I want to be in love. I want to feel cherished, treasured, respected, admired and desired. I want it all! And not only do I want it all, I want to give my all to a person who is worthy of my trust, worthy of my energy and worthy of my time. I want a person who is experienced in collaboration, not afraid of confrontation and open to communication. I want a person who is comfortable with coordination, negotiation, illumination and rumination. I want a person who welcomes growth, enjoys exploration and is allergic to stagnation. I want a queen!
I know that my list is long, and I can imagine that your list is too because we all are hopefully identifying what characteristics and traits make us soar. We all are hopefully learning what supports us, satisfies us and serves us. We all are hopefully realizing what makes us laugh, live and love fully and effortlessly. We all are preparing ourselves, right?
But as you consider love and being in love, the question is…..…..what is required of you? What are the basic prerequisites and conditions needed for love to be adequately nurtured, cultivated and strengthen? What are the elements of a love that can weather storms, withstand tragedy, accommodate change and encourage growth?
I don’t know what all of the elements are, but I believe that there are 3 actions that speak to the principle of love. If you are familiar with the Christian faith, these beliefs have been preached for years. Unfortunately, the ideals have not been practiced, promoted or progressed successfully in our lives, in our places of worship, in our communities, in our country or in the world. (Micah 6:8)
So what are the elements? Let’s Review.
1) To do justice. Relationships require justice. Justice may seem like an unusual word to be included in relationship discussions, but I believe that love CAN NOT survive without justice. I believe that love can only grow in environments of fairness, honesty and integrity. Love can only grow/survive when you accept that you partner is divinely and uniquely made, and has her own needs, concerns and perspectives. Justice is important because justice bestows honor.
We don’t have to look too far to see what happens when justice is not practiced. All we have to do is look at our communities and see the pain and degradation caused when some people are denied rights, opportunities, access and a voice. All we have to do is consider our own plight as women who love women to appreciate the poison and pain of injustice. Just think about it. Some of us are not able to marry, adopt children or visit our partners in hospitals. Some of us live together but can’t file taxes together. We all can personally testify that injustice hurts, kills, maims and marginalizes. Injustice injures!
Even though most of us feel and experience the sting of social injustice, we sometimes perpetuate injustice in our relationships. Some of us refuse to listen to our partner’s views, some of us refuse to share our spirits and some of us refuse to allow our partners to be themselves. Some of us are even so
insecure that we attempt to control how our partners function and navigate in the world. We all are not always fair; we all are not always just.
I love a phrase that I learned from Valerie Hall because her phrase epitomizes justice. It goes…. “Just like me, my partner…..” and then she completes the sentence. Valerie says that the phrase helps her remember that her partner has views and needs that are equally as important as hers. Good phrase Val! (There is so much wisdom in the CL group.)
I have started using this phrase more because it challenges me to be open, considerate and more reasonable. Honestly, it is hard to remain pig-headed when you are reminded that your partner’s views/needs/concerns are equally important, just different. So the next time when you are locked in your myopia and trapped in your arrogance, say to yourself…”just like me, my partner” and complete the sentence. Those 5 words can change the tenor of your conversations and help you welcome and celebrate your partner’s feelings and perspectives. Remember, justice does not require that you agree with everything. Justice requires equality in speech, thought, exploration, access and consideration.
2) To Love Mercy – Loving mercy means to be willingly to extend forgiveness, compassion, understanding and generosity to yourself and others. It is honorable thing to do. But even though mercy is a noble concept, it is a principle that challenges us emotionally and spiritually. Why? Because even though we need lots of mercy, we have trouble consistently extending it, especially when we feel that a person does not deserve it. For example, when we make mistakes we have trouble extending mercy to ourselves. We berate and criticize ourselves so harshly that we chip away at our own self-esteem. We equally have difficulty forgiving others so we sometimes walk around full of resentment, bitterness or thoughts of revenge that damage our connections.
We all are sometimes challenged to show compassion and consideration too. In fact, many times we don't even attempt to understand someone’s plight or position before we judge, assume or prognosticate. We just close our minds, close our hearts and consequently close our capacity to love. We become cruel, callous, arrogant and condescending. You don’t have to admit it, but it is true☺.
Let’s face it. Mercy is more than an emotion; it is an effort and an intention. It is an intention and willingness to accept that the world does not revolve around you. It is a commitment to listening, hearing and considering the perspectives of others. It is a desire to forgive and to be forgiven.
Just so we all are clear. Loving mercy does not mean that you don’t hold yourself or your partner accountable for bad behavior. It does not mean that you allow abuse, exploit kindness, minimize concern, accept misconduct or entertain stupidity. Absolutely not. Everyone must always be responsible for their choices and the consequences of their choices. But, loving mercy means that even in the midst of bad choices, crazy decisions or negative outcomes, you consider, but not necessarily condone, your partner’s actions. And in some extreme cases, loving mercy may require you to walk away.
If you desire a relationship that can stand the test of time, you will need to offer and accept mercy and lots of it. Why? Because you will make mistakes and so will your partner because NONE of us are fully equipped to deal with every experience or situation that we may face in life. We will sometimes get it wrong and we may not get it right, right away. So strive to be merciful because as we say in the Christian faith, “mercy suits your case”.
3) Walk humbly. I must stay that walking humbly in our world requires a certain degree of restraint and modesty, especially in a culture that celebrates arrogance, competition, individuality and superiority. In a culture that applauds pride and praises self-aggrandizement, humility gets pushed aside and often times ignored. America’s inability to embrace and enforce justice, equality and equal opportunity are indications of its reluctance and our downright failure to embrace humility. But, I digress.
Walking humbly is an important virtue that will enrich your life and enhance your relationships. Walking humbly requires 3 things:
- Accept your limitations. You may not want to believe it but you are not the best at everything. And even if you are good at one thing, there are other things that you can not do. Recognizing and accepting your own limitations will keep you grounded in your humanness. It will also remind you to reach out to your partner and to others for assistance, guidance and support. So, remain teachable, ask for help and sometimes defer to others. I know reaching out is hard because I struggle to reach out myself.
- Recognize your own faults and flaws. You are not perfect! Your way is not the only way. You are not the judge or jury; other opinions exist. So, stop judging others and concentrate on improving, knowing and loving yourself. Believe me, that’s a full time job. Always remember that the biggest room in your life is the room for self-improvement. By recognizing your own need for improvement, you will have less time to tear down and torment your partner. Yes, torment…..picking a person apart and constantly highlighting their flaws is torment. Try affirming, accepting and apologizing instead.
- Be grateful. Show and express appreciation for what you have. Even though you have achieved much in life, there is someone who is just as intelligent and hardworking as you are but has less. There are people who pray and love more but may have not had the same support, guidance and opportunities. Maybe they made a bad choice that changed the trajectory of their lives. Who knows? So don’t brag, compete or compare yourself with your partner. Just be grateful that God saw fit to bless you.
Relationships, good relationships, require that you do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. If you are able to do all 3 for you and your partner, you can CREATE LOVE that is full of intimacy, empathy and joy.
I look forward to addressing all 3 concepts in greater detail at the 2014 CREATE LOVE Conference! Are you registered? If not, please do. Imani and I are looking forward to seeing you.