I’ve got news for you and it’s not the fake kind. If we derive our values entirely from the culture without evaluating the potential effects on our life and those around us, we WILL make mistakes that may have serious consequences.
Our cultural concepts of love, entertainment, religion, politics, business, and even the American Dream do not guarantee us that ‘happily ever after’ we often dearly seek. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s called ‘living intelligently.’
A Biblical Example
I’m going to give you an example from the Bible and not because I’m trying to influence the spiritual direction of your life. I just think it’s an amazing example of how to live.
Paul the Apostle was a leader in the early days of the church, with a level of authority and influence unlike any modern-day religious leader I can think of. According to one writer, he authored 28 percent of the New Testament. Yet something startling happened when he spoke to a group of Bereans at their local Jewish synagogue.
The Bible identifies these citizens of Berea as being more noble in character than their counterparts in Thessalonica. And one of the things that earned them this praise was their commitment to compare what this powerful and influential leader was teaching, with what they could read for themselves in the Old Testament Scriptures. They were commended for fact checking.
Don’t Accept Norms Blindly
Blindly accepting what we see, hear, read, etc., is not necessarily good for us so I’m going to dig into some of our cultural ‘norms’ to show you the wisdom of being ‘Bereans’ in our own world. Let’s start with love.
“I love you” is probably the most common phrase we use to convey love for another but, I argue, it can convey a much different meaning than what the recipient hears. At the core, its meaning may be little more than a declaration of how we feel about another…I enjoy your nearness; appreciate your beauty; are thankful for your help and concern, and so much more. Those are wonderful things, at least for one party, but are they attributes of love?
Suppose those ‘loving’ feelings surfaced in our wedding vows. What would our soon-to-be spouse feel if they heard, “I take you as my partner, to enjoy seeing you and to feel good being around you from this day forward, to have my expectations met, to be encouraged by you, cared for when I’m sick, supported when I’m out of work, and to feel proud introducing you to my friends, until I choose to walk away because I don’t feel the same emotional attachment to you that I do today.”
Sadly, I’ve heard individuals say their marriage ended because the love just wasn’t there anymore. Both sides have told me that; the one who left because they didn’t experience the degree of passionate feelings they wanted and the one abandoned by such a decision. How do you Fact Check this statement in your personal life?
I Love You
When you hear those three words, “I Love You”, and you’re not experiencing the behaviors from the speaker that creates a certainty in your heart and mind that you are loved, be cautious. They could be on an emotional high and have little intention of living their life with your best in mind. Part of this, I think, may be due to a misunderstanding about the nature of love.
It’s commonly said that marriage, and there are aspects of that commitment in any relationship of love, is a 50/50 proposition. Fact Check: When your spouse is lying comatose in a hospital, unable to move or speak, your ‘obligation’ to love hasn’t changed, even though you’re getting absolutely nothing in return. My mathematics training tells me that’s 100 percent to 0 percent.
Loving another person, whether it’s a spouse, child, parent, relative, friend or stranger, is NO easy task. It can require our best when we just don’t feel like it.
Not To Be Confused
To avoid any potential confusion, I need to address an aspect of relationships when love must look differently. When you’re in a situation where physical, emotional or spiritual abuse is present, loving oneself becomes all important. Loving the one harming you, or people you’re responsible for, doesn’t mean staying in the situation. There may well be a measure of forgiveness needed toward the other, for your own long-term emotional health, but you’re not obligated to stay put out of love.
I started this piece by talking about our cultural concepts of love, entertainment, religion, politics, business, and the American Dream. Believe it or not, I’m not sure I’ve completed what needs to be said about love, so that, along with the other cultural models will be talked about later.
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