True or Selfish Love?

Coming from a very Christian background, I learned to place the needs and wants of others before my own… in the name of love. The concept itself is good, or at the least has good intentions, but it can also lead to an unhealthy way of living. Were all of humanity full of real love and compassion, there would be no problem and we’d all be busy taking care of each other. In reality, there are those who are content to live forever as leeches on the love of others. Take a leech and put it with a human who is willing to give and give and give love, and you will have a fat and lazy leech with an anemic human. Repeatedly I have been that human. It is a very nasty place to be, but if you’ve had it drilled into your head to put the needs of others before your own, you get stuck thinking, “He needs me! I can’t leave him or he’ll _________ (be depressed, commit suicide, be lonely, become lost, etc.). I must stop thinking about myself and just keep going in this relationship.”  Whether it be friendship or romance, such a situation is dangerous and unhealthy.

When a relationship has become unhealthy, what can you do? Sometimes more communication is all that is needed. In those cases both people are willing and able to change and work together. Sadly, not all relationships can be “fixed” so easily. Sometimes people choose not to change. Love is a powerful thing, but it does not conquer all problems. A relationship takes two people who are both choosing to actively love the other. When you find yourself in a relationship that is active on your part but passive on the other’s, you are in for heartbreak and pain. You may have made fervent promises or beautiful vows together, but now those words can no longer stand. Why do I say that? Your own health and ability to live are far more important than words you once said. People change, as does your understanding of them; your relationship with them should change accordingly.

Stop and listen to the songs on the radio about love, even the very old ones. How many of them are talking about real love and how many of them are talking about selfish love? The more I listen the more I realize that the majority of them focus on selfish love – what the singer could get, wanted to get, or was getting (and not just sexually) from his/her muse. The same thing pops up in all forms of media, sadly. Selfish love is far more shallow than true love; it will not stand the test of time or strain; it will not build the other person up; it will take without giving. What does true love look like, then? 1 Corinthians puts it beautifully:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

True love is full of actions, not simply words. Words can be deceptive. It is easy to say something, but it takes true worth to act on it. A relationship built on lies, deceit, and/or words without actions is a terrible thing. I know from personal experience. How easy it is to speak the facsimile of love into existence! And how hard it is for such a person to then live out what he/she spoke. A selfish lover is, in reality, a lover of self rather than a lover of you. Stay far away from such a person; if you find yourself with one, flee as quickly as you can. You have worth. You deserve to be loved as you love. You deserve to be happy in the life you are living. A one-sided relationship is not healthy for either person, but it is particularly harmful to the person who is doing the giving. There will be stress, emotional pain and confusion, and an unfulfilled desire to receive as much love as he/she has given. Not all situations can be exactly equal, but there will always be a working balance of give and take to a healthy relationship. True love is a beautiful, harmonious thing, but it cannot be one sided.

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