Mistaking Acceptance for Love

One of the biggest mistakes we make as humans, and that I have made, is confusing ‘like’ and/or acceptance for love or the path to receiving love.

We do it all the time. We think a person needs to like us or accept what we do and who we are before they can ever love us. We are, however, very wrong about this and this concept does a tonne of damage to people and their ideas of self-worth and the worth of others.

Love for a person can happen free and independent of whether we actually like or accept the person or their behaviour. If you think about it, its an emotion that can be shown to, and fostered towards, a complete stranger. You can actively care about, support and help a person before you even know their names.

Love is only actually love if it is given freely, a gift. Love given only because our demands or needs are met by someone else is never love. Love given by you because of a demand from someone else is not love.

Pursuing someone else’s acceptance or ‘like’ of us, in the hope that they love us, will love us or will continue to love us is a fool’s errand. A person who needs to like or accept you first, will never love you. They may say they love you and they may even show the same behaviour and a person who loves you but as soon as you do anything that loses that person’s acceptance of you, then the love also mysteriously will disappear, often replaced by something much darker and nastier.

Ever wonder why your partner went from the sweetest thing to a bastard/bitch in a short time span? It’s because their demands of you are no longer being met, and their love was completely based on those demands.

There are reasons why we desire acceptance over love, and they are all to do about how we feel about ourselves. Love will always be truthful, and though it will never be used to hurt someone it can be painful to hear, especially we aren’t perceived by others as we wish to be. Acceptance will often cover over inconvenient truths, so that acceptance can continue.

Loving someone does not mean you accept poor treatment, and relationships can end when you actually love someone who has no wish to change their poor behaviour towards themselves, you or others. Acceptance will fight to hold onto relationships where one or both parties are toxic to each other, and do its best to create a façade to cover over any hurt feelings. Families often have this exact problem. The concept of family is often held to over the concept of what is loving, and a lot of really bad behaviour is covered over in the attempt to keep a family together.

Love will always leave an opportunity for the growth of love in each parties’ lives. Pursuit of acceptance will often lead to less love, since the point of it is to keep everyone happy with the way things currently stand.

I’m not saying you can’t both love, like and accept someone completely, you definitely can. However, if your love is based on the other person being a certain way or treating you a certain way, it’s not real love your feeling for that person.

Real love is a mirror to the way God loves us. No demands, no barter of rewards or punishment and an opportunity for a closer relationship with God if we seek it. God also constantly tells us personally what is going to work for the benefit of us and the rest of the universe, and what isn’t, through our consciences (not any book). And God is even loving enough to let us completely turn down the volume on that conscience whenever we want to, even if that means we and others ultimately will get hurt.

I mentioned that the love comes after acceptance is a concept that does damage to people and their ideas of self-worth and the worth of others. This is defiantly the case with children. If a child isn’t worth love, the thing that every human being needs growing up, then how are they worth anything else? So, if a child feeling ‘loved’ is dependent on the acceptance of the people around them, then their worth as a person becomes tied up with what is acceptable.

As a society we withhold ‘love’ in an effort to curb bad behaviour of others, especially children. Real love though, will always stay present and instead provide feedback for the person you love, no matter how inconvenient the timing or how the other person reacts. For children this may mean restraint when they want to do something unloving, communication to understand why they have this desire, and the space for them to emotionally experience this desire safely.

Withholding ‘love’ (really acceptance) only enforces the idea that love is earnt and can be bartered with and that a person’s worthiness of love can be taken away when they don’t meet a certain standard.

If you take a look at your own lives you may also see this pattern of chasing acceptance from the people around you or the rebellion against this feeling in yourself and others of having to kowtow to the acceptance of others.

I have yet to meet anyone that hasn’t been influenced heavily by these kinds of feelings in their own lives. Even those who say they have no problems with self-worth and were loved and cared for as children, can quickly become very angry when you don’t support their behaviours, ideas or perception of themselves. These kinds of people were taught that others had to pursue their acceptance before they loved others.

I don’t know about you but I think we could all really benefit from real love in our lives, not just receiving it but giving it. However, there is still so much to understand about real love and how it works. If you want to know more about love, then It will take experimentation. Like, taking the time to look at your relationships and ask yourself if you truly love the person your spending time with. If you don’t then take time to understand why not and what is it you are demanding? See if you can care for, support and/or help a stranger. Notice when love seems to leave you or others and try and find out why that just occurred. Re-connect or intensify your conscience and engage with what God’s telling you about love.

What I do know is that life without real love in it causes a lot of the problems that we currently have with one another. We can do better.