Self Actualized Loving
Has anyone ever asked you: “How did you know that your sweetheart was really ‘the one’?” I have asked this question a lot, and here is the best answer I’ve ever received: “I didn’t recognize him. He recognized me.” This response made me pause to think, and here’s what I am beginning to understand.
We often enter into a relationship with a checklist of qualities we think our Beloved must possess: Is she smart, attractive, funny? Is he kind, honest, interesting, capable of making a commitment, etc.? I do not intend to suggest that any of these qualities are unimportant. I simply wish to suggest that the approach, the emphasis, is somewhat misguided. When we know we have met a Beloved partner, I am beginning to think we realize this because of the way our partner enables us to discover ourselves.
I resisted this emphasis on self-discovery at first because it sounds rather narcissistic to me and, as a card carrying member of the “Me” generation, I worry that life has been, more often than it probably should be, “all-about-me.” But as I have pondered my friend’s response, I’ve begun to see things differently. When a Beloved recognizes me, this is what I think s/he is doing: S/he is holding up a mirror to me, inviting me to look deeply at/within myself. What I see in this mirror is oftentimes a challenge, e.g. the ways I am impatient, or the ways I can cut another off in a conversation, anticipating a response instead of really listening. The mirror reveals my flaws, to be sure. Yet, because it is a mirror, it does not judge, it simply reflects; it shows things as they are. Thus, the information can be challenging, even painful–but not demeaning–when it comes from a mirror. Likewise, the mirror shows me my beauty, shows me latent qualities that are present but have never been able to emerge in quite the way they seem to be emerging when I am in the presence of my Beloved. The experience of gazing into this mirror is intense.…and liberating.
There is a scriptural text that reads:
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (I Corinthians 12:13)
I am beginning to understand this text in reference to what it feels like to stand in the presence of an earthly Beloved. In his/her presence, I see myself more clearly than I have ever seen myself before. The gaze I experience is not judging. It is purely descriptive, and what I do in response to this gaze is purely up to me.
When the mirror reflects a deep beauty I may have never seen before, may have forgotten, or may only have been able previously to recognize partially, I feel awe, inspiration, gratitude. This makes me want to be what I see, to become, more and more, my “best self.” When the mirror reflects a flaw, an inconsistency, an absence, I can choose to ignore it and look away or I can take a deep breath and say to myself: “Perhaps it’s time to take a deeper look at this and address it.” Because it’s a mirror, it’s not reflecting this Truth about me with any manipulative desire to change me or to make me feel guilty. It’s simply revealing.
When two individuals discover each other and bring to a relationship a degree of confidence and self actualization and, most importantly, compassion, the mirror they provide for the Beloved is clean and clear. They are able to stand eye-t0-eye with each other, enabling the Beloved to know him/herself as s/he is being known. This is grace. This is freedom. We are inspired to become more than we ever imagined ourselves to be capable of becoming. This respectful and compassionate gaze of the Beloved, the gaze that truly sees us, and the process of becoming more and more ourselves–more fully human–in response to this gaze, is perhaps the clearest earthly manifestation of what it means to be loved by God.
I, for one, have longed for God to be more than an idea of Love. Here’s what I wrote recently in my journal:
“I long to have a few friends, even a lover, who will see all of me, and accept me, just as I am. If not, I think the God I have spent my life trusting may turn out only to have been an idea. I hope this doesn’t end up being true, for I can’t help but believe that God has arms that hold, a mouth that speaks tender words of love, and eyes that gaze, lovingly though sometimes with sadness, at the truth of who I am.” (March 3, 2011)
Here is my hope for anyone who is reading this today: may you stand before your Beloved, simply gazing upon him/her with respect and eyes of compassion, knowing that when you do this, you are enabling your Beloved to grow more fully into his/her own being, trusting that s/he is doing the same for you. When you do this, you can love and be loved in freedom. No longer do you need to maintain a checklist of qualities you desire; no longer do you need to keep track of who does more or less to make the relationship work. In response to the loving gaze of the Beloved, we are simply inspired to love in return and, here at this heart of deep loving, true romance begins. Unconditional love gives birth to desire. We long, both of us equally, to love and to give to the Beloved. What begins in a recognition of self concludes in an over-flowing abundance of self-giving; it ends in delight.
Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on compassion and respect and delight. Have a great day!
March 13, 2011 (11:20 a.m.)