Bill and I took a trip to Pittsburgh, one of our favorite cities, last weekend. Amazingly, the reason for the visit was not a race. It seems like most of our weekend trips involve races lately.
Just because we didn’t race doesn’t mean that we didn’t run, however. We did a 10-miler on a route that started as a wide paved bike path, dwindled to a cinder single lane, then diminished further to a hard-to-follow footpath next to a train track in the city’s North Side neighborhood next to the Allegheny River.
We ran with our friend Nancy and talked the whole 10 miles. The good thing about talking is the miles go by easily and quickly; the bad thing is I don’t have the opportunity to allow my mind to wander while I run. It’s a good trade-off, though. I run by myself a lot these days. The company and conversation were excellent. I can ruminate later. I was given an excuse to ruminate soon after returning home.
I have three sons, and now, three daughters-in-law. I love each of my daughters-in-law very much, each in a different way. They are excellent matches for my sons and getting to know them and their families has been one of the best things that has happened to me. I have had compelling conversations with each of them on topics including mental health, grief, hope, loss, and love.
When I got home, one of my daughters-in-law (you know who you are!) asked me a question that made the wheels in my head start spinning: “Is it possible to love someone too much?” My short, immediate answer: “No.” I’m not talking about infatuation or an unhealthy obsession, but too much love? I don’t think so.
Her question reminded me of this quote from Lao Tzu:
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
When we give love to our children, our partners and our friends, we give them strength that comes from the confidence that they are loved beyond all measure.
Could we love our children too much? I don’t think so. Maybe you think of helicopter parents, hovering over their children, obsessed with their success and satisfaction, but this phenomenon has little to do with the quantity of love the parents are giving and everything to do with conflating their child’s needs with their own. When we live life vicariously through our children, we rob them of the ability to make mistakes. Admitting that your child made a mistake in this instance is like admitting our own failures.
Could we give too much love to a spouse or a partner? My answer to this is also “No.” I am convinced that one of the best ways to love a partner is to build him/her up whenever possible. I am not talking about giving insincere flattery or being dishonest, but when I think of love between two adults, I am always reminded of the bible verses from 1 Corinthians Bill and I had read at our wedding so many years ago:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
How could you ever get too much of this kind of love?
I believe the words from 1 John with all my heart: “God is love.” Notice that John does not say God is lov-ing. He says God is love. I may not feel worthy of such eternal, all-encompassing love, but, somehow, it is mine. Love never ends.
But Lao Tzu’s quote says not only is the receiver of love benefitting by receiving strength, the giver is also benefitting by receiving courage.
Who can deny that it takes courage to make yourself vulnerable enough to love? What if the receiver doesn’t appreciate the gift, or worse, rejects it completely? Can I truly say that it doesn’t matter? That the giver of love is still better off, even if that love is rejected? Yes. Undoubtedly, yes.
Oh, it is a blow to the human ego to have your love rejected. That doesn’t stop you from giving your love. As Exhibit A, I present: The Teenager. It is an uncommon and wise teenager who appreciates their parents’ love. I certainly didn’t when I was a teenager. Parents are embarrassing, nosy doofuses to most teens. And yet…we love our teenage children anyway. We want the best for them, even as we are subjected to their rages and their icy glares. We make ourselves vulnerable when we love, and that takes courage.
When we allow ourselves the capacity to give love, we are changed for the better. Giving love makes us more patient, unselfish, compassionate and, well, more loveable. It’s cyclical. Receiving love makes us strong enough to dare to give love, which makes us brave enough to accept love. Over and over, without end.
I know that I was not asked for advice, but I am giving some anyway (unsolicited advice from a mother-in-law – awesome, right?) Give love whenever you get the chance, whenever you feel compelled to. Give it away freely, generously, and joyously without a second thought. It will bless the giver and the receiver. The Red Hot Chili Peppers can’t be wrong.
I am linking up with Nicole and Annmarie for Wild Workout Wednesday, Holley Gerth for Coffee for Your Heart, Eclectic Evelyn for her Words on Wednesday, Dare 2 Hear for Tune in Thursdays, Random-osity for Little Things Thursdays, Jessica and Amy at Live Life Well, Anna Nuttall for her Bloggers Link Up, and Jamie Sumner for Sunday Thoughts..