Love. We’re crap at it.
Imagine a world where every human interaction was like finding an unexpected $20 in your pocket (or venmo account). You step into a room full of people and suddenly they’re genuinely more interested in you than their Twitter feed. They’re interested simply because you’re another human, and they empathize with that, and want to connect on a deeper level. Unfortunately, that scenario is non-existent in today’s society.
Instead, here’s the absurd reality: we’re like starving people, sitting in a grocery store, scrolling through pictures of food on Instagram, oblivious to the feast around us. We glue our eyes to screens, looking for love in a truly hopeless place, while actual human connections are just a head lift away.
To me, it comes down to this: We suck at ‘Love’.
Now, let’s discuss Love. We aren’t talking about romantic “I loved you at first swipe” love. We’re talking the real, gritty stuff. Love isn’t all about dramatic airport chases or surprise trips to Paris (although these things can have their place). Love is viewing other people as if they’re on your team, not the other team. They’re with you, not against you.
You have an unspoken connection with every single human you interact with: you’re also human, you also want a fulfilling life, and you also yearn for authentic connection. That should be enough. But often times it isn’t. We let the smallest things get in the way of connecting with people, and at the end of the day we’re only hurting ourselves. The stories we tell ourselves are akin to distorted nightmares written by our alter-ego where we paint other people in the worst possible light. We take up a defensive stance and assume the worst in others. Conversations in our head go like this:
Someone: How are you doing today?
Our thoughts: What’s this MFr trying to get out of me?
Our response: ….Good.
It may not be as dramatic as that, but make no mistake, we all do this. And let me be clear. I’m a serial offender. In these scenarios we’re putting people on the other team, not our own. This is often a defensive mechanism, and it needs to stop. How do we do that?
Empathy and vulnerability.
Love is raw empathy. It is a genuine wish for others’ well-being, and it’s the courage to expose your own vulnerabilities. People who allow themselves to be vulnerable love more, and are loved more. Hard stop. By embracing their own imperfections and exposing their vulnerabilities, they break down barriers and create spaces where love can flourish. Their authenticity and courage inspire others to do the same, creating a ripple effect that fosters a culture of empathy, understanding, and genuine care.
Take that same scenario as above. Imagine what could happen if someone was vulnerable and empathetic:
Someone: How are you doing today?
Our thoughts: This person cares about my well being.
Our response: Well I left my coffee at home this morning and got irrationally angry about it, and I’m nervous about this meeting I have later. How about you?
You might be thinking, “I already do that all the time.” Do you do it with any old stranger, or just people you’re comfortable with? Do you have a certain threshold of vulnerability you’re willing to reach? Can you go beyond that?
Society sucks at Love
Society’s ability to love in this way has hit a new low, in fact it’s emptier than a politician’s promises. The scarcity of love in our world is as toxic as the recent government funded food pyramid. We’ve turned into emotional hedgehogs, wanting connection but prickling at the first sign of closeness. The irony is, love is the not-so-secret recipe for happiness, but we’re often too stubborn or scared to stir it in. We’d rather be right than be loving. Love isn’t a transaction. It has to be unconditional.
What Love could look like
If we ever got our act together, love would look like treating strangers as potential friends, not potential threats. Love would mean appreciating our loved ones regularly, not just when Facebook reminds us it’s their birthday. It would be extending warmth to acquaintances, not just a curt nod in the hallway. And don’t forget about self Love.
Love also means caring for ourselves, being in tune with our needs and emotions, and not waiting for a breakdown to fix it.
Love isn’t just for special occasions, it’s there in the drudgery of everyday life. Opportunities to love are as abundant as the oxygen in the air, yet we continue to hold our breath.
How you can take action
Here’s a little experiment for you. In your next social setting, whether it’s a family gathering, a Zoom meeting, or a quick stop at the grocery store, assume the people you’re interacting with love you, and that you love them too. It sounds weird but just trust me on this. With that belief, go into the interaction and be yourself. Don’t worry when you blush 30 seconds in and struggle to hold back a smile. That’s just Love doing it’s thing.