Updated: Feb 18, 2020
There is one thing that we all need. It doesn’t matter how old or young we are, although the young need it more because it’ll determine the degree of happiness and authentic success in the lives ahead of them.
So what is it?
It’s how to love and how to be loved.
If we don’t learn how to love and how to be loved from our families, we may not learn it at all. It’s not taught in grammar school, middle school, or high school. It’s not taught in community colleges or universities. Sadly, there are many families in which it’s not taught.
Not learning how to love and how to be loved isn’t a “neutral” position. If we’re not learning about genuine love, then we’re learning some distorted version of it or worse.
Don’t get me wrong, most people are doing the best they can, but if they didn’t learn how to love and how to be loved properly, they probably aren't properly modeling and teaching it to their children.
To make matters worse, lots of children learn from their families a lifestyle that is self-centric. This is a way of living that has to do with including others in their lives so long as others meet their needs. At the first sign of disagreement, disappointment, or other fracture in the relationship, they exclude people from their lives. Those people no longer serve their purpose in the lives of the self-centric. In the worst scenarios, anger turns to apathy or even hatred, and family members or former friends are rejected and avoided.
People tend to grow up and repeat what they learned as children unless someone comes along and shows them what it looks and feels like to love and to be loved.
When you’ve only known what dysfunctional relationships look like, and someone comes along and shows you how to disagree without damaging the relationship, it can be transformational.
For someone who was raised in a less than loving environment, it can stop them in their tracks to hear someone smile and say something like, “I hear you and understand your point, but I still feel the way I feel. Let’s agree to disagree.” Or, “Thank you so much for explaining your position to me. I still believe the way I do, but now I understand why you feel as you do.”
When someone comes along and loves you regardless of what you look like, what you do, how much money you make, or how you feel about things on which you differ, it feels so good. It’s freeing.
When you feel loved regardless of how you perform, you are more likely to try new things because you don’t worry that the person is going to think less of you if you fail.
This modeling of how to love and how to be loved can be done by anyone at any time of life. I’m not sure this key to happiness and success and actualization could translate to a classroom. But in the school of life, we could use more people who are willing to teach the rest of us the one thing we all need.