Did we forget how to love?

Did we? The world is changing fast, and so are our societies. Technology and globalization are having huge effects on our daily lives. Many people feel tired and burn-outs almost seem like a trend. We are looking on our screens 24/7, and ignoring a lot of people around us. I know it sounds depressing, but it is true. Say what is. Our job is becoming more and more demanding and we feel like we are always too busy, we lack sleep, and we feel like we need to answer too many demands from others at work. This might not be that strange, however, what if we, because of all these distractions, also forget how to love?

In my previous job, a colleague of mine got very sick. And nobody in the department talked about this. Everyone was busy with their own to-do list. Does that mean they have put the priority on their own to-do list, instead of on the well-being of their co-worker? But what if in the end, you never made time to check on your colleague? And what is the reason of these priorities? Can we blame it to society’s demands? It is so sad to know that we simply are so busy, that we often forget the most important thing in the world: love. It is not only Trump, who is spreading hatred; it is not only ISIS who is terrorizing the world. It is the people themselves as well, who are so driven by the system, so controlled by circumstances and trends, that we are responsible as well, for the lack of love and compassion for each other.

As a response of the changing society, we start with meditation, mindfulness, vegan food, vegetarian food, super-healthy food, fitness bootcamp programs, and whatsoever. These are ways to deal with our stressful lives, which are in a way great solutions:  it means we have gained awareness about our stress, and that we are willing to do something about it. However, it is very reactive, and not so proactive. Taking a break from stressful events may in itself be good, for instance going on a holiday. But it is a short-term solution. It just makes you recover. So how do we go about it? How do we make ourselves more resistant and grounded towards society’s challenges: our ringing phones, our demanding jobs, overloaded traffic, and the world that is always calling you.

In my opinion, it starts with putting yourself in a perspective. If you have a demanding job: how important is that job to you? And if your phone is ringing: How important is it, that you respond right now? Or a little bigger, what would change if you don’t do everything your environment demands? And this makes me write about a bigger perspective. How important are you to this world? What is the real impact of your being? How important IS your job? Is it a life / death matter? Is your to-do list really more important than taking care of a sick colleague? Your to-do list may be more important because you are afraid of your bosses judgment, however: Is your fear of being fired really more important than the care you can take of another being? I am really zooming in and making it very intense, but this is just to show you, that things can be put in a perspective, but only if you are ready to do one thing: be a little bit more selfless, and love a little more.

How? Ask someone how they are doing, and try to listen genuinely. Check upon people. Focus on building meaningful connections with others, show them the love that is in your heart and be ready to receive theirs. Furthermore, we should be more aware of our fears and try to put them in perspective. Our fear to fail or disappoint others, just directs us to the importance of ourselves, which may be egocentric. Wouldn’t it be sad, if you just came to this world, to leave your heart in a cold cage because you were “busy”, and you leave again without having left enough sparkles of love?

Written by Renée IJsebaert | Last edited: 13th June 2022

Comment by Julia Heuritsch

Uploaded on 2nd July 2018 | Last edited: 13th June 2022

Dear Renée, I agree with you when you write that we have forgotten to pay attention to each other, instead of our busy lives. The western society has become very individualistic, and everybody minds their own business, staring into their mobile phones and juggling 100 things at the same time instead of looking to their left and right, recognising fellow human beings as worth being paid attention to.

While I too think we have forgotten how to love because our priorities are too focussed on (over)achieving rather than on our relationships, I also think that as a society we have become confused about what love actually means.

We try to overcome the confusion about what love is by classifying relationships. We all supposedly know what “being in a relationship” means. A (romantic) relationship is a social construct where two people decide to stay together and love each other. Because this often seems like too much of a burden in Tinder times, many people do not dare to take on this relationship status and decide to “not have a relationship” or to engage in “casual relationships” instead. In such a construct it feels forbidden to fall in love with the other person. Worse, simple rules of respect that we’d follow even with distant friends don’t hold. For example, in casual relationships planning ahead is a no-go and ghosting is a common consequence of a fear of commitment. Yet this fear is unjustified if we realise that we also never formally commit to friends. It is quite peculiar and some food for thought that we do not sign a contract of “friendship” with a friend and yet, we often behave nicer and more respectfully with them than with some of the people we date.

I often hear that a couple “doesn’t love each other anymore” as a synonym to “has broken up”. It seems to be self-evident that the decision to split is equivalent to not loving each other anymore. While this might be true in some cases, I know a lot of cases (including myself) where people who split up continue to love each other, even though they cannot lead life together for various reasons. I have noticed that continuing to love the ex-partner is hard to admit as it is regarded as “not being over it” by our friends and possibly our new partner. With this attitude we feel forced to stop loving if we don’t want to look like the desperate fool who cannot get over past relationships.

Different classes of relationships are social constructs, which have the power to prescribe whom we love: our family, our friends, the one person we are “in a relationship” with. If we love somebody in addition, we feel safer to keep it to ourselves to avoid looking weak. Yet, love doesn’t work like that. If we only treat those well whom we supposedly love and do not care about the other people, we act out of fear and not out of love. Love is being and to #saywhatis  and the biggest gift we can give to ourselves and others, as described very elegantly by blogger Sam Ryter:

What if the biggest gift we can ever give to someone, no matter what age, gender, culture, ideology – is your loving attention?

When you give your loving attention, you are present, you are in flow, you are in love. 

You know automatically what to do, say, how to touch, how to act. No masks needed. 

Why? Because you act out of the moment, out of joy, out of love and not from the fearful mind (isn’t this what life’s about?)

It is that simple. And yet, at the same time this is where most people mess it up – because they are too concerned with their own selfish thoughts.

All the awkward situations happen when we are SELFISH, meaning: We don’t really care about the other person.

Can you place your concerns and your fears to the side? – Just for one moment? Because it will change EVERYTHING. 

In a world where everyone is in “the head”. You will suddenly stand out with your presence. It is the biggest gift you can give to someone – and people will thank you for it and feel naturally attracted to you.

Why? With your loving attention you create a space where people trust you, where people feel safe. You create a space where people can relax and be themselves. 

If I just had to share one thing with you today: Place your attention on love, on giving, on “being here for someone”. And just watch what happens.

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