With Valentine’s Day coming up this week, let’s talk about three ways to practice love.
Because love IS practice, right?
Love is finding the best parts of people, magnifying those parts, and leaving the rest in the wake. Sometimes it takes work.
But it is worth it.
Love is action
We practice love and show it through action every day. It may be found in something as simple as the doing of the dishes. Or sending a text. It may be the hug that starts off as awkward. We connect.
Sometimes that love is reciprocated, and sometimes it’s not. I mean, you love your kids even when they talk back and make big messes and roll their eyes at you. You love them even when they come back after curfew and do really, really dumb stuff. That’s the kind of love I believe God has for us too, by the way. But sometimes even that oh-so-natural parenting love takes practice too.
I always love Brian Kershisnik’s paintings and I just found this one:
Such a good depiction to me that I like to symbolize as the action and work of making and re-making love.
Love isn’t just something that comes to life and stays. No, it is something that must be forged over and over again. I’m talking about love as an action verb. Whether it is with our spouse or our children, our extended family, a stranger, and especially someone who may have wronged us, true love takes work. It takes finding new ways to communicate. It takes “seeing” each other. We work to see our differences, learn from them, and make them work.
When we do this, love has the power to open up the world in pretty beautiful ways.
I love this quote from the book I mentioned on Friday:
Maybe there isn’t just one person designated for everybody. Maybe there’s a lot more to it—maybe you choose and you practice, and that’s what makes the love true.― Daniel Nayeri, Everything Sad Is Untrue
Now, I’m a romantic who likes to believe that there is one person for me. And his name is David. But whether you are a romantic like me or not, I think we can all agree that you “choose and you practice.” We make those choices to “make the love true” every single day.
So, here are some ideas to practice love leading up to Valentine’s Day
A “Needs” List
When Dave and I first got married, we got some marriage advice from various friends and church leaders. It was all pretty great advice, but the tip I remember and love the most was from my parents. They told us to each write our own lists of what we thought the other person needed. Not what we needed, but take some time to really ponder what that person you love needs. Whether it be time alone to recharge after work or a good social outlet or more order in the home, we all have needs to make us happy.
Then take those lists to each other and see if you got those things you wrote down right.
Dave and I have repeated that practice at various times in our marriage, and I think it is such a great tool to practice love. It gets you really thinking about that person you love and what you can do to serve them better.
This, of course, would work so well with kids or siblings too. Just such a great way to really get you “in” the heart of someone you love. Because we all “need” such different things.
Practice the “Welcoming Response”
I know I probably sound like a broken record on this Welcoming Response dealio, but boy howdy I think it’s so powerful. I mean, when someone lights up and is so happy to see you when you come into a room, doesn’t it make you feel like a million bucks? This sounds dramatic, but I think it has the power to actually change a whole relationship. We all have a human basic need to know that we matter. Let’s make those who matter to us know that they do.
Open up communication
Communication is such an incredibly important part of practicing love. It can be through body language like the Welcoming Response and also just even through how we look at each other. But words have a lot of power. I came across some charts last Valentine’s Day that got me thinking about specific phrases that can help open the communication with those I love a little better:
- I’m listening. Sometimes people don’t want a solution, they just want someone to hear them. I love Lucy for helping me practice this.
- I love how you…______(fill in the blank). I love how in order to use this one, you need to be actively looking for something that someone you love does well.
- I’m sorry. Dave is so good at this one, even if it’s not his fault. It’s amazing how quickly this makes me go from closing down to opening up.
- Thank you for…______ (fill in the blank). Again, if we want to use this, we need to be aware of all the things we can be thankful for…the best practice!
- If it’s important to you, then it’s important to me. This is more wise advice from my mother. When we know a loved one is super into something, we need to learn about it and learn to love it too!
- That must be so hard/amazing/exciting/sad, etc. There’s nothing like feeling validated to make you feel loved. And in order to genuinely validate, you need to be really listening.
Oh, so many thoughts as we prepare for this big day of love coming up.
Love is the most powerful force on earth. Sometimes it takes so much work, especially if a relationship has deteriorated. And especially if that person you are trying to love makes it really difficult to give them love. But it is worth it.
Because love has the power to change the world.