A few years ago, when my grandson Ethan was a lot younger, my friend Linda gave me a book called, “How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?”. It’s a story about dinosaurs (children) who do all sorts of kid-like things that make the parents frazzled, but then turn around and do something sweet that touches the parent’s heart. The last sentence in the book is “…that’s when you give love, and I know this is true, because that’s how a dinosaur says, “I Love You!
It’s easy to say, “I love you WHEN…”
I love you when you’re playing by my rules
I love you when we’re on vacation
I love you when it’s easy
I love you when we don’t have to talk about your feelings
I love you when I don’t have other things to do
I love you when you make my life easier
I love you when you help me around the house
I love you when you don’t want to discuss serious issues
I love you when you’re happy
I love you when you put my needs first
It’s also easy to say, “I love you BECAUSE…”
I love you because you’re smart/funny/cute
I love you because you don’t expect anything from me
I love you because I know you’d never leave me
I love you because you do what I want to do
I love you because you’re a great cook/provider/parent/businessperson
I love you because I can dump all my feelings on you and then feel better
I love you because I’m free to come and go as I please
I love you because you put up with all my moods
I love you because no matter how I hurt you, you always bounce back
I love you because you love ME
Things change when “but” becomes part of the sentence.
This is where, in our humanness, we get so caught up in ourselves that we choose not to “see” the other people around us; when we say “I love you BUT,…”
I love you, but I don’t have time to listen to your problems
I love you, but what you’re saying requires ME to make some changes
I love you, but I don’t want to have to stick up for you
I love you, but right now is NOT a good time
I love you, but you’re MUCH too sensitive
I love you, but you’re asking me to understand how YOU feel
I love you, but your “issues” are bringing me down
I love you, but “this is just the way I roll”
I love you, but you know I don’t like to talk about serious stuff
I love you, but I love him/her too
I love you, but I need a LOT of space
I love you, but you’re not seeing it MY way
I love you, but you’re asking too much
I love you, but I don’t want to deal with anything emotional or painful
I love you, but this is a conversation WAY to heavy for me
I love you, but I expect you to understand when I shut down/hurt you/abuse you/ diminish you/ neglect you
Sadly, we put a lot of “I love you but” statements out there; some spoken, many unspoken. When do these sentences (units of words) become sentences (decrees and judgements) for the person on the receiving end?
Many times there’s a line we’re willing to love up to. Then we stop. Often that’s healthy; after all we do need to create boundaries. Often that’s necessary to protect ourselves from being hurt or harmed. Sometimes, however, crossing that line doesn’t happen simply because it’s just not what we want to do. We want life to play out the way WE want life to play out.
How many people do you know who have stopped expressing how they feel or stopped sharing who they really are, because it “doesn’t really matter”? Who do you know who’s become very “small” or “quiet” because of hearing too many sentences beginning with, “I love you, but”?
Peace in our relationships, homes, and communities requires a lot more “I love you when” and “I love you because” statements.
“I love you, but” doesn’t make too many things better. When we don’t validate one another; when we are unwilling to hear another’s pain; when we don’t take into consideration what anyone other than ourself is feeling, we lose sight of the essence of our walk together in this life. We can do better than that.
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