Have you ever wondered how to measure love or "how much" someone loves you? Is it the result of an action, or a feeling that manifests out of thin air? Speaker, counselor, and author of, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman, identifies ways people experience, express, and anticipate love: Time Together, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. But, how does one measure the success of these communications? If I feel love does that mean I am loved? The Bible explains love is measured by our ability to love:
"We love, because He first loved us."
1 John 4:19 (NASB)
In order for us to "give" something, we must first possess it. "He" is God. God is Love, and he gives us love, and because he has given us love, we can give love to others.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about:
If you would like $10 from me, I must HAVE $10 in order to give it to you. The same goes for love. I must know what love is and recognize that it's something I can give before I give it, or I miss the goal of loving.
People who have been hurt by love have a difficult time loving others. As a child of emotional, physical or sexual abuse at the hands of someone who is supposed to love us, we learn that love is not to be trusted. Add to this the destructive consequences of being blamed for the unloving actions of others using conditional love as a means of gaining compliance, "I wouldn't have to beat you if you would just clean your room like I told you!"
As adults, we can also experience unhealthy love from those we are supposed to be loved by. For example, when a controlling husband forces his wife to have sex against her will. and afterwards when she is crying on the floor, he yells at her, "Why do you have to turn something so beautiful into something so miserable?"
Often, these people come to therapy because they have no ability to love others. They can not feel love and don't believe they are deserving of love. They are broken to their core and grief, despair, and fear are the only feelings they are capable of expressing. They want desperately to be loved, and are terrified of what that love would look like. Often, the wounded one overcompensates for the lack of love they received by OVER giving in hopes of receiving something back in return. Unfortunately, the ability to receive love is not based on how much love you are giving, but by the other's ability to give out of their abundance. Look at the $10 example again. You can ask a homeless man to give you $10, but if he doesn't have it, giving him $10 does not mean you are going to get it back. Often, the other person has nothing to give, and you giving them something (money, love, time, etc) results only in their TAKING what you give. There is no guarantee they will give you anything in return. When this one-sided give-and-take happens, the relationship struggles until the one who "gave it all" has nothing more to give. They are both "empty" and love dies.
To have a truly loving relationship, love must be passed back and forth between the couple (parent/child also). The giving of love, and the receiving of love, gives love life. It grows through the ACT of giving and receiving. Without the action (give/receive), love is only a concept and has no life of it's own. When both parties are both giver and receiver than love grows and thrives.
If you would like to learn more about how love is measuring up in your relationships, call Encouragers Counseling & Training Centers today. We'd LOVE to hear from you.