Love is one of those terms that hold multiple definitions. Most people get their perception of love’s definition from personal experience; some good, some bad. And with society’s influence, it’s easy to water down the word love to simple romanticism. In our household, though, love is emphasized alongside mutual respect. It’s the foundation upon which we choose to build our entire lives.
With today’s “need it now” mentality, it’s important for my wife and I to refocus our kids’ perspective on love. One of the ways we do this is by teaching acceptance above tolerance; meaning we don’t judge by outward appearances, we stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, and we give generously to those who can’t repay. “Acceptance” tells us that we are enough. “Tolerance” tells us our acceptance is attached to a predisposed understanding that one is somehow better than another. Love is acceptance, not tolerance. We believe when contingencies are attached to our love based on who we think deserves it, we begin to foster an “us versus them” mentality. In reality, we’re all on equal playing field when it comes to love. Each of us plays a part in showing love and mutual respect to those who need it most.
Within this spectrum, our children ask many questions:
Daughter: “What if Tommy says hurtful things about me to other people?”
We try to be as real as possible with our answers:
Us: “Sometimes people do and say hurtful things. How we react to them should let them know that we can be both loving and respectful simultaneously. At times, we may even have to remove ourselves from being hurt by others. It doesn’t mean we don’t care for them. It simply means we care for ourselves too, and enough to make sure we are treated the same way we treat others.”
I wish I could tell them that loving is always easy, but sometimes it gets complicated. Ultimately, I want them to know that love overcomes hurt. By choosing to love when we hurt, we allow ourselves to heal from the ill intentions of others.
As a parent, I make a multitude of mistakes. I have to ask for my kids’ forgiveness on a daily basis. Many times I eat my words, and the foundations I want my kids to inherit are object lessons from my failures. I guess that’s why we find love such an important attribute for their success. When they fail, I want them to know it isn’t going to affect their relationship with me. When they get older and life gets messy, I want them to be comfortable telling me it’s messy. I don’t want their guilt and shame to keep them from being honest. I want them to understand that love is bigger than their slip-up.
A quote from Steve Goodier best defines this kind of love: “But I give best when I give from that deeper place; when I give simply, freely and generously, and sometimes for no particular reason. I give best when I give from my heart.”
Love Changes Everything.