With Valentine’s Day approaching, it seems timely to write about love in this week’s column. To begin, here is one of my favorite quotes about love, by Aldous Huxley. “Love casts out fear; but conversely fear casts out love. And not only love. Fear also casts out intelligence, casts out goodness, casts out all thought of beauty and truth…. And fear, my good friends, is the very basis and foundation of modern life.” Ape and Essence, 1948.
The first part of this quote echoes the words from the Biblical verse found in 1 John 4:18: “Perfect love casts out fear.” The remainder of the quote reminds us that as powerful a force as love is, fear has the power to erode our capacity to love. I recognize the truth of this in myself, because I know when I feel hurt, angry, wronged, or afraid, my capacity to love is greatly diminished. On the other hand, when I feel centered, secure, and content, my capacity to love is far greater than any fear or hurt I may have.
When I am working with a couple or a family in counseling, it is common at some point for one of the people in the room to turn to another and ask with intense emotion, “Why don’t you act more loving to me?” While the specific details of the answer that follows differ, the common theme is that the person who is not acting in a manner that is loving is feeling hurt and angry in some way, and thus is responding from a stance of fear rather than love. Only when their hurt, anger, and fear is addressed is it possible for their capacity to love to be restored.
In light of Valentine's Day coming soon, and to translate all of this into some concrete advice, I would like to share some wisdom from Terrence Real, the author of The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work. This advice, which talks about the difference of approaching relationships from a place of love versus fear, applies not only to marriage but to all relationships. Here is a summary of his thoughts on the five things that build up relationships and the five things that break them down. He calls these the five “losing or fear-based strategies" and the five “winning or love-based strategies." While he is writing about marriage, these apply to all important relationships in our lives.
The Five Losing/Fear-Based Strategies
•Needing to be right
•Controlling your partner
The Five Winning/Love-Based Strategies
•Shifting from complaint to request
•Speaking out with love and savvy
•Responding with generosity
•Empowering each other
This year the first day of Lent happens to fall on Valentine’s Day. Lent is a season in which many Christians pause to reflect on what it means to live a more spiritual life. For me, the convergence of Valentine’s Day and the beginning of Lent provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on when I am relating others from a place of love and when I am relating to them from a place of fear.
Happy Valentine’s, and for those who observe the season of Lent, may it be a time of spiritual renewal for you.
By Scott Stoner for Living Compass