Something I’ve been surprised to learn this year is that there are a lot of ways to manipulate love. They are called counterfeits, something we think is love but it’s really a way of getting others to meet our needs. We don’t usually do it consciously, it comes from our own brokenness. Some of these ways are people pleasing, avoidance, control, withholding love and guilt tripping. We can’t purely love others if we carry on like our needs are more valuable than theirs.
We develop these habits, needs and voids through the way we saw love modeled to us. We also learn them in coping with our own brokenness. Ultimately, if we are insecure, then we probably use forms of manipulation to “love” others to get our needs met.
At the beginning of 2015, I made a chalk board diagram of things I wanted to happen. Two of the words were “breakthroughs” and “transformation.” I knew God was faithful and powerful, but I don’t think I really knew how much He would come through for me in personal breakthrough. Throughout all of last year, I pressed in hard for freedom from my insecurities, thought patterns and lack of confidence. I had believed that people, even my own family didn’t like me or want to be friends with me. Since I didn’t believe that people would freely like or love me, I subconsciously tried to control love by people pleasing, avoiding conflict and over-giving. But when we are trying to control other people’s love for us, then we are not free to love freely either; we become victims of our self-imposed prison.
Everyone wants to be loved. It’s our core function. God made us to love and to be loved. The enemy wants to destroy the pure, original design of what that looks like, but pure love is choosing freely who you love and choosing to receive love from another.
When Kris and I started dating, I remember feeling confused and frustrated because I didn’t know why he loved me so much. I couldn’t figure out what I could offer him that he didn’t already have. He already had so many incredible people in his life who prayed for him, encouraged and empowered him. Those were the things I knew how to do really well, but I didn’t feel like he had a real need for that from me.
What I learned over and over again in our relationship is that he doesn’t love me for anything I can do for him. He loves me freely just because he chooses me. There hasn’t been anything I’ve been able to do or not do to make him love me more or less. It’s the weirdest thing. Every time, it reminds me of Jesus’s love for us. It’s the exact same way. He freely loves us because he wants to. We can’t do anything to earn it or diminish it. Since we were created in His image, we are created to re-create that love.
This is what real love looks like: Love first starts with full acceptance of yourself, understanding of who you are and the freedom to express it to the world. Once you know you are a lovable person and are totally secure in your standing with Christ, then the fear of rejection won’t have a place to control you or others anymore.
Love is vulnerability and intimacy. It’s allowing the other person to see your heart and feelings so they can choose how to respond to your needs.
I am claiming this year to be a year of love. I believe I will be able to love people better than ever before because my spiritual blinders have been removed. I used to think I was loving certain people well by letting them get away with hurtful actions and words. I wouldn’t say anything to them about it, but would cry and lament about it behind closed doors. Then, I’d turn around and give to them again in the name of compassion and understanding.
Avoiding conflict and people pleasing won’t make someone love us more. The reason is because people have a sense of what is authentic and flowing from a true place.
Ultimately, our true need of being loved won’t be met if we try to control relationships by hiding our authentic self. Love and respect yourself and then it will be natural to be open to receive the same in return.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Who do I want love and acceptance from?
2. How do they hurt me?
3. How do I respond when they hurt me?
4. Why do they feel they can treat me this way?
5. Imagine their hurtful behavior again. Now, when I remind myself that I am secure and rooted in Christ and no one can take away my worth, how does their behavior affect me?
There may be people you realize you should let go in your life because they don’t have the will or ability to love and respect you well regardless of how you change. But most likely, you will move closer in true connection with your loved ones when you release your need to control them and you fully embrace the beauty of you.
When you are secure and free, you can see a need in someone else, boldly minister to them and show love regardless of how they respond to you. That is the love of Christ.
Let’s be imitators of Christ. Life is too short not to love and be loved fully, authentically and purely.
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35
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