Loving is Hard Work

I’ve been struggling in the area of loving others for quite a while now. I used to think one of my strengths was friendships and all relationships really, until I realized the one deepest relationship I held [with myself] was a fallacy. So ever since then I’ve turned away from most people and focused on the inside. Growing to like myself, to read myself, to know myself, and then from there evolving to love myself. It was when I learned how God viewed me – how God loves me – and how God deeply knows and understands me – that I was finally able to grasp loving me, regardless of my shortcomings.
However, when I turned inward, I neglected the outward. I went from an expansive phone book favorites list to minimizing it to a few reliable people. I know quality over quantity is also something you learn with wisdom and life changes and phonebooks dwindle. But, I felt a sense of defeat that I wasn’t other peoples “favorite” call. I’ve learned that so much of my identity and concept of love was rooted in what other people thought of me. If I were a “perfect”friend then they would love me and I would feel loved. But love is so much deeper than how they view me or even how they feel towards me…love starts at a heart level of knowing what love is and loving yourself. God is love.
So how, after finding what it means to love myself do I love other people? Most people by now have heard of Gary Chapman’s genius book “The 5 love languages”. If you haven’t and you are married, you should stop what you are doing and go read it pronto! It’s a game changer and really not just for marriages, but every relationship you have, especially those in your inner circle. In a nutshell, everyone gives love in 2 to 3 main categories and we also receive love in 2 to 3 categories. The shocking part is we don’t usually give and receive in the same way.
There is acts of service (doing something for someone), quality time (spending time with them), words of affirmation (telling them how you feel), physical touch (hugs, kisses, etc.) and gifts (giving someone something to know they are being thought of). For instance me. I feel loved when people spend quality time with me and do acts of service. [Such as help clean the dishes at a dinner party or if my hubby fills my gas tank without me asking **hubby, it’s currently empty, hint hint.] I give love to others by words of affirmation and quality time. Obviously a little cross over…but as you can see, still different! I am finally at a place of peace with my own self that I am anxious to love other people in their designed form of love need. But – CURVE BALL – did you know people’s love languages can also change?! As we grow, we change, and therefore our desire to love and be loved shifts too. I have changed. And now I’m lost on how to love certain loved ones…

I’m sharing this because I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place over a pseudo Catch-22 situation of how to love someone. I’m hoping you can help me!
So if you grasp the overall concept of the love languages, then you know if someone receives love (they feel loved) by receiving gifts, then the best way to show them love is well…to buy them something. BUT, from my perspective as the love giver, I am minimizing spending and only purchasing need based items both for personal financial reasons. And because I believe all of the stuff I was previously purchasing was frivolous and unnecessary so I’m challenging myself to a new perspective on consuming (have you seen my #project333 challenge?). So the problem lies in the fact that this person may not feel loved because I am not choosing to go out of my own personal boundary to love them.
Does a homemade gift count as a gift to this person? Do I go after their secondary love language, though I may not know what it is, in order to attempt a connection or do I just tell them? I just don’t see how that conversation goes…”I can’t buy you anything right now, but I do love you.” Strange. Awkward. Though, I’ve recently learned that being awkward is an injustice to the relationship because I am acting out of a place of selfishness due to this silly emotion essentially rooted in fear. Am I afraid that they don’t know I love them? Or that they won’t love me back because I’m not meeting their needs?
I always thought loving was easy, but it’s actually quite a difficult thing to be great at. To be a master of love, you’d have to be God. So my goal is to be more Christ like in the area of love, but give others and myself grace when we get it wrong. I hope I don’t get this scenario wrong…but if I do, I will try again, because that’s what you do when you truly love someone. You don’t give up on them.
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