allow yourself to be graceful and authentic with your own emotions and needs. Share with others in respectful and honoring ways how you feel and what you might need within healthy and appropriate boundaries.
Obstacle 4 – self-spiritualization. A self-spiritualization person will often believe in their own higher power or their own image of God. This person may or may not also be experiencing the other obstacles to love as well. It might look like someone who attends a spiritual or religious service but has additional or adjusted views of God. These additional or adjusted views might be more in line with the pain the person has experienced in the past or the lack of love not expressed in their life or in their culture. Possibly he/she has developed this self-spiritualization as a way to deal with the pain, so this obstacle is adopted instead of addressing the actual image of God or the pain.
A person who is self-spiritualizing is not a bad person, just like anyone else who experiences the pain of these obstacles to love. He/she has often been hurt by those in organized religion or has experienced neglect or not seen the power of the actual God in their life so this self-spiritualized image was created to deal with the discrepancies.
Stop letting your own ideas or images or pain from people be an obstacle to love through self-spiritualization. I’m familiar with this one too because I let this be an obstacle in my relationship with people and my relationship with God. Dear Reader, be brave and courageous to ask God, the One who created and designed you to show you where you have adopted false ideas of him to deal with the pain. You and I were created and designed to be loved and to have the joy, security, and hope that comes from faith in a God that is bigger than you or I could see, hear, ask, or imagine.
Truly each of these are reinforced by our everyday culture and that’s where an every-day love comes in to assist with overcoming the obstacles.
What do I mean with “every-day love”? An every-day love is one that is bigger than attraction, bigger than romance, bigger than compromise, or communication skills. Every-day love is what real intimacy is built upon and that is what will help you overcome these 4 typical human obstacles.
Real intimacy involves our whole selves, includes 1) knowing another deeply, 2) letting someone know you, and 3) includes caring involvement.
Our whole selves means this knowing, letting, and caring happens emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and yes physically. All done in the right (healthy) reasons with the right (healthy) motivations.
Truly, this every-day love found in real intimacy is God’s idea that is hard wired into our creation and design. (I could go off on one of my favorite trails here to share the beauty of our brains being social in design and the way the smallest building blocks in our brains sparkle when we are with someone we love…but not today. Today let’s get back to these 4 typical human obstacles.)
Shakespeare wrote something else on love that I think helps summarize things here, ‘To be wise and love, Exceeds man’s might’ (Troilus & Cressida – Act 3, Scene 2). We can’t love or be loved through our own needs or our own strength, that’s actually how we are designed. In our own ways we will screw it all up and hurt ourselves and others in the process. When we listen to how the design has been made and follow some very helpful, practical, and evidence-based ways of relating to one-another we won’t need any obstacles to protect us or to provide for us.
Together, let’s identity the obstacles to love in our own lives and begin to live life with this beautiful everyday love that goes beyond 2/14 to 24/7/365.
- Which obstacle(s) resonated most with your experience?
- Who is in your life now that you consider a safe, healthy person you can share this with now?
- What do you think is your first step to allowing yourself to heal and start learning to live this everyday love?
Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She directs a counseling center in Austin, Texas and with husband David Lawrence co-leads the non-profit Renue.Me whose mission is to invest in the dreams of leaders in underprivileged communities around the world. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com or www.renue.me
Photo from Pexels.com, Graphic on Canva