What we gain in living from a place of unconditional love.
“John, everything is going to work out fine.”
With these words my sweet dad was trying to encourage me and cheer me up.
It wasn’t working, though.
After being burned as a little boy and spending five months in a hospital, I was finally about to go home. From my wheelchair, still connected to a heart monitor, with a feeding tube snaking up through my nose, body wrapped in bandages covering either open sores or fresh scars, it sure didn’t feel like everything would work out fine.
Unbelievingly, I looked back at my dad and responded: That’s easy for you to say. You’ve got Mom, a family, a job, and a home. Dad, I may never have those things.
And for many years, some of them difficult, I was proven right.
Although passionate, precocious, and courageous as a little guy, there were many moments in my life dominated by fear. I was anxious about how people would respond to my injuries, saddened by all I could not do, and angry at the potential life robbed from me. And I was definitely afraid, perhaps even certain, I’d never have anyone to share that life with anyway.
During those years, I was completely preoccupied with what I wanted for my life, what I needed from a relationship, what someone else could do for me.
My focus was entirely on me.
This emphasis on self, by the way, is one strongly encouraged by the society in which we live today. We’re challenged by self-help gurus to focus singularly on our personal lives and our individual versions of happiness. Our celebrities share the freedom they’ve found in letting go of expectations from others and choosing themselves first. Celebrations of self-care are everywhere on social media. Many spiritual teachers and new age preachers share how to find personal peace and individual success.
Paradoxically, it’s in letting go of our self-centered desires we find serenity. It’s in faithfully keeping our hearts open to serving others – even sometimes having them broken by those we love – that the meaning, joy and real peace we seek is gradually revealed.
This realization began for me in my early 20s. After years of rejection, self-pity and self-doubt, I stopped trying to convince others I was lovable and just started loving others as they were. I let go of my fear of being alone, and embraced the gift of time by myself. I let go of operating from a place of self-centered fear and began leading and living from a place of unconditional love.
No strings attached.
No agenda hidden or validation sought.
In other words: I loved.
On this Valentine’s Day, whether you are going on a hot date with your special someone, heading out with dear friends, or longingly waiting for the phone to ring, be reminded of the overwhelming demands true love requires and the profound blessing it delivers in return.
Ultimately, the way we discover the love we seek is to let go of our needs, remain absolutely vulnerable in the face of fear, say yes to serving others, allow our hearts to be broken repeatedly and strive diligently to make our lives about something far bigger than ourselves.
This reality may not trend on social media, it may not sell Valentine’s Day cards, chocolates or lingerie, but it will ensure authentic peace for this day, the thrill of hope for tomorrow and a life of sincere significance.
It turns out Dad was right. Everything is going to work out fine.
Today and always, I want to remind you of that same truth in your life.
This is your day. Live Inspired.
Dr. Gary Chapman is just the man to turn to for help in strengthening our most important relationships. Two decades after publishing his New York Times bestseller The 5 Love Languages, millions of readers credit him with saving their relationships by providing simple and practical ways to communicate their love. Check out Live Inspired Podcast ep. 280.