About a year and a half ago I committed myself to try and more fully understand love. By love, I mean all possible uses of the word. I felt that I understood love very little, so attempted to figure out all I could about it.
The more I dug and the more I read, the more confused I became. I read different philosophers and their writings on love, the beautiful and the sublime. I read the great works of theology and pondered God’s love, thinking that maybe even religious stories could lead me to what I was wondering about.
No matter how much I read though, I still felt I didn’t understand love. At least, not what I was looking for. So instead of reading about it, and hoping to learn it from philosophers and psychologists, I figured I’d just observe kind, loving people, and see how their behavior differs from my own. There was something about those people that I’ve always admired. For a long time, I’ve wanted to integrate that trait of kindness and love into my own person, but I never could quite put my finger on what exactly was different about them.
After a year of observation, I still hadn’t figured anything out. But just the other day, while lying in bed, I think I may have finally found out something. Something I’d been looking for for a long time.
I discovered one principle that their actions had behind them, which mine lacked. They cared what others thought of them.
I noticed that principle in every loving, kind person that I’ve ever met. At least, the sort of love I was mentioning just now. It hasn’t failed yet. And on the other end, people I’ve met who were very unkind seemed to care very little what I thought of them.
Take one kind woman I remember. This was at a luncheon type event, and she had baked cookies for everyone there. I made my way to the table, she greeted me, and I took one of her cookies. She watched attentively as I took my first bite, waiting anxiously in anticipation. Then she said, “So!? How is it?” I replied, “These are great!” Then she said, “I’m glad you like them!”
Think about this event closely. There’s so much to learn from it. She’s very concerned what I think about her cooking. It’s obvious that she put a lot of effort into those cookies, and wanted everyone to enjoy every bite.
Compare this to a more individualistic, less sociable type of person. They have a mindset like, “I make cookies because I like cookies. I make them for me. If you want one, fine, but if you don’t like them it’s not going to hurt my feelings any. Whatever people don’t eat I’ll take home and have for myself.”
The kind, gentle, warm people I meet all seem to always extend invitations to be their friend. They want your attention. They want you to like them, what they do, and appreciate them. And the same sort of fawning they seem to desire themselves, they extend to others.
They compliment one another’s clothing, hair styles, and accomplishments. They’re always trying to make it clear, “I like you. I’m glad you’re here.” Good, loving relatives always tell their family, “I’m proud of you. I’m so glad you could come visit me.”
And like I said, loving people go to great lengths to make sure you like them and reconcile any conflicts. They’re the types that ask, “Did I do something wrong? You seem to be upset with me.” Or if they’re a more personal friend, “I really hate having you mad at me. I can’t live like that.” And they really do seem to be upset that you don’t like them. It’s not an act. It really does make them sad.
I’ve struggled with this issue because I’ve always concerned myself too much with individuality. Basing your happiness and desires on other people leaves you to conformance to their worldviews and lifestyles, which can be a bad thing. A sort of fear of being bent and giving way to others’ opinions.
There’s something beautiful about being an individual, and walking your own path no matter what people think. That sort of mindset can take you to new heights if you’re not doing so in fear. Then again, there’s also something very beautiful about the cookie lady. It creates a warm environment where everyone seems much more happy.
The two very easily come into conflict. Either extreme can be bad. But like I said months ago on here, I’ve been thinking about two topics a lot lately: moderation, and love. It seems most anything taken to an extreme is bad.
Extreme individuals, such as myself, tend to create strict environments which don’t seem very open to the public, so to speak. I’m in my own world, and if you don’t go along with its flow, then, well, I don’t care. If I’m not invading your personal liberties, leave me alone.
Extreme cookie ladies (lol, that sounds funny), can easily become self conscious, and if it goes too far can become paralyzed in fear. Other people’s decisions can easily end up ruining their day.
I don’t think I completely understand this issue completely, but even so, I’m going to try to add a little more “cookie lady” to my personality. From my thoughts on this, it seems the extreme individual position is safer, but is cold. Being the cookie lady leaves you open to emotional attack, and getting your feelings hurt, though in the end, it’s probably more rewarding.
When a mindset challenges me to be brave and put myself at risk for someone else’s sake, it’s probably not too far from a good one.
To care what others think about me. To want to be admired by others. Hmm. That’s a rather novel concept for me, and one which I’ll have to take very slowly.
Oh, and by the way. It’s my birthday!