Everyone has an understanding of love. Where it comes from. How it is earned. How it is kept. How one knows that they are loved. These are things that were shaped in us. From the moment we were born we immediately began learning about love. People would tell us they loved us and were there for us. People would tell us they loved us and abused us. People would tell us they loved us and manipulated us. Maybe there was someone in your life who told you that they loved you and repeated it over and over, but never kept their word or lied to you or didn’t come when they said they would. Maybe there was someone in your life who told you that they loved you and they were tender and compassionate.
The behavior of the one’s who claimed to love us shaped our understanding of what love looks like and how we know when we are are loved and when we are not.
I was brought up in a pretty amazing home. I had parents who loved me dearly and an extended family who did as well. Divorce was not written into my family line in a significant way, so I learned that loves stays. My family showed up for things, so I learned that love was present. My parents affirmed me often, so I learned that love encourages. So many good things I learned about love that continue to shape my understanding of it. But my understanding of love was also formed by my parents imperfections and their own brokenness.
At home I learned that love and behavior were tied together. If I were a good, moral, “Christian” there was acceptance. If I kept my room clean or didn’t make a mess anywhere in the house there was also accpetance. But I also learned the converse. I learned that if I made a mistake, sinned or spilled something, well, then I felt as though I was no longer accepted. Love appeared to be taken away. So although multiple good ideas and beliefs about love were formed in me, I held tightly to the view that love was given or taken away because of my behavior and my ability to not make a mess.
My dad and I have had many conversations about how this was formed in me. He spoke to the fact that he swore he’d never be that way as a father, but what formed him played out in his relationship with me. He grieved over that. I grieved over that with him.
Our families form loudly our understanding of love. Our parents carry the bulk of that formation. We need to be able to enter into the formation of our understanding of love to be able to understand why we believe we’re lovable, chosen or valued. And where we need to receive healing from misguided beliefs about self. Our formation in love effects the way we receive and give love and plays a role in our understanding of relationships and of God too.
Take some time and think about the people who formed your concept of love. How was love formed in you, for the good and for the negative?